A Push In The Right Direction

March 31, 2014

I’m not having the greatest time at work at the moment. I have a job which I don’t love. It’s a job which pays the bills and I’m totally honest about that. It’s certainly not a career, it could be but it’s just not for me. That being said I’ve had the same job now for six or seven years so it can’t be all bad but, as with many things, it’s easy to focus on the negatives than the positives.

And what’s happening at the moment is definitely a negative.

Several years ago, I used to do the exact same job I do now – in Leeds – from an office in Huddersfield. Then, due to a series of unfortunate events, this job got moved to Leeds. The same job, just further away from my home meaning increased travel time and decreased time spent with my family. The work-life balance, something which is very important, slipped in favour of work and that just wasn’t the right thing.

As part of this office move, we were gifted, if you like, the cost of the increased travel to our new offices. For example, it cost me the princely sum of zero pounds and zero pence to get to work in Huddersfield but – for sake of argument – now costs me the better part of £150. Now, I say it costs me, but it actually doesn’t. It costs the company because, very generously, they pay the travel costs (albeit taxing us on it, but still it is provided). Until the end of this year, that is. When it will no longer be provided.

Which equates to me knowing, now, in March of 2014 that come January 2015 I will be doing the same job I’m doing now – the same job I did in Huddersfield – but for 10% less wages than before. My enforced travel – something I didn’t ask for or express any desire about – means that I am effectively being asked to take a 10% wage cut for the privilege of going to and from work. That skews the work-life balance firmly on the side of work, effectively meaning that I am living-to-work rather than the much more desirable working-to-live.

Now, this travel thing is a bone of contention. There are those who think we should never have been paid it in the first place, those who think that it is unfair that we are given the cost of travelling to and from work when they do not get it. And I can see their point to a certain extent, but the majority of those people applied for a job in Leeds because they wanted a job in Leeds and got a job in Leeds and, in a lot of cases, live in or close to Leeds. I didn’t do that. If I had done that, then yes I would expect to have to pay the travel costs to get to that job and that is something I would have considered at the time when I was looking at the wages. And, were I to apply for my job today – in Leeds – based on the salary I get now I’d have to turn it down because once you factored in the travel costs it’s just not a viable option. So, while I can see the point of the people who say that we shouldn’t expect the travel costs to be paid, I also can’t help thinking that if I came along from the start of next year and took away 10% of their month wage that they’d also be more than a little bit fucked off.

The upshot – and one that terrifies the crap out of me – is that I’m going to find myself facing the job market again. I can’t go to work in 2015 knowing that I’m already throwing away 10% of my take home pay on unreliable trains and a bus service that is shitter than a really shitty thing covered in shit.

Whatever happens though, I have to treat it as an opportunity. I have to see the positive in this negative. I have to look at this and see that inside the dark, swirling maelstrom of misery and poverty is a bright, shining glimmer of hope. Of a new beginning. Or the push that I need to step outside of my current job – outside of the safety net I’ve been in for however many years – and to take a risk, or a chance, on me.

Wish me luck.

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Potat-no

March 30, 2014

When it comes to food, Carole is best described as being over-cautious. She’s a strong believer in Best Before dates, despite my repeated argument that food is incapable of telling what time it is – unless it’s dates, in which case they know exactly what’s going on – and that the Best Before date is, generally, a guideline rather than an instruction to throw something away. That’s why it’s a Best Before date and not a You’ll Be Dead If You Eat This date.

Carole, for example, is one of those people who opens a new milk when there’s already a perfectly serviceable milk available for use. Bread is given a couple of days to prove its worth before it is completely shunned, refusing even to toast the slightly-stale-but-still-good-for-toast slices, prefering instead to have at it with a new loaf. These are all foibles which I have come to love/expect/tolerate. Apart from the milk one, that one still bothers me. So generally, when Carole asks if something is ok, I’ll say yes. Mainly because it usually is.

We had a corned beef hash yesterday. Normally a beautiful dish, exquisitely made and full of flavour, what we had yesterday was nice but was topped with mashed potato which was more like the consistency of thick milk. Now, earlier, as Carole had peeled the potatoes she had commented that they were a “bit squishy” but I had just dismissed this as hyperbole because Carole is prone to exaggerate when it comes to things like this. Water pouring down the walls is usually a slow drip, for example, so squishy potatoes – I reasoned – was probably anything but.

But, squishy they must have been because they formed this mash mush which, after cooking for a while in the oven, because a sea of white something floating on the surface of the corned beef mixture, and dotted about with melted cheese islands. What I’m saying is that if you’d have plated it up for Gregg and John on Masterchef they’d have been a bit miffed.

It tasted nice though. It had all the flavour that the hash usually had, just with the marbled effect of the liquid potatoes running through it.

I think it’s safe to say we both were a little ill after that.

So, I think it’s fair to say that I apologise to Carole. I apologise for dismissing her paranoia about squishy potatoes. I should have investigated myself rather than just confirm that they were alright without seeing them or their squishy nature. So, Carole, I’m sorry. Sometimes your food worries are justified, and sometimes you should trust your instincts rather than leave us with trumps that could kill a man.

That said, it doesn’t mean you can just open new milk willy-nilly. There are limits.


Spring Forward

March 29, 2014

The clocks go forward by one hour in the wee small hours of the night. People tomorrow will be doing the “Okay, but what time is it really?” thing and you have to go round the house and adjust all your clocks before you go to bed….

Except you don’t now, do you?

Because most of the timepieces in the modern home get their time information through other methods – be it radio waves, the internet, magic (including, but not limited to, witchcraft) or guesswork, the whole clocks going forward (or back) situation is a hell of a lot easier than it used to be. But everyone still likes to remind you. “Remember,” they’ll say, “that the clocks go forward tonight” because it’s so ingrained in our psyche to do it.

We don’t need reminders anymore. We can just go to bed and all the clocks will adjust themselves without any input from anyone, anywhere. Not that any of this will stop people. Because people like to say it as if they’re the only person in the world who has been let in on this little secret.

“I probably shouldn’t really be saying anything but, and keep this to yourself, that clocks go forward tonight.” A bit like the woman on the Secret Escape adverts, but without the overly clingy boyfriend demanding to know what’s going on when he can hear her talking.

But gone are the days when you had to put all your clocks forward at some point during the evening before you went to bed, leading to much hilarity and confusion when you couldn’t remember if the time you were looking at was the real time or the adjusted one. Much of the slack in this particular area of confusion has, thankfully, been picked up by the people who find themselves watching Breakfast TV on the +1 channels and then sending emails complaining that the clock is an  hour out and that it’s made them late for work.

So, the clocks go forward tonight.

I have moved around the hands of the clock in the kitchen.

That’s it.

Done.

Stop reminding me about it!


Lady Bracknell Would Be Pleased

March 28, 2014

Is it just me or are Mother’s Day cards particular guff this year?

All the seems to be are overly soppy ones with things like “You’re the best mum” or “I love you so much mummy” emblazoned on them. I, today, spent £2.79 on a card that says Happy Mother’s Day laid out to form a handbag because it was the best one I could find from a selection of massively awful cards. For starters, two pounds bloody seventy-nine pence. And for seconds, a bloody handbag. My mum isn’t into handbags. If there was one with the words “Happy Mother’s Day” laid out in some kind of rudimentary Crossword style, or in a Sudoku then she’d be happy as Larry, but instead it’s a handbag. I almost feel I should use the fact that it’s blank inside to apologise to her for a card which – while it conveys the sentiment of the entirely fabricated by the card people’s day – is absolutely shite.

Where are the cards that take the piss.

Where are the cards that say things like “Mummy knew she’d had too much to drink…” before a hilarious punchline accompanied by a black-and-white photo from 1950’s America?

My family is not big on sentiment and showing emotions. It’s not something we do. We have an understanding that we all love each other in a familial way, but that we don’t need to bang on about it at any given opportunity. I don’t want a card that says “I love my mummy” or “You are the best mum ever!” because she’s my only mum and I haven’t got the time to put in the research to see if she actually is the best mum ever. I mean, that’s a lot of legwork. And what if I find that she isn’t the best mum? I haven’t seen any “You’re actually the second best mum ever” cards or anything like that.

We have an unwritten rule, and one that is carried out in full by my sister on every single occasion that calls for a card, that we don’t give soppy cards. We give cards that are mean or that poke fun at each other because we know what that means. It means, in our own way, that you are the best mum ever or the greatest dad or the reasonably okay sister and that because that’s how I view you it’s perfectly alright if I get a card that calls you an old git, or a dozy cow or whatever. That’s perfectly fine because that’s how we operate in our family. That’s the way it just works. It just kind of happened one day and everyone liked it and understood what was happening. And it’s happened every year since.

And this year I’m stuck with a card in the shape of a bloody handbag.

I’m going to have to write something rude inside it…


It’s Not Cineme, It’s Cineyou.

March 27, 2014

Does anyone actually use that Cineme app that now features heavily at the cinema in the pre-film adverts? Do you? Do you know anyone who uses it? Do you know anyone who really wants to answer three ludicrously easy questions to get treats and snacks “after the film”? Or who, while sitting in the cinema, wants to get extra content in the time it takes the advert to play out?

No.

Exactly.

So I think it’s probably alright to ask if Cineme will just do one and leave us all alone to enjoy adverts for cars, breakfast cereals and a watch that is the official watch of the Royal Air Force Ski Team without the need for pointless interactivity. Why have adverts telling people to turn their phones off if you’re then going to have adverts actively encouraging people to use their phones in the cinema. Oh, but it’s ok, because you’ve asked them to put it on silent. That will probably be fine then.

Cineme is fast becoming the worst thing to happen to cinema since Ricky Gervais appearing in films. I don’t understand how it can be in anyway improving advertising revenue or cinema visits because, well, it’s free. And it’s shit. And it means that anyone with a quarter of a brain cell can win these free goodies.

“Do you want to interact with the big screen on your small screen?” No. No I don’t. I thought that maybe the three hours or so I’d be spending in the cinema I’d use it to talk to the person I am with and, when there are moving pictures on the screens I’d just shut the frick up and enjoy them, not keep checking my phone to see if I’d won a small portion of popcorn or a drink that’s so sugary ants will help me carry it back to my seat.

Nocialising at its finest, Cineme app. Well done.

 


Nob In Hood

March 26, 2014

“Don’tchu stare a’ me. Why you starin’ at me? Mind yo’ own bizniz bro. Don’tchu call me a coward, bitch!”

Ah, just a typical bus ride home from work via the highways and byways of Dewsbury and its environs.

I should stress at this point that I was neither the starer or the staree in this particular escaped. The staree was a man – I say “man”, I didn’t look too closely for obvious reasons although it was definitely male and white – in a hoodie which was clearly several sizes too large for him, with a hood large enough that you could hook it behind a ship and trawl for cod with it. The man, cocooned safely within the confines of this large fleece garment, was ranting and raving about something or other. I don’t quite know what. But at least it made a difference from him breathing like someone sawing wood. So, you know, swings and roundabouts. Although in this case while the swings were quite noisy there was a fifty-fifty chance the roundabout was covered in broken glass which would cut you.

The starer, I believe, was a man seated directly behind me who has – for several days in a row – broken the basic rule of bus etiquette – where available, you always leave one empty seat both in front and behind the other passengers on the bus. Every day he’s either sat behind me or in front of me. Not with the empty seat buffer. Just actually in front or behind. I figured being terrorised on the bus was probably what he deserved for this level of blatant rudeness.

But as the journey wore on, it became increasingly apparent that the staree wasn’t actually having a go at the starer. I’m not sure quite who was looking at it him funny or – later on – calling him a coward but he continued this argumentative tirade when he moved to the front of the bus in quite a dramatic and teenagery manner. It may have been that he could still see the starer reflected in the window, but I suspect it’s that his hood was so large that he could actually hear the voices of other youths – much like when you hold a sea shell to your ear and can hear the sea.

This was further reinforced when he flounced off downstairs and – again – had a massive rant about people staring and besmirching his character. I know – when you’re as charming as he was, how could anyone be mean about him? Why would anyone want to be? And if someone was, would the reason for the anger be directly connected to the fact that he couldn’t really see out of his hood properly. Like when you try to look both ways before crossing the road when you’re wearing a Parka and all you can see is fur and the inside lining of the coat.

 


Cat Man Do/

March 25, 2014

There are many sad sights you see in a morning on the way to work, but few mirror the misery and desperation of “The Cat Man”.

The Cat Man is a new addition to Leeds station standing, as he does, on the concourse, in front of a giant banner detailing the work of the Cat Protection League or some such. Which is all well and good, but it’s his patter that really tugs at the heart-strings. Not because it’s an emotional topic, but because he’s absolutely terrible.

“Help the cats!” he shouted out. Which was great because that’s what people were going to do, sign up to a direct debit of a couple of quid a month so that cats could build a well and provide clean drinking water to their village. But really what it did was make him sound like a lunatic. And this is from someone who likes cats and enjoys spending large amounts of time in their company.

“Help the cats!” He wouldn’t be deterred. He’d thought his work through, he knew exactly what he was going to say and how he was going to say it.

Unfortunately, the tone he’d gone for was crazy and desperate.

“I need the cat lovers. Are there any cat lovers here this morning?”

“Cats need our attention too!”

“Think of the cats!”

And so on. You get the idea.

The really disconcerting part – apart from the fact that he sounded like a complete and utter loon – is that this was taking place before 8am. The day had barely begun and a grown man, in a suit, shouting out rousing cat-related attention grabbers was already starting to sound like he would rather be anywhere else that the middle of Leeds train station and, you know what, the cats can probably just fend for themselves and don’t really need our help.

And when you think that, just next to him, there were two big beefy blokes in camouflage trousers collecting money for Help for Heroes by shouting out similar phrases that didn’t involve the word “cats” then you’ve got to imagine that for The Cat Man today was a very, very long day.