Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Executive Factor

Here's a shocker for you. I'm actually very good at my job. My managers, even the Hexecutive, know this and don't feel the need to micromanage me. I'm given a project to work on, plus a deadline by which to finish it, and they know they'll get it back in time. I'm seconded to internal project teams, training courses etc because I'll do well and it will benefit my work unit. 

My staff appraisals are all up to date. I'm listed on the Departmental organisational structure as a "specialist". I fucking rule.

But I'm also human. I get headaches, go to the toilet, need stimulants and sleep as much as any other person. Occasionally even my excellence slips. To err is human, right? (No? Ah, fuck off.)

Of course it is. Methuselah, an EO I work with, knows this. He fucks up on an almost daily basis. Close to retirement, his function is primarily to warm a seat in the canteen. Usually to a temperature high enough to roast a turkey, given the amount of time he spends in there. Occasionally his "skillset" will be called into usage, and in order to elicit any discernible output from this effort,  there is much effort on the HEOs' and APs' parts. It is like trying to reawaken the memories of an Alzheimer's patient. Typical conversations would go like this: 

"You remember Matilda-Hortense, don't you? You worked with her in the Land Registry. She was the HEO in charge of date stamps there in 1972. She was also known as 'Ulster' because her hands were permanently red from the ink." 

Methuselah does not like me. His lifer, tea slurping, newspaper in toilet, modus operandi is a sharp contrast to my efficiency, willingness to learn and my notions of modern public service delivery. OK, we are the same grade in the hierarchical food chain. We are both EOs. He earns more than I do thanks to five hundred years of service. (Did you know Sir Thomas More is the patron saint of civil servants as well as politicians? I think Methuselah sent the Canonisation form to the Curia back in the day).  

I'm still on the incremental ladder. (He, judging by how he smells on occasion, is also on the Excremental ladder). Methuselah likes to give a running commentary on his activities as he works through them "Putting the letter in the envelope, licking the envelope (this I do not look up at), putting it in the out tray" "going to the toilet, straining my sphincter, wiping my bottom" sort of thing. 

Last week, I had to send some "Grammatical and Typographical Offences" statistics to another department (not the Director of Public Prosecutions, although I think it should be) for review. Unwittingly, I sent these figures off to my contact AP without making sure that the figures were collated under the proper headings. So, the figures for "Apostrophe Abuse" were presented under the heading of "Overuse of Comic Sans" and vice-versa. The AP rang my work number to alert me to this, but I had already gone home for the evening. 

Methuselah, however, was still in situ.  He reached for the phone. With glee, he listened, in spite of the tufts of hair growing from his ears, to the errant statistics. He took a message for me. Except he didn't leave it for me. He left it on the Hexecutive's desk, for her to find the following morning. Which she did, and passed it to me. I read the note, which was on vellum and had an illuminated capital letter at the beginning, and sighed loudly. "I explained to the AP before that some of those figures are subject to revision." And I proceeded to dial the AP's number, silently rehearsing my patronising tone. 

It was the AP who was patronising though. He calmly pointed out the transposed columns, and I had to apologise profusely, promise to commit hari-kari if it happened again and amend the errors immediately. Thankfully, Methuselah wasn't within earshot. He was in the toilet,  and would be some time, as usual. The Union magazine had just been circulated and there was a crossword to be done. The Hexecutive looked up and asked me if everything was OK. I waved the sheet of vellum about. "There was no way I could have discerned what the issue was from this. I mean, most of it's in bloody cuneiform!" The Hexecutive raised her eyes to heaven in sympathy, and Methuselah walked back into the room, with an expression of both post-defecatory satisfaction and smugness on seeing the vellum on my desk. 

He then proceeded to fuck up the front page of a brief, with an incorrect date, prompting several "have civil servants built time machines now?" comments from correspondents. This time, the Hexecutive wasn't nodding. Methuselah's Complan ration for that day was withdrawn, and he had to work late to put things right and double check everything else he had done. 

He was still there when I bounded out the door. Schadenfreude works both ways.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Welcome to the Jungle

It is a little known fact that government offices provide optimum conditions for the cultivation of plant life.

Many of my colleagues have spider plants, aloe vera plants, birds' nest ferns (asplenium nidus - aren't binomials fun?) on their desks. I myself am the proud owner of a phalaeanopsis orchid. All of these horticultural delights are thriving, in a manner that would put the botanical gardens in Glasnevin to shame. (The other major landmark in Glasnevin, the cemetery, is also being put to shame by our far superior collection of walking corpses and our superlative stench of overwhelming decomposition.)

What is it, you ask, that creates such a hospitable environment? The answer is simple. Copious amounts of hot air, belching forth from the CPUs of ageing Dell PCs, helps  to emulate greenhouse conditions, as does that which emanates from the civil servants themselves. Indeed, the department's Boardroom is a lush garden of tropical plants, complete with vines which the senior managers amuse each other with by swinging off and doing Tarzan impressions. A troupe of orang-utans have set up home in a corner of the boardroom, and have been made honorary civil servants due to their being from Born-EO.

Another contributing factor to the environment, is the abundance of departmental directives, office circulars, information leaflets and forms which, when mulched, provide the closest approximation of manure to be found in a bureaucracy (outside of the toilets of course).

Once my Venus fly trap/ triffid hybrid experiment is complete, I will canvass our senior management team to make it an Auxiliary EO. If it is good enough for the orang-utans in the boardroom, it is good enough for my plant. I can see it becoming very useful when conducting PMDS performance appraisals with errant clerical officers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Return of the Cack

You'd think a sabbatical of two years would have tempered Govstooge's rancour, wouldn't you?


It's good to be back, but fuck all has changed, really.

Let the bitching recommence!

Game of Drones

Winter is coming.

The autumnal chill is already in the air.

The term-timers are gradually trickling back to the office with boxes of chocolates, biscuits and mind-numbing tales of their family holiday along with albums/ mobile phones filled with equally tedious photos of beaches, swimming pools and yet more beaches.

Winter is coming.

And with it the annual skirmish of Window Wars, the pitched battles of civil servants forced to hare open plan areas. The APs in their private offices are oblivious to the politicking on the main floor. One of them even has the gall to complain about the hum of the air conditioning unit outside their window. (What air is this thing conditioning? It’s not the mere plebs’ accommodation, that’s for sure. Maybe it’s helping to cool the servers in the Comms room. Or more likely, the secret bar in the Principal Officer’s room.)

First world problems. You have a door, AP. And I hate you for it. I want a door. Those of us who worked through most of the summer with a pleasant breeze from our windows lifting the stale coffee aromas, the rancid stink of rotting banana peels in the seldom-emptied waste bins, the all-permeating canteen cabbage and the noxious odours of the even less frequently washed armpits of the stinkier colleagues, are now unwittingly engaged in this battle as the tanned term-timers, still sporting unflattering capri pants and flip flops in the office (giving the rest of us  a vile vista of verrucae and varicose veins) flap around in their unseasonable outfits, demanding the closure of more and more windows until the goosebumps on their bingo-winged arms subside. As I’ve said, I don’t have a door. So when a putative God (or, in this case, a middle-aged woman) closes a window, a door doesn’t open for me.

I could go to the Woodies down the road from the office and buy myself a door, but then I’d need a wall to make it work. And I’m sure Facilities Management / Office of Public “Works” will have something to say about my bringing building materials into the office.

The solution? Fans. With rotating blades. Sharp rotating blades. Hmmm. It’s one way to get a-head.

Next time: A Dance with Wagons

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Downtime's a bitch. After several weeks of frenetic activity in my unit, there is now a brief period of a couple of weeks to get my breath back before I start all over again. The Hexecutive has seen to it that the work allocation per EO in the unit is staggered, so we all get a crazy few weeks and a bit of brief respite. (This is new to me, as the only staggering this EO had ever done prior to this was out of the pub on a Saturday night.)

I don't like when it's my turn for downtime. I find it very difficult to revert to the customary plodding pace of the stereotypical bureaucrat after having rushed around like a maniac for an extended period. It's the equivalent of grinding abruptly to a halt after a run, instead of warming down gradually. (I know. I fucked my knees up once doing this.)

To alleviate the tedium, I invent 'work' for myself. Learning new software programs, that is, or swotting up on legislation, policy documents, cornflakes boxes, anything I find lying around. I'm being good, because I want a good stab at HEO the next time there's a vacancy. (No, I don't want to actually stab a HEO, except, maybe...on occasion... sometimes... the Hexecutive.)

Fairly soon, I'm in my own little world of personal development. My colleagues are rushing around, just like I had been earlier, and, for once, I do not envy them their meetings and conference calls. Until, that is, their phones start ringing. Often I'm alone in the office during my downtime and find myself picking up other people's extensions and taking messages. I can do this remotely from my desk, which is handy, as if I had to sit at Nosher's desk and use his phone, I might have to be cut free from all the sticky jam which covers everything within his arm span before I can get up again. 

So it begins:

"Hi, is Nosher there? He hasn't called Buns-r-Us for his doughnut order this morning, and we've extra staff on to handle the job, I'll have to send them home again if we don't get it."

"... ... ... ..." Silent phone call. I leave a message for the Trappist EO. 

"Hello? Morticia?"
"No, sorry, Morticia retired / died / something or other in 2010."
"Oh. What are you wearing, you little minx?"

"Is my mum there?"
"No. I'm afraid not, she's at a meeting."
"Oh. Ok."
Five minutes later: 
"Is my mum there?"
"No. I'm afraid not, she's at a meeting."
"Oh. Ok."
Five minutes later: 
"Is my mum there?"
"No. I'm afraid not, there has been a terrible accident. The corridor to the Boardroom has become engulfed in flames, and the Fire Brigade are held up in traffic, and there's been a chemical spill in the carpark... and...OH NOOOOOO!  ZOMBIES! Run away! Run awaaaAAAAHHHHH!"
"Oh. Ok."

"Hello, could I speak to Francis, please?"
"No, I'm sorry, he won't be back for an hour. Would you like to leave a message?"
"This is the Larry Bang show on FUFM. He has just won a case of the finest wines available to humanity."
"Aah! I see! I do apologise, actually that's me. Frances. With an E. Yahoo. I won those. Can you ship them to Ballyfuck? Now?"

When my colleagues return, they find their computer monitors festooned with badly scrawled sticky notes and I must spend another hour translating for them as my handwriting's bloody awful. By the time I've finished, it's almost time for my busy period.

But not before a stern talking to by the HEO re an upset eight year old who thinks her mother's been eaten by revenants. Some people have no sense of humour. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Is it wrong to like Jedward? 

Answers on an old form please, or the back of a €20 note if form not available. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I get these strange compulsions from time to time. I get the sudden urge to do something completely irrational or stupid. 

As I walk through the open plan office space as I go from the printer to my desk, with a look on my face like I have just sucked a lemon, it might be difficult for the casual observer to imagine that I am merely suppressing the urge to do a silly dance between the rows of desks while shouting 'Wibble' or 'Big Fat Cocks'. 

When I walk by a river, I want to throw things into it. Not useless objects like rocks, twigs or the Trappist EO, but things that enhance life, such as an Mp3 player or  my shiny smartphone (not of the variety prefixed with a lower case 'i') with its Monty Python soundboard.

When I see a BMW X5 parked on a footpath, it's all I can do not to let the air out of its tyres, and lie in wait for its inevitably Ugg-booted occupant to return, so I can kick her up the hole. 

I've been successful so far in the suppression of my urges, but I very nearly put my fucking foot in it yesterday. 

The Hexecutive was speaking to me about boring filing systems (yet again - yawn!) and asked me for my opinion on where a particular type of document should go. I took a deep breath.


...was the response that instantly popped into my head. No, I didn't say it. I took another deep breath and murmured something about filing it under the 'miscellaneous nonsense' section, excused myself to the bathroom and did that whole lemon-sucking facial expression all the way there to prevent myself from laughing out loud like a loon. 

 I'm worried now. I wonder is coffee the reason?