Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The London Underground

(Mass Transit System)


You've all heard of the London Underground, and some of you may even have been to parties where costumes must be worn named after its stations (e.g.wear a grey mac and scratch your crotch a lot for 'Holburn'). But what is this modern marvel of subterranean transport really like? The London Underground (or 'Tube') was first invented in 1842 as a way of discreetly sending loud/smelly/insane people away from the centre. As numbers of these people grew, they decided to let normal people on too. Although not many, as you can still witness today.

Friends of mine report having seen the following characters on the Underground: Prince, disguisedas a small Jewish man, moving around all the sleeping people on the carriage and making 'Gollum noises' in their ears; a particularly bad magician rehearsing his card tricks, many of which resulted in the spraying of cards all round the carriage; and a dead man. Although this last one may just havebeen the driver.

This leads me to those all important people who are required to aim thatjoystick in a straight line and press "Go!" (tricky after a night out) - the tube train 'drivers'. Unless you travel on the Jubilee line of course, which has no drivers. These space-age trains allow the punter to sit right at the front of the carriage and pretend to be the driver (I'd recommend a'Fischer-Price Kiddie-Go stick on steering wheel', and a bum bag with '£5 per person' written on it to confuse the tourists). The amount of trust put in these driverless trains really is quite odd, taking into account how often a Scalextric car flies off the track in one lap (and yes, I do imagine someone in a control tower squeezing one of those 'gun' things to make the train go round). That said, they are fun and they look cool!

Once you emerge from the Underground and decide to go for a wander, you quickly discover that all the places you've been to previously on the tube,are actually within 5 minutes walk of each other. This is because London is actually 4 miles square (the Underground lines were designed by Erno Rubik, as you can see through the choice of colours used for the different lines). Having made this discovery, you will quickly go off using the tube.

The day they invent a tube that is smaller (less room for weirdos), that can go to any part of London, is positioned on top of land (less stuffy and dark), and has a bell you can push when you want to stop, is the day I'll start using the Underground again. Until that day, I think I'll just walk.


Monday, September 27, 2004

Stealing Office Supplies

(Unofficial 'perk')

Guest Disaffected Office Texan CHRIS (2) says:

This may be the ONLY good thing about working in an office, besides air conditioning and those times that someone brings donuts. And, while none of these things quite make up for the soul-crushing ennui of being forced to do things that you could absolutely care less about for the benefit of people you despise, just so that you may eke out survival bringing back meager table scraps to your freezing hovel, God forbid Tiny Tim needs that operation because the insurance surely wont cover it, and it looks like it’s going to be homemade cards for everyone at Christmas again this year, and that screeching harridan of a mother-in-law looking on all smug, “See! I told you he’d never amount to anything. You should’ve married blah-blah-blah, he’s a doctor now, blah-blah-bladdity-fucking-blah!”

Ahem, as I was saying, petty theft from your employer is in no wise recommended as a substitute for a real life, but it is rather nice to have a good selection of pens at home, and it does feel like some small measure of revenge. Also, since I’m the sap who orders supplies for the office I get to pick out the kind of pens I like, which currently are the Papermate X-Tends retractable. They have a nice rubber grip which doesn’t overly aggravate my “clerk’s claw”.


Friday, September 24, 2004


(Writing down what people say)

Guest Office Bod Number Four Debbie says:

Oh for goodness sake. A complete waste of everyone’s time wherebv some poor sod (usually me) has to write down everything people say in a meeting irrespective of whether they are talking a load of tosh, taking their own notes anyway, or don’t care because they only came for the free biscuits…ACTION DH - these should be deluxe biscuits for the next meeting and remember that Mark doesn’t like Jaffa Cakes.

There is a lot of snobbery involved in minute taking a general feeling that there is only one possible way of correctly recording minutes. This simply isn’t the case –at every place you work at you will find different idiosyncrasies. E.g. in my current institution, it doesn’t matter what you write as long as the minutes end up on green paper (mid green mind, not pale). In my last post I was selected above equally competent colleagues for the highly prestigious task of minuting Academic Board. I have an MA and on account of this, they decided that I would be the best person for the job. Apparently however, my highly accurate recording of what people said at this meeting was quite the wrong approach. Apparently what I was supposed to write was a piece of fiction and suddenly I realised that it was not the fact that I had an MA that was important, it was the fact that my course was in scriptwriting.

I am not taking any of that rot again and actively use minute taking as an opportunity to actively practice my scriptwriting. Nowadays I unashamedly write down everything including stage directions. BILL ANGRILY CROSSES DSL TO THE REFRESHEMENT TABLE AND SPILLS COFFEE DOWN HIS TROUSERS, BENDING DOWN TO CLEAN IT UP HE SNEAKS A QUICK PEAK UP VANESSA’S SKIRT.

You may think that such recording of detail is unnecessary but there are times that I wish I kept minutes in my spare time. It would be great to prove that James really did tell my family that he had been to Pinner Fair (even if it was in jest) because the fact that we can all remember the conversation is not enough.

By far, the worst part of writing minutes (apart from Word automatically bullet pointing bits you don’t want it to) is the collection of comments and approvals from attendees. This process always takes a month although quite why since no one actually reads the damn things apart from any mention of their own name, is beyond me. Next time I minute a meeting, I have a good mind to arrange the first three chapters of “The Famous Five go off in a Caravan” in bullet points substituting the names of the children for the attendees of the meeting and I bet that the only comments I will get back are “Looks fine to me but don’t remember drinking ginger beer or speaking to quite so many circus folk!” or “Very accurate Debbie but next time could we have more jaffa cakes”

Minutes? I don’t care, who does.


JAMES says:

But, why would I have said I had been to Pinner Fair if I hadn't? It makes no sense.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Trying to stay motivated at work after handing in one's notice

(End of Type of Employment)

Guest Office Bod #2 Kirsty says:

This is perhaps the worst thing ever…especially as I have a 6 week notice period…I probably would have gone mad if it had been 3 months and then I would have really left with a bang!!!! ( I could just see myself being carted away by the men in white coats, people gossiping in the streets “OOhhh I hear Kirsty went mad in her notice period” ”OOhh yes she was dribbling profusely when they took her..”OOhh yes I hear she tried to throw herself off the top of the building”.. etc..etc..)

So anyway back to the topic in hand, it has been a long time coming what with one thing and another but finally the day came when I could hand in said notice……It felt good, really good…..especially as one feels that one is going on to do bigger and much better things… its raspberries to you, yes you establishment and hello to lots more money and lots more exciting projects………………..

So what is there for me to do in the next coming weeks?
Well luckily I am going on holiday for a week – so let’s see that will be 5 dull weeks left…..but after that????
The thing is is that when you are leaving no one ever gives you more work because
a) they know you don’t want to do any
b) you probably won’t get it done anyway
c) even if you did attempt it you would probably do a really shit job anyway and you wouldn’t even be in the slightest bit bothered anyway… what else is there to do apart from poking my eyes out with pencils?

I suppose what springs to mind is doing my own thing independently of the company like re-discovering the internet – sites such as unified theory review, e-bay, pout, popbitch, r-soles, f-magazine, topshop and so on….., followed by updating all e-mail addresses into my personal hotmail e-mail account, taking full advantage of playing really funky music loudly……………….

I mean I could do useful things for the next poor sucker who has to sit in my sorry shoes like writing up some kind of sensible handover notes…well yes I could do that but then what the hell would I do in my last week?

And also I have started throwing things out – you know things I don’t really want…even if they may be slightly important..I just want to cleanse my soul from the demons y’know? No? Oh fine then be like that…..
I have a huge pile of filing on my desk and everyday I look at it and wonder how much trouble I would actually get into it if I just left it there….just sitting there….what a rebel.

So really after mulling over things I am totally out of ideas to stay motivated..I didn’t have any ideas in the first place….I just can’t .. there is no point…..I may as well stick those pencils in my eyes-- it would be fun to see the blood, guts , gore ..there is no hope…..arrggggh………………I have no idea what else to write apart from the fact that I will go to the loo now because that will take at least 5 minutes out of the snoring business of working out one’s notice………………………………………………….


Wasting Time at Work

(We all do it)

JAMES says:

Whether it's playing Freecell, catching up on hot gossip about who's directing the new Howard the Duck movie, playing the fun new trivia game on our messageboard , or even setting up your own website, we all need something to distract ourselves from the tedious monkey work that would otherwise fill our days. Even if it's just for a few minutes/hours, it adds a little bit of enjoyment to the grey sea of monotony that is the working week. My advice is don't feel guilty, just go ahead and loaf (assuming your computer screen doesn't face outwards. URT accepts no responsibilty for any disciplinary action or tickings off). I mean, what else are you going to do? Talk to people in your office? Write a report? Don't make me laugh!


P.S. if anyone at my work is reading this, it's meant ironically.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Working in an Office

(Type of Employment)

Disaffected Office Drone DI says:

Shockingly, most of my friends work in an office. This is shocking because I consider most of them to be intelligent, enlightened, talented people. Not unlike myself. Even more shocking, is that I work in an office too. What the fuck happened?

I hate offices. I hate getting the bus / train / tube / tandem to my place of work, with everyone else, all identically dressed in black, grey or navy blue. No-one speaks, no-one smiles. We are miserable.

When we get off our vehicle of despair, we enter our offices mentally picturing the moment in 8 hours time when we will be leaving them. If the office has a nice receptionist, they will say hello and we are compelled to smile and say hello, when in fact we both want to commit suicide at that particular moment in time.

If we are particularly unlucky, we will work in an open-plan cubical/screen divided grey prison with no natural light or fresh air under flickering yellow strip lights which occasionally interact with the frequency of our computer screens causing the development of epilepsy / bi-polar disorder or the effect of sedation.

We stare at our computer screens, 75cm away from our noses, all day, stopping only to have a wee, make a cup of tea, photocopy some meaningless drivel (followed by a tense few moments un-jamming the photocopier), or horror of ultimate horrors, we may have to go to a meeting. The meeting is a particular division of Hell inexplicably overlooked by Dante. I could go on for hours, but I really only need mention phenomena such as buzzwords, taking the Minutes, Powerpoint presentations and the urge to, again, commit suicide by sticking a sharpened pencil into the nostril and hammering it into the (by now numb) brain.

Lunchtime sees people fleeing madly in all directions from the office, desperately trying to squeeze what they’d normally spend all day doing (i.e. having a life) into an hour, or sometimes only about 20 minutes. Chaos descends as office workers confusedly go jogging, run to the pub, return clothes to shops they only bought from yesterday, make frenzied phone calls to organise a mortgage or frantically book flights to anywhere that isn’t an office. The result is a kind of sad anarchy of the soul, which is the highpoint of the working day.

At 3.30pm precisely it is indisputably the worst moment of each day in the office. We are full and drowsy from lunch and have been back at our desks for two hours. Home time is aeons away, glittering like a mirage in the distance. Here is where the serious clock-watching begins. We check out the BBC website, some travel sites and leave a few messages on a message board. Only 15 minutes passes. Someone comes over with some paper and we feign interest / knowledge / a pulse. Eventually time as we know it becomes meaningless and stops altogether leaving us in a vacuum of dribbling tedium until we’re released at home time, blinking in the sunlight , helpless, clueless and lobotomised.

As I say, it’s shocking that I and my friends do this. What’s really sad is the total waste of talent and humanity: barely anyone I know enjoys their job. And those that say they do, I don’t believe for a moment. I’m leaving my job soon to go and have diarroeah in India. I can only urge you to do the same, before it’s too late.


(The .5 is for free use of internet / photocopier and the bit of paper you get at the end of the month that says they’ve paid you.)

Yes, true believers, it's DISAFFECTED OFFICE DRONE WEEK! Coming up: Rants, bitches and gripes from bored-shitless office workers all over the world! Are YOU clock-watching right now? Of course you are, why else would you be reading this? Why not stop daydreaming about handing in your notice / taking an industrial stapler to your boss's face / getting your leg over with that cutie who sits by the photocopier, and do something constructive instead? Send your very own ranting bitchy gripes to, or just post them on the messageboard .

Monday, September 13, 2004

Fancy Shiny Grown-Up Watches


JAMES says:

As a newly married man, I felt it time to make a token effort at growing up. Nothing drastic like stopping playing computer games or reading Superman or going to McDonalds, but a gesture towards the fact that I was a child no more. I have therefore replaced my old digital watch with a chunky analogue one from H Samuels, at a hefty cost of nearly £50(!). And, to be honest, if this is growing up I want no part of it. Sure, it looks a lot better, and I’ll probably get laughed at less in important meetings, but at what cost?

As far as extra features go, it can just about tell me the date but that’s it. No alarm, no stopwatch, no telling me what time it is in Java. It’s also heavy, and you can’t wear it in bed. And if you drunkenly lose it in a game of dominos it’s actually quite a big deal. But, I suppose I’ll get used to it, in the way I got used to having to wear a suit every day and no longer having 3 months of summer holiday. And it does look cool.


The Day After Tomorrow


JAMES says:

It is already about a month after the day after tomorrow when I originally saw this film, and life so far has been surprisingly free of wolves, giant hail stones and maverick scientists who no-one believes until everything they were talking about actually happens. So the film got the timescale a bit wrong, along with most of the science and the belief that we actually care about whether little Petey the blind boy lives or dies. Still, it kept my mind off the whole getting married the next day (yes, my last night of freedom was spent in an out-of-town Watford leisure park eating Mexican food, shooting zombies and watching a crappy American disaster film. It was great!), it taught us a valuable lesson, and it's nice to see that if there ever was major climate change over 2 weeks, everyone in the third world would be only to happy to have their countries overrun by whiney white people. The wolves were a bit over the top though.


Monday, September 06, 2004


by Gary Spencer Milldige
(Comic Book)

NEILL says:

Imagine, if you will, a cross between the Archers and Twin Peaks; an everyday tale of normal English village life with healthy lashings of sinister masonic conspiracy, UFO cult strangeness, amazonian indian mysticism and brutal multiple killings. With me so far? Doesn’t it sound fucking ace? Now imagine that this gloriously warped tale is illustrated with some of the most beautiful, stylish and evocative artwork being produced in Britain right now; a combination of bold, blocky line art and layered ink washes that makes the strangeness of the events it depicts all the more unsettling for grounding it in a reality of near-documentary authenticity. Okay, you still with me? God, I’m excited just describing it. Don’t you want to read this comic RIGHT NOW??? Of course you do. Right. Now imagine that you have to wait, on average, an ENTIRE FUCKING YEAR between instalments of this thing.I mean to say, what? If the Archers tried that I don’t think it’d go down too well. And, to be fair, about as much happens in a single issue of Strangehaven as in one 15-minute episode of Radio 4’s longest-running shit-arsed dull yokel soap. (The parallels don’t end there, in fact; for all his vivid imagination and astonishing artistic skill, writer / artist Millidge has a flair for stilted, prosaic dialogue that would be right at home amongst Ambridge’s denizens. Shit, this guy could dialogue for Emmerdale).

I’m torn as to whether I should recommend reading ‘Strangehaven’. On the one hand, it will condemn you to a lifetime of addiction, unfulfilled yearning and waiting… endlessly, endlessly waiting….On the other hand, it seriously is one of the best-looking things I have ever seen. On balance, I think I would have to say everyone should go and buy it so as to support such a rare and individual artist, so he can stop having to get other jobs to support himself and his family, and can get on with the important business of telling his bizarre, engrossing and utterly unique tale.

8/10 - the website

Having a Quite Common Name



Do you know how much I'm going to have to do if I'm ever going to be the most famous James Cameron? Or even the 5th most famous James Cameron? A hell of a lot, let me tell you. Not for me the heady thrill of Google searching my own name, even though I have my own website. Not only do I have to put up with people informing me, when I tell them my name, that there is a film director who also has that name, but there's also a reporter, an artist, loads of people. And when I went to the doctor, upon finding out my name, he enquired if I was related to the famous James Cameron as usual, but then went on to reveal he was referring to a Dr James Cameron who pioneered autopsies in this country. And the other day I was looking in the TV listings and I saw there was a program on called 'James Cameron is a Jerk.' It's not pleasant, I tell you.

And even my first name is depressingly common. I am one of 3 James's in the office, which causes much confusion and hilarity on the phone (well, not much if I'm honest). At present it's not too bad as I'm known as 'Young James', but that position is always under threat. I had to turn down some guy who interviewed for the job as he was not only a James, but younger than me and even in the short time he came in to interview had begun to be known as 'Cute James.' It's only a matter of time before my identity becomes 'Middle-Aged James', which can't be good.

So you Quentins, Marmadukes and Neills, enjoy your individuality, and spare a thought for those poor souls destined to spend their lives mired in a sea of James Camerons.


NEILL says:

At least you haven’t had to spend the last twenty-seven years patiently explaining to people why you have an extra ‘L’. Which of course it would be quite hard to squeeze into ‘James’, but you take my point. Is it my fault I have willfully obscure middle-class parents? Of course, this cycle of abuse can only continue, and should I ever have a son I rather fancy I shall name the pitiable bastard Paull.

Having an extra ‘L’ – 4.3/10

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Lou's Homemade Raspberry Crème Brulees


NEILL says:

I never knew puddings could be this way. The opulent creaminess, delicately counterpoised with the mischievous piquancy of the raspberries, and the whole set off by the sublime golden quality of the, um, burnt bit on top. Fucking belter!


Curly Wurlies

(Chocolate Bar)


Dr Pangloss had it right, this really is the best of all possible worlds. I mean, nothwithstanding the bad stuff like wars, famine, genocide, rape, hatred, sexual abuse, natural disasters, and Tony Hawks (not Tony Hawkes the skateboarding legend, but Tony Hawks the ‘comedian’ with an annoying voice whose greatest achievement to date has been to take a fridge around Ireland). But this is all balanced out by the presence of Curly Wurlies (apart from maybe Tony hawks).

Superior to your average chocolate bar in so many ways, one of its most endearing features is its sheer simplicity. Chocolate and caramel. That’s all it is. There’s no fannying around with biscuits, wafers, mallows, or nougats. Just chocolate and caramel. Yet Cadbury’s make it taste so goooooood. What’s more, the psychological aspect of buying such a lengthy snack (8 inches at the last count) means not only do you believe you’ve had more bar than you really have, but the experience lasts longer. The braided shape just adds to the eating experience, ensuring that not too much Curly Wurly enters your mouth at any one time, unlike the unpleasant unable-to-chew-for-toffee sensation which may come from the more substantial snack bars (mentioning no names, Biscuit Boost). And as if it could be any better, it’s even tastier in cold weather, when one is forced to snap off sections of the Curly Wurly and allow the melting process in the mouth to soften the caramel. All in all, the Curly Wurly is the reason our mouths were invented.