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Email Karma

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Debbie, my desk buddy at work, has been away for a week sampling the delights of New York with her boyfriend. Cleverly, this time she had forwarded her phones and email to our manager Mark, in case things were missed while she was gone.
Arriving back at work this morning she waded through outstanding things, while regaling us with perfect tales of iceskating in Central Park and shopping in Macy’s and Bloomingdales. During the morning, our new Managing Director announced he was leaving for the airport – and it dawned on us that there was no-one in management left in the building. Emails flew around the office about going home early, what plans there were for tomorrow night – our monthly office “bonding session” in the pub – and how it was generally great that there were no managers in.
After half an hour, an email came into Debbie’s inbox from our manager Mark.
“Debbie,” it started. “You might want to think about turning me off your email autoforwarding now.”

And another year passes by…

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“A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.”

The last couple of weeks have been a blur of parties, presents, turkey and trimmings.
There was my first office Christmas knees up since I started there, which went amazingly without embarrassment. There was in fact two parties – one traditional Christmas meal and one booze up in Guildford. My manager and I had tried for weeks beforehand to organise the booze up, and despite having to change the date we all managed to turn up and boogie until 3am on Saturday morning. Our chosen venue was the Voodoo Lounge and the cheesy music enabled me to bop until closing time. Limbs flailing and outrageously out of time, I felt it was only fair to apologise for my dancing to the rest of our group the following Monday. No matter though – all agreed it was good fun, and excuses are now being finalised to have another one…
And then there was Mel’s birthday meal at a pub in Fulham. Being so close to Christmas, it was compulsory to have turkey and trimmings, a fact that our stomachs were most pleased about. Jac, however, had promised his girlfriend that he would be round for Chistmas dinner with her that night, and late in the evening, after his second three course meal of the day, I got a text message: “I fell full. And bloated. And about to explode. I don’t think I can manage the eleventh After Eight of the evening…”
Christmas Day was the usual family-based affair, with the largest turkey I’ve ever laid eyes on sitting on the dining table at my grandmothers house. We tucked in, and barely made a dent. My presents were prolific and wonderful, and amongst many other things I am now the proud owner of a tie rack, a cocktail shaker, several DVDs, an XBOX game and a fibre optic light. Playing on my affection for elephants, I’m also now a proud sponsor of a newborn elephant called Tume, with a complementary ticket to go and see the little rascal. A trip to Whipsnade in the near future, I think…
Finally, there was New Year. My usual plan is to leave everything undecided until the last moment, and accept a party offer at the 11th hour. However, this year no-one seemed to have plans. And why, Michelle and I thought on the 30th December, should we go out, spend loads of money on virtually nothing and not remember a thing? As it happens, Jac and Debbie felt the same, so Michelle and I piled round to Jac’s farmhouse, to be presented with a magnificent 3 course meal on a fully laid up dinign table, complete with Winnie The Pooh christmas crackers. It was a grand effort, and 2005 came round with the greatest of ease.
So, there goes another zippedy fast year. I hope you all had a good Christmas!

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

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The grey office buildings sped by as the train picked up the pace. I was busily reading the newspaper, trying to forget that in an hour I would have a camera shoved in my face and a TV crew hanging on my every word. I had been invited up to London to be filmed for a segment of an End of Year Show for Channel 5 and ITV, a fact which was in turn exciting and nerve-jangling. Boris Johnson had been sacked, I was deemed the foremost expert on him. Very good of them to think so, I said, and after goading from my manager and friends, I accepted their invitation. I donned my best white top, conducted an extra-through shave, and travelled up sharpish.
The graffiti on the line was getting increasingly tiresome, and I was pleased when Waterloo came into view. There was little time to amble, and I raced through the crowds and down the tube escalator, desperately looking for the Northern Line platform.
Within 20 minutes, and an astonishing 30 minutes early, I’d arrived. The venue was a posh hotel near Marble Arch called The Leonard, and I approached the reception desk with a air of superiority. “I’m here to be filmed. Where should I go?”, I asked, and brimmed with pride as I noticed the reverence I was suddenly being shown. I waited in the foyer, nervously drumming my fingers and rehearsing the lines I’d prepared on the journey up. Before long I was summoned to a large suite of rooms, and in the main room stood a large television camera, a large umbrella, a bright light and the producer. Both the producer and the interviewer were friendly to a fault, put me at my ease and told me that they may only use a little bit of my monologue, if any, as I was a late addition. They also were astounded at my height – and this caused considerable problems with the microphone and camera alignment. As they struggled to raise the height of their equipment, I went through the facts I had prepared. And then – AND THEN – the camera started rolling. I forgot everything. I tried reeling off Boris facts, witticisms and anecdotes, extolling the virtues of an all-encompassing Boris-led country, and managed to pull a couple of suitable passages out of the bag. However, everything I’d prepared went straight out the window, to my eternal regret.
After 40 minutes, my first foray into the media was over. I’ve no idea if it was good enough – in fact, even if it was good enough I’ve no notion of whether it’ll be squeezed into the programme. My fifteen minutes of fame may be over before I’ve even noticed…

Driving Me Nuts

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Whenever you start a new job the older, more wise employees seize the moment. They size you up, looking you up and down and finding out what kind of a guy you are. And they need some way to describe you, some kind of “label” to…. well, label you. When I worked at Sun, it was “Student” (entirely appropriate) or “Teaboy”, despite my proven ability to ruin any cuppa I dared concoct. Straight out of university I joined The Pier, where I was constantly referred to as “Techie”. Now I’ve joined Dionex, I’ve been wary of giving them any reason to label me. I’ve made the tea (to perfection, I might add), I’ve been incredibly helpful, fixed things I should have fixed, hidden things I might have broken, and generally been a model employee.
There have, however, been cracks appearing. The first was a month ago. Eager to please for my 3 month induction period, I enthusiastically offered to drive my boss down to Waitrose. This was the first time, however, that I decided to drive, and extra care was needed. I was the careful, responsible employee, remember. I was still getting used to the larger car I’ve been hired, but no matter.
Things took a turn for the worse when I managed to reverse out of the parking space straight into a row of expensive BMWs. I was stuck rigid in shock – how in all the world had I managed that? “You’d best get out and check, Simon,” my manager remarked, after I’d sat there for 10 seconds. Luckily, barely a scrape was registered, and the BMW driver remarked that since they were both company cars we’d make no bones about it.
However, that incident opened the floodgates. The upper floor of our office has an eagle eye’s view of the car park, and in particular my parking space. This is an absolute gift for the Upper Floor Clan. Having heard about my reversing calamity and labelled me “Nigel Mansell”, my usual swing-into-the-space-and-leave policy has come in for severe criticism. In fact, the whole of my office are under scrutiny. The angle of our parking, the speed of our entry – we’re under pressure to perform. To be honest, I think I’ve got it licked. God alone knows what I’ll do when my new car finally arrives – it’s even bigger…

The Corporate Event

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Work is going well, there’s no doubt about it. I’ve been in my new post for two and a half months, and suddenly Michelle and I are whisked up to The Belfry for a weekend of revelry – all paid by the company. How could we say no?
It was knocking on the door of eight o’clock on a sunny Saturday morning, and Michelle and I were struggling to rise. The Company Weekend was starting in 5 hours – and the general idea was to turn up at a hotel, listen to the obligatory presentation, before setting about demolishing entirely free drink and food for the rest of the night. The thought if the upcoming fun spurred us on, and we arrived 200 miles away within 4 and a half hours. Speeding – us? The hotel is set in spectacular grounds, regularly used for the Ryder Cup, and we swung past the security into the hotel complex, suitably impressed. After mistaking the in-grounds nightclub for the hotel reception, we eventually booked in and made for the designated conference room.
I’ve learned two things about corporate events. One is that they usually involve a bit of teamwork – and this was no exception. Split into our “teams”, we were told that for the next 2 hours we were to build and market a breakfast cereal, which we would present at dinner. This required unusally high brainpower for a Saturday afternoon, especially with the Managing Director on our team, but we eventually cobbled together a cereal (“Crackawhack”), a marketing strategy – revolving around pimps in playgrounds selling our highly addictive cereal – and a few posters. Oh, and a jingle, which I was informed I would sing later on that night. Oh joy.
We retired, knackered, to our rooms a couple of hours later and waited for dinner. Little did I know how debauched the evening would turn.
The clock struck six thirty, and we sat down to be met with wine. Well, it would be rude to resist, and the entire room was fairly sozzled by the time were due to conduct our presentation. Things degenerated into hazy chaos, as each team tried, and failed, to present their ideas. At one point, two managers managed to lose their inhibitions and most of their clothes as they danced around the tables.
Michelle and Mark, my manager, decided to top off the night at the local nightclub, which was surprisingly impressive. Sloaney types strutted around, cheesy music blared out, and I managed to get away without buying a round for the rest of the night. At around 1am, we stumbled back to our room, leaving Mark and the rest of the funsters to dance into the night.

A Trip To Leeds

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My work diary said it quite clearly. “Training in Leeds?!”, I exclaimed, hoping that a statement about the customary wet weather in that region had merely been misprinted. Nope, this was the real deal, and I dutifully trundled up there on Wednesday afternoon, eager to see what the city of Leeds had to offer.
Not a lot, I noted five hours later, as the aforementioned rain came swirling down past the Leeds football stadium. I veered off the M62 down towards the hotel, placed neatly between the motorway and a downtrodden and half-empty business park. Still, the staff seemed oblivious to their location, and emitted plenty of false smiles as they guided me up the labyrinthine stairs to my room.
My manager had warned me about their 12-table restaurant. I know I should have listened, but after 5 hours of motorway, I was in no fit state to drive around for an inviting place to eat. A full 15 minutes after I arrived, a waitress arrived to take my order. “I’d love to,” I replied, “just as soon as you manage to offer me a menu.” The rest of the meal was a comedy act, although the food was passable and the bar was exceedingly well stocked. I wandered up to my room, set my alarm and retired to bed.
As it turned out, there was no need for an alarm – the early morning fire alarm did just the job. After roll call, I decided a short walk to the office would do me good. I’d managed to get vague directions to the address – “Down the road, round the corner, it’s just about 300 yards away, easy to find”. So off I trotted.
A good 30 minutes later, I was most definitely lost. Even the local workers hadn’t heard of Royds Hall Road, and I desperately floundered against the growing flurry of rain. I upped the place.
The trouble, you see, was this. “Just down the road” takes on confusing proportions when you are met with two crossroads and a roundabout within 200 metres of your hotel – and as it turned out the correct road was the very last one I chose. I stormed in, 20 minutes late and soaked to the skin.
The rest of the day was filled with training, training and a bit more training. In fact, the following day was a spitting image, minus the extra mile of walking. The final night, in a moment of utter boredom, I took a trip to the local newsagent for something to munch and something to read. Being a little out of my way, I asked for directions. “Just down the road,” said the receptionist – I’d heard that before – “and it’s on the left, next to White Rose.” The White Rose, I pondered as I spooned myself into the car – a pub perhaps? Maybe a garage. I drove into the night.
After 5 minutes, I was sure I’d gone too far. A quick, slightly illegal u-turn, and I was travelling back. I passed Waitrose on my left. “Waitrose… Waitrose… I wonder…” And there it was. The small white newsagent sign flashed intermittently as the vagaries of the Leeds accent dawned on me. I was grinning all the way back. Little things, eh.
My trip back down was troubled by the usual M25 chaos, and I must admit I was glad to be home. The promised travelling in my role is beginning to take hold – and I must admit it all makes a pleasant change from the Guildford-Liss jaunt.

I’m moooooooving on… (subject to references and a medical, of course)

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Things, as I’ve said, have been afoot. After 2 1/2 years at the helm of Pier Direct’s IT system, I’m moving on. The past week or two have been hectic for me, and above all highly secretive. The lack of anonymity of lends itself to being censored for even the most minor things, and future job prospects – interviews, clandestine meetings etc – are not something my colleagues would be ecstatic to hear about.
So, that’s it. Up another rung on the corporate ladder. In a particularly morose meeting yesterday afternoon, my month’s notice was handed in. News is gradually spreading through the company, and the distinct reality is that in a month’s time I’ll be leaving behind what has become a second family for me.
No doubt, it’ll be sad. But as I said to my manager yesterday, the opportunity I’ve been offered is too good to turn down. As of the 17th May, I’ll be an employee of Cargill Investor Services in Cobham, in a job that will hopefully serve as a springboard to success and countless riches. Possibly. I’ve got training in Munich or Geneva in the first month, and then I’ve got to think about moving house. I’ve also got to amusingly pass a medical. It’s all change – but first I’ll have to deal with the handover here at The Pier, all in 3 weeks. With a distinct lack of anyone else who can do my job (apart from the few overstretched IT gurus based over 65 miles away) that should be amusing…


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“So, been busy?”
My manager breezed in this morning after a week-long jaunt to the sunny beaches of Saint Lucia, sickeningly brown and bearing chocolatey gifts. “Busy?” I said. “BUSY?” I exclaimed. Then, muttering something about a blue-arsed fly, I detailed the amount I had done while 2 of the 3 other managers had taken a small easter holiday. Still, I’ve managed to finally install broadband at work, and I’m now busy ‘testing’ sites.
Brilliant. This site works then.

First Day in a Hotel

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I spent my first night in an Oxfordshire hotel last night. It was an eery time, especially in the imposing manor that would be my home for 4 days. Sunday nights in hotels are apparently the quietest time, according to the receptionist and as I looked around, taking in the huge ornate drawing room and dark wood of the reception’s balcony, I hoped that I would find something to occupy my mind.
As it happens, I didn’t find anything remotely interesting, so I trundled off to the restaurant for my evening meal. It was pleasant enough, but once again the place was deserted – my only company was a couple of old age pensioners and a rather underworked waiter. The high point came during my main course, when, from the kitchen, the chef enjoyed possibly the largest sneeze I have ever heard, followed by an anguished cry: “Oh Christ, has anyone got a tissue?” I thanked god that my main meal was already on the table, and pitied the poor sods next to me as their meal came out seconds later.
As I watched the latest bombing on Iraq after I’d returned to my room, I began to feel a little isolated. My particular room block was as far as possible away from the main building, and I felt a little vulnerable, being one of only 5 residents in the hotel. As a particularly loud and devasting bomb was filmed landing in Baghdad, the lights suddenly went out. My entire room was in darkness, and it took a full five seconds for me to assume the worst – the Iraqi army had arrived in Oxfordshire. I scrambled to get my shoes on, and bumped my way out of the room. The whole place was in darkness, and as I reached reception, I found bunker mentality had already set in – the old dears were discussing the war, their entire lives, and demanding milk for their tea, which must have been luke warm at best. The manager informed us that this was the first test for the backup generator. It dawned on us that it had blatently failed. The imposing architecture of the building’s interior just looked plain scary, and for the next 30 minutes, we huddled in darkness. Finally, after one old girl regailed us with a ‘hilarious’ tale, the lights turned on again, and we tottered back.
And that was only my first day…