Monday, 14 May 2012


I went out last night.  Yes!  Out of the house, right out of the village, even.  Ooh, get me.

Mr WithaY got home from his week living in the woods on Sunday night, had a swift shower and change of clothes to try and mitigate the smell of mud/wood-smoke/squirrels, and then we scooted over to Salisbury City Hall to watch Rich Hall perform.

He was hilarious.

My favourite joke (also one of the few I can remember) came while he was talking about visiting Graceland, and being asked to leave for laughing at something he was looking at whilst the tour commentary was talking about the death of Elvis.  He said "Anyway, if he was The King, why was he buried out in the back yard like a hamster?"

The young woman sitting next to me had the loudest laugh I have ever heard, almost to the point of pain, and she found pretty much everything he said hilarious.  Well, most of it was.  I scooched away from her as much as possible, ending up leaning on Mr WithaY cosily, if a bit uncomfortably.

It made me consider the etiquette of such a situation.  What do you do?  What would YOU have done?

(A) Say "Can you please stop laughing so much?"  It was a comedy show, after all, and I was laughing too. I'd have sounded like a miserable old bag, for sure.

(B)  Say "Can you please try to laugh more quietly?" Again, she was having the time of her life, and there was no reason for me to try to make her feel self-conscious.  Also, miserable old bag-ness.

(C)  Say "Can I have some of that white wine you're necking please?"  I think that may have contributed to the non-stop screams of hilarity she was emitting.  Greedy, but less miserable old bag, potentially.

I should have gone for option C.

To be fair, her boyfriend/partner was nudging her when she was in danger of shattering the light fittings, but he was laughing his head off too.  Well, everyone was.  It was lovely.

We drove home in a fine mood, admired the glorious stars for a bit in the front garden and then came in to a ridiculously late supper of lemon chicken, pasta and grape salad.  Nom nom nom.

Today the electrician has been here, replacing the light in my study.  I had a funky lampshade made of millions of bits of metal, like tiny mirrors on springs, which I liked a lot, but it had a single low-energy light bulb in it.  Fine when I am sitting at my computer, right by the window.  I can work in comfort, enjoying an abundance of natural light and the many car accidents and near misses I get to see out of the window.

However, when I am sewing, my sewing table is at the other side of the room, far away* from the window, and the lighting is appalling even in daylight. I realised I had to do something about it when it took me almost 5 minutes to thread the needle in my sewing machine because I just couldn't see the bloody thing properly.

So. Now I have a smart little 3-halogen spotlight, providing me with task lighting for my desk AND my sewing table.  It also lights up my guitars beautifully.  The Rickenbacker is on a stand now, next to the Les Paul, both looking rather gorgeous.  If only I could play them with anything approaching real skill.  Hey ho.

I have put the funky million mirror lightshade in the spare bedroom, so I can still admire it when I want to.

The electrician had also been asked to look at one of the lights in the kitchen.  We have v posh downlighters under the cabinets on the walls, and one of them packed up a few months ago.  We replaced the bulb, we replaced the replacement bulb, we tried the non-working bulb in other light fittings where it worked perfectly, and we eventually concluded that the actual light unit was broken.

The electrician listened to this tale of woe and said "Ah, it's probably the transformer."

I had visions of Optimus Prime putting together light fitting ineptly, thus causing the problem, but no, he meant the little box of electric magic that sits up on top of the cabinet, out of sight.

He got up on his stepladder and waggled the cables about till the transformer came into view.  He inspected it and said "Hmm, looks ok."

Then he turned the lights on, and hey presto, bastard corner light worked.

Mr WithaY almost had kittens.

So.  A loose connection. Probably.  If it stops working again, we may have to get a new transformer.  But we may just need to get the electrician to come and waggle it about a bit.  Much cheaper.

Today I have applied for a couple more part time jobs, but with no great expectations of being fortunate.  I think I am too old and/or too over-qualified for a lot of the jobs I see advertised.  I am also picky.  I want something part time - not more than 25 hours a week, ideally - within 15 miles of home.  That limits me considerably.  And I don't want to do anything dull.

I read this article with interest the other day.

This quote in particular struck a chord:

Ministers are determined to change the culture of the civil service in which “lazy” staff are allowed to get away with poor performance because their managers are unwilling to have “difficult conversations”.

They also say:

Another minister, with a background in business, said there were “real problems” with the quality of the civil service. “It is far too big.  They are lazy. There is no leadership. You can’t get rid of people,” the minister said.
Sacking 90% of staff and paying the remaining 10% high salaries would revolutionise the way some departments work, the minister suggested.

Yes.  Yes it would.  For example, I suggest that a lot of Departments would simply grind to a shuddering halt, with the remaining staff squawking in terror as the sheer volume of work overwhelms them because no fucker has had the forethought to cancel projects, or cut out entire workstreams which no longer have the resources to complete them.

Be nice, too, if they remove the multiple layers of externally-imposed measurement and reporting schemes which took up about a quarter of my time in some jobs.  All "important" and "urgent" and "mandatory" so you had to spend fucking hours filling in Dashboard Reports and Progress Plans and Transition Staircase Reviews rather than actually delivering anything.

....aaaaand breathe.....

In the almost 23 years I was employed by the Civil Service, I only knew of one person who got fired, and that was for breaching the rules about publishing information on the Interwebs, the fuckwit.  I did, however, encounter a number of people who were lazy, dishonest, cunning, under-performing and sometimes downright mental, all of whom kept their jobs because they were able to play the system and make sure that they got transferred to be someone else's problem before they were put on formal disciplinary measures.

I worked with a chap once who was suspended for looking at porn on his laptop in the office.  Whilst several colleagues were in the same room, me included.  Yes, that's right.  ON HIS WORK LAPTOP.  IN THE OFFICE.  DURING WORKING HOURS.

He continued to do so after several of his colleagues asked him not to.  Eventually - after a couple of polite requests were ignored - he was reported to his boss, and then to the head of the team.

He got put on "gardening leave" for fucking months and months, there was an enquiry, he was reprimanded, he dropped a grade in pay, and then came back to work in the same office, tanned, fit and gloating about how nice his garden was looking after having all that time off to look after it.

Not very impressive.

I've also worked with people who had social skills presumably learned from bonobo chimps.

Scratching.  Hands waaaay too deep and too active in pockets whilst talking to female colleagues.  Inappropriate "adjusting" of parts whilst in meetings.  Nose picking.  Farting.  Belching.  Taking off shoes to share the stench of old socks with the rest of the office.

Yes, it was pretty much all there bar the shit flinging, and given the right combination of canteen food and boredom, I expect that could have happened.

I might not be earning much money these days, but by Swansea I am far, far less stressed and unhappy and frustrated than I was for the last 5 years of my corporate career.  

*About 8 feet.  It's a small room.


Middle Sis said...

I'd employ you. Fancy being an Au pair for a couple of teenagers? much more fun than looking after babies. hours to suit, minimum wage, fantastic working condition.....apply within!

livesbythewoods said...

I'd make them do Improving Activities and they'd hate me.

But give it a few months and I might take you up on that.