Saturday, 27 October 2012


I'm airborne again.

But not for me any tales of jaunts to Europe for high-powered business meetings where I have to pretend to be a grown up this time, nor gin-blurred days in the sun. No. This time my trajectory is distinctly north.

I'm on my way to Glasgow to meet the beautiful IMA. She drove up yesterday and I am flying. On a plane. With propellers. And it's ace.

The last time I flew on a turboprop was several years ago on an internal flight over Sweden and to be honest the ghosts of my memory have faded enough that I'd forgotten just how good these flights are.

Everything feels so much more exciting than the usual jet flight; the 'lively' takeoff, the noise of the props, the low cruising altitude and the narrowness of the fuselage all conspire to make it feel much more immediate, much more connected to being airborne. It feels fun for all of its shortcomings rather than its slickness.

It's early morning and the low winter sun is casting long raking shadows across the contours of my green and pleasant land, throwing every hill and valley into stark relief. It is all truly beautiful, but the Lake District is particularly stunning. Every ripple, crease, fault and imperfection in the land drawn exquisitely in light and shade. Ansel Adams would be beside himself.

Sometimes our technology is so advanced, so perfect, so anodyne that the essence of experience is lost. The occasional low-tech flight over imperfect landscapes is A Good Thing.

Here's to quirks.


Wednesday, 24 October 2012


My office is a wonderful place, a bit like Willy Wonka's factory. We have bonkers colleagues, comfortable seating areas, crazy systems and ideas, and a smattering of chocolate cake. Unfortunately, no oompa loompas.

Although, in recent developments, we now have a raft of new recycling bins.

Now, I'm all for saving the planet one Snickers wrapper at a time and I welcomed them happily. But this afternoon a well meaning chappy with an earnest expression sidled up to my desk and dropped this* off:


He had a large box of the things and was merrily making his way round the rest of the offices (by my estimate probably around 500 of us).

I did what I would estimate the rest of my fellow oompa loompas did. I scanned it, chuckled at the flow chart, and then consigned it to the 3rd bin on the left. It's all about supply and demand.


* - Company logo removed to avoid unfortunate reduction in income scenarios

Monday, 22 October 2012

Just Another Day At The Office.

I work, from time to time, with a very nice chap from Nigeria. He is quite a singular character and almost impossible to take offence at.


When he saw me driving my car in a somewhat 'enthusastic' manner on the way home a while ago, he said to me (in his brilliant Nigerian accent):


" I saw you driving home the other night Andy, you were driving like a crazy man. Your car suits you very much'.


As I said, you just can't take offence.


Today I was busy making myself a cup of coffee when my friend appeared. He was concerned about the cleanliness of the plum he was going to eat. So he washed it. With Fairy Liquid and a scouring pad.


As I walked back to my desk via the back stairs (where everyone goes to make their non-work-related phone calls) I walked past a chap who hires himself out to nightclubs dressed as a devil and chases people around with a plastic chainsaw in his spare time (he's a dwarf). He was on the phone and was telling the person on the end of the line that he needed a towel on the bar to save damaging it, and as long as there was more than 4 feet of headroom over the bar he'd be fine. The mind boggles.


Oh, and I did some work too.




Friday, 19 October 2012

Up Yours, Jessie J

I love seeing how the other half live.

Through a series of unrelated events in the past*, there is a jewellers in Leicester that has me confused with a man of means. Much as I protest my innocence, they persist in this idea with the fervour of a marketing department that has a database of customers and a budget for schmoozing.

The upshot of this is that a couple of times a year an invitation plops through the letterbox to some fancy soiree or another. The envelope alone probably costs more money than I earn in an hour and the invitation itself is printed on paper so thick that Ikea would probably deem it over engineered to be making shelves from. There is gold leaf and swirly calligraphy all over the shop. Willy Wonka would approve.

Last night’s extravaganza was mainly to show off the current Patek Phillipe watch lineup. To be honest they are not really my cup of tea (and way out of my budget), but they are watches, mechanical, beautifully made and the invitation clearly stated “champagne and canap├ęs”. We were there.

After shaking hands with the MD at the door (at which point the immaculately dressed and enormous security guard changed his expression from ‘murderous’ to ‘baleful’), we were buzzed into the shop. My coat was taken by a very cheerful chap and the IMA and I made beelines for a glass of Charlie and then sparkly diamond stuff and watches respectively.

I got talking to a very knowledgeable chap (who was also rather Wonka-like) about a particular watch. After explaining the manufacturing process in a level of detail that would surely put any normal human being** into a coma, he asked if I’d like to try it on.

“Sure”, I said.

He opened up the cabinet, fished out the watch and after fondling it for a few seconds in his white-glove-clad hands, handed it over to me. It was a thing of beauty, built with a level of attention to detail that is the preserve of skilled engineers with no concern for cost and a company accountant who knows his place.

I put it on my wrist.
I had to ask.
I swallowed. I steeled myself.
As casually as I could manage I muttered ”So, how much does one of these go for....?”

“Oh I have no idea, I don’t work here. I’m the MD of Patek Phillipe actually. But if you wait here I’ll find out for you.”

He disappeared of into the well-heeled crowd. I still had the watch on my wrist. After a good few minutes of me struggling with my conscience and eventually not running away very quickly up the road he reappeared.
“Thirty three thousand eight hundred pounds” he grinned, delivering the statement in a manner that suggested it was a bargain. I smiled and handed it back, thanking him politely. But he was on a roll. When engineers meet other engineers, they realise they can have a needlessly detailed conversation about mechanical stuff without risk of inducing death by boredom in the other party. We had a bond.

“Oh, I really should show you the star of the show” he said. This is it.

I could tell you in great detail about this particular watch, but the salient points are these:
  • The company makes 1-2 of these per year.
  • You may apply to buy one (the current waiting list is 5 years), at which point you will be invited to the factory in Switzerland and, if they like the cut of your jib, they will agree to sell you one.
  • It costs four hundred and eighty five thousand pounds. Yes, you did read that right.
  • It has been on my wrist.
It was at this point, given my usual level of clumsiness and the effects of free champagne, we decided it was time to leave. The beautiful, if slightly squiffy, IMA and I took a slightly meandering wander back to the car.

It was definitely a worthwhile night, as I’m a patient man and now I have a top-level contact in Patek, so it’s just the small matter of the cash.


* - And, if I’m being completely truthful, a smidgeon of stage management on my part.

** - I used to be an engineer and am therefore at best immune and at worst really interested.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Oeufully Amusing

Originally uploaded by geezer742uk
Saw this whilst conducting my weekly trudge around the supermarket tonight, which had me chuckling all the way to the irony supplements.

And, after having got all the stuff into the boot of the car I wandered off to put the trolley into the trolley park.

It was downhill and there were no cars about. There was a neat row of trolleys awaiting collection by a surly teenager at a later point. Twenty feet out I gave the trolley a good shove and stood watching as it described a graceful, wobbly wheeled arc and plopped neatly on to the rear of the stack.

I grinned to myself. A chap wandering back to his car nodded his approval of a job well done. His wife just looked disappointed.


Friday, 5 October 2012


Last night I said goodbye to an old friend.

Sure, he was a bit of a rough diamond; involved in some very shady dealings and the occasional execution, but having got to know him pretty well I’ll miss him all the same.

Last night I watched the final episode of The Sopranos. The final series was shown on TV around 5 years ago and there is still a huge amount of debate raging on the internet about whether Tony got clipped* or not. Personally I think he’s now mixed into the concrete of a New Jersey freeway, but the ending, like the rest of the series, left a deal to the viewer.

To be honest, it’s probably a good thing it’s finished. I wouldn’t want overexposure to this kind of thing skewing my idea of morality.

Next up I shall be watching Breaking Bad. What could possibly go wrong?


* - I really must stop talking like this. People with think I’m some kinda cavone.