+++*

Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts tagged with ‘colleagues’

Christmas craftalong (again)

In which the shocking news is that I have finished a craft project

The other day I mentioned a Christmas social event at the office: an organised crafting event for any colleagues who were interested to do a small cross-stitch kit together. Amazingly, in just over a week, I’ve managed to finish it. I would say that’s a personal record at finishing some sort of craft project for me, but it’s rare enough for me to complete one at all.

Christmas robin

Personally I think it’s a bit scrappy; I can see lots of uneven and slightly wonky stitching, whole patches where the threads are making strange knots insted of neat crosses.

Moreover, if you compare this to the previous “in progress” picture, you can see I did get annoyed enough to go back and redo an entire section. Misunderstanding the instructions and the nature of the thread, when I started I started off stitching the red breast with only a single thread, not doubling the thread up as I was supposed to—my excuse is that each of the “single threads” are actually spun from two threads twisted together. Unpicking all the red also involved accidentally unpicking some of the orange too, so if you know where to look you can see a few places where stuff has been redone a few times.

Will I go on to do more cross-stitch? Well, it was a fun way to spend a few evenings. Maybe if I can find some more kits that aren’t irredeemably twee, I might do.

Christmas craftalong

Or, Yule enjoy some sewing

The other day I mentioned losing the Office Party and gaining various remote seasonal events instead. For example: someone thought it would be a nice idea to all have a seasonal crafting session together. Everyone who volunteered an interest was sent a small-but-festive cross-stitch kit, and then we spent a lunchtime getting together on a video call to sit and stitch for an hour, whilst the organiser explained how to get started and the rest of us found various ways to make mistakes.

Festive crafting

Full marks if you can spot everything I’ve got wrong so far. This represents quite a bit more than one hour’s work, because I’ve spent a while working on it since. You never know, I might even get it finished before Christmas.

I like your idea of fun

Or, doing things in your own way

So, we’re coming to the end of a strange and challenging year. And I know it’s been a strange and challenging year, because at the office we’re in the middle of our end-of-year staff reviews and the phrase “this has been a strange and challenging year for all of us” features prominantly when summing up what’s been going on.

One aspect of this strange and challenging December, though, is something I’m actually quite enjoying. The death of the Office Christmas Party, where you and all your colleagues squeeze in to a cramped and busy restaurant for some mediocre food and the chance to pull a cracker. They do vary, of course: some are better than others. The year we went to allegedly the biggest all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant in Europe was a particular low point: at any time of the year, eating there involves so much queuing and slowly shuffling around under neon signs holding a plate that by the end of the evening you feel like an extra in a cyberpunk remake of Oliver! Wherever you end up, though, the food is never great, the music is always awful, and there are far too many people around who are very, very drunk. This was even the case a few years back when due to a double-booking mix-up we ended up having to have our Christmas Party in early November, way before anybody had even had a mince pie.

This year, though, no cramming into a crowded restaurant! Hurrah! Instead, we’re having a Remote Christmas Meal—order from wherever you like and expense it—and various other events spread through the month organised by different departments and teams. I’ve ended up booked into about four pub quizzes because quite a few teams have gone for that as a default option,*, but there’s plenty of variety and choice, and, more importantly, it’s all optional. There are enough different Christmas activities going on that I can dip into a mince pie eating session one day, a pub quiz the next and help judge a tree-decorating competition the day after. Because it’s all optional, none of it seems at all forced.

I know a lot of you don’t really feel like remote socialising is real socialising at all; find it more stressful than the pre-2020 in-person kind of socialising. For someone like me, though, it’s a comfort to know I can just switch Zoom off and I’m back in my own room again. Even in-person, though, I’d always have much preferred this idea of a slate of smaller Christmas events that you don’t have to go to if you don’t want to, than the traditional standard Everyone Goes Out office party. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to eat a mince pie and tomorrow watch someone try to disguise their cat as a reindeer. Cheers!

* In fact I’ve already won one of them at the time of writing.

Milk (redux)

In which we get a reluctant refund

A couple of people have, for reasons best known to themselves, asked how I’m getting on with the office milk lady since we fell out. Well, I don’t think I’m any more popular with her than I was. Fed up of there being no milk, and fed up of the woman in question – Administrator Of The Tea Fund – refusing to accept that tea supplies were anything to do with her, I told her that in that case she could give me back the balance of what I’d put into the fund, and I’d make my own arrangements from now on. Which might have been a bit petty, the balance being only 20p, but there you go.

She said “I’ll give you it later.” A few hours later, she phoned me up.

“Have you stopped chucking your little tantrum yet?” she said. “We’ve got some milk in – are you back in the fund or do you still want your money back?”

“I’ll have my money back, please.”

“You’ll be very thirsty this afternoon then.”

“Er, no I won’t be.”

“Well it’s very silly of you, you’re cutting your nose off to spite your face.”

There was a pause. I wasn’t entirely sure what she expected me to say, other than possibly start begging for her forgiveness.

“So are you back in the tea fund now?” she continued, persistently.

“No, I’d still like my 20p back please.”

“Well, I gave you one last chance. I’ll get some change and bring it down for you in a few minutes. You said you don’t want your 20p back?” A nasty little switch at the end there.

“No, I’d still like my 20p back please.”

“Fine. I’ll see you later.”

So, a few minutes later she came downstairs, slammed 20p on my desk, and went away again. And since then, all has been peace and quiet. I can see why some colleagues, those who have to work with her more, don’t like her very much, though, after that conversation. This is someone whose job is to talk to customers over the phone, take orders, and so on – it makes me wonder if she tries doubling back on herself and making quickly misleading switches when she’s on the phone to customers as well as to colleagues.

Milk

In which we upset colleagues

At the office, I’ve been doing more to make myself unpopular. Specifically: I’ve fallen out with the woman who runs the tea fund.

My complaint is this: if you run the tea fund, then you’re responsible for buying tea, milk, coffee, sugar, and so on. If I give you money, to buy tea, then your job is to make sure tea gets bought. Tea Fund Lady – who has only taken the task on recently – did not see things this way. She was there to collect the money. The money sat in her drawer, and anyone who wanted to go and buy supplies could go and get some. Buying supplies herself, though, was entirely out of the question. It was entirely impossible, she said, because she doesn’t have a car. I was tempted to set up a “Stop The Tea Fund Lady Starving!” campaign, because if buying groceries is that difficult I’m not sure how she manages to stay alive.

So, the way I see it, I may as well manage things myself from now on. Have my own tea bags and my own milk, and see how much it ends up costing me. We will see.

Something for nothing

In which our eyebrows are raised when we learn that Americans all have free healthcare just like us

The scene: the office conversation, a quick conversation with a new member of staff whilst the kettle boiled. He was telling me all about his past, his former history of self-employment.

“… but you can’t do anything in this country nowadays, it’s terrible for small businesses, this government, it really is, they want to get control of every little thing…”

I thought: I know exactly what’s coming here.

“…it makes it impossible to run your own life…”

… any second now 

“it’s this Nanny State…”

BINGO! As soon as someone, especially a certain type of person, starts along that line of argument, they’re going to mention the Nanny State, which rules every aspect of our lives and tells us exactly what we can and can’t do. These are the people who believe that Christmas is being banned, or that the government has banned blackboards for being racist, and that it’s Political Correctness Gone Mad. And I don’t understand them. Do they never look at the world around them? Do they believe anything they hear or read?

He rambled on about how much better everything was in America – how life is far better, the taxes are lower, everyone is better off and lives a wonderful life without government interference.

“Yes, until they fall ill and can’t afford to pay for treatment,” I said.

“No, no, medicine is free in the USA too,” he replied.

“Really?” I said, because that really doesn’t square with everything else I’ve been told about the USA over the years.

“Yes, it’s all free, just as it is here,” he said. I was tempted to ask if the land is also flowing with milk and honey, with dollar bills and chocolate coins growing on the trees, but I’m not sure if he’d have realised where the joke was.

Voodoo terminology

In which we speculate on understanding, and on pretending to understand

There are three types of people that I’ve always had to deal with at work. By extension, there are probably three types of people in the world, because I’m sure that none of the places I’ve worked at have been particularly unusual. There are three types of people in the world, and they can be divided like so: those who know what they are talking about; those who don’t know what they’re talking about, and admit it; and those who don’t know what they’re talking about, but are desperate to hide it.

There are two ways I could look at this. One, being uncharitable: they know they don’t know what they’re talking about, and are just trying to hide that.

The charitable view, though: I don’t think some people realise that words do have meanings, precise meanings. They’ve heard people who do know what they’re doing talking, and they want to fit in, so they string together words they’ve heard other people use, in ways that make grammatical sense, without noticing that they are making completely meaningless sentences. Maybe they think that this is the way normal humans talk. Maybe they think that if they use a word that they’re not sure of the meaning of, its meaning will change to suit them. Essentially, though, they’re behaving like small children: imitating without understanding.

These are the people who brought you the phrase “log on to our website”. They call the main case of a PC “the hard disk”. They will refer to “the system”, and expect you to know exactly what you mean. One colleague today, scrolling through her inbox looking for an email, said: “I know it’s in the system somewhere.” “That is not,” I wanted to say, “what that word means.”* These are the people who call me and say “the system isn’t working! We can’t do anything at all!” when what’s actually wrong is: they have pressed Num Lock and don’t understand why numbers are no longer appearing.** These are the people I have to work with, and the chances are, this is what the people who run the country are like too. These people, who not only don’t understand words, but don’t understand the importance of the right words, nevertheless get into important positions. And that scares me.

* She was looking for an email, because she wanted to print it out. She had called me over because her printer “was not working”. She didn’t have a printer selected in the print dialog box, and did not understand the error message she received, that said: “You have not selected a printer.” When I pointed this out, she said: “That’s never happened before. I don’t understand all these technical terms.”

** Yes, this has genuinely happened.

Shattered

Or, taking some time off

Recovering from a bit of sickness. Fortunately, only a brief illness; I’m pretty much back to myself again.* I was sick enough to take time off work, though, for the first time in a few years. Normally, however bad I am, I pull myself together enough to make it into the office. I’m not going to go into details about what was wrong, for the benefit of emetophobic readers. There’s at least one that I know of.

Talking of the office, Big Dave seems to be up to something. Lots of hushed calls on his own phone. I’m suspicious. He managed to pull a visiting consultant,** but I don’t think this is related.

* “Only sick in the head”, as Big Dave helpfully said.

** Well, got her phone number on her last day with us.

Waiting

In which things get silly

It’s Friday afternoon, regular reader K is texting me at regular intervals to tell me she’s safely driving up to Scotland on her own, and I’m here at the office watching the clock tick around ready for my own weekend to start. Nothing much ever happens on a Friday afternoon. Noone phones up and reports faults; noone breaks anything very serious. The other staff always claim that this is because they’re far too busy on Fridays to report faults; I’ve always suspected that it’s because they’re not doing enough work to break anything.

Room 3B – our office – is full of banging and crashing, as we finally get air conditioning fitted. I’m glad there aren’t any oysters about, because the noisy noise…

An oyster writes: The idea that “noisy noise annoys an oyster” is, as it happens, a common misconception. I myself am a Stereolab fan, and have attended several gigs. The music there, whilst being too melodic to be pure noise, is certainly very loud, and…

A Towers Of London fan writes: Bah!

An oyster writes: Well have you ever been to a Stereolab gig?

The Plain People Of The Internet: Stop talking rubbish! We know there aren’t really any oysters writing to you! They don’t have arms! They can’t speak! They all live just outside Whitstable and Herne Bay! Whoever heard of anyone in Whitstable liking Stereolab? I know silliness makes a change from in-jokes, but … I mean, really.

There’s still an hour and a half left until the weekend. I’m not going to anticipate anything, I’m just going to see what happens. Barking, I know.

Searching

In which we know what you're looking for

It’s the end of the week, and it feels like it; I definitely haven’t been getting enough sleep in the past few days. In lieu of something that needs thought and consideration, here’s some search requests.

what food goes best with strawberry beer: the obvious answer that comes to mind is: MORE strawberry beer. It counts as a type of food, I’m sure, much as Guinness is legally a type of low-grade heating oil.*
girl group harmonies – why don’t you try the Shimura Curves!
land of green ginger is a street in Hull, linking Silver St and Manor St
snog work colleague christmas party – my advice is, “don’t”. It’s not as good an idea as you think at the time.** In fact, before you start drinking, take your best office friend aside and say “I know I fancy [Sam/Lisa/Dave/Amy/Fi] in [Sales/Accounts/Admin/Imports/Alien Abduction], but if you see me going anywhere near [her/him], tie my hands behind my back and lock me in the stationary cupboard for half an hour.”
help posing wedding group photos. Stand everyone together. Fiddle around with imposing-looking camera kit. Spend so long faffing that everyone gets bored, then get someone else to snap them quickly when they’re not paying attention. Trust me, it works.
Edinburgh University posh? Ooh, definitely. When I was there, I was one of the least posh people around.
this aye night fire and fleet and candlelight are lines from the Lyke Wake Dirge, which I’ve written about before. I only found recently, though, that it’s used quite a bit in Neil Gaiman‘s classic book Neverwhere which I read recently for the first time in years.***

Things I haven’t managed to write about this week: the band Montoya – who I have a whole roll of photos of that haven’t been scanned yet – the comic-book hero Scott Pilgrim, the sense of ennui and malaise hanging around the office,**** the effect of Too Many Footnotes, and Big Dave’s latest plan for self-improvement. But that’s enough for today, I think.

* the last bit might be a white lie there.

** if you think about it at all at the time, which is probably unlikely.

*** whilst sitting on a train

**** especially when I get my camera out.