Saturday, August 30, 2008

Going at it hammer and tongs...

Sometimes life brings disappointments.

I was in my local hardware shop today attempting to purchase an item for the purpose of affixing other items to walls.

I kept expecting to see big hairy men come out of nowhere saying "you looking for a screw, love?" so that I could at least snigger childishly but to no avail.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Govstooge's Guide to Being an EO

For anyone out there who is interested in an exciting career in the civil service, now that the recession is looming and visits to are on the increase, here's what to expect, at least from an EO perspective.


I had no idea what to expect when sent to the Department. I thought I would be given my own office, a designated parking space and a key to the executive toilets. Then I could flit about the place in my official EO robes whacking COs on the head with steel-tipped forms. Instead I got a tiny chipboard desk in a sea of similar furniture, an ID badge that looks nothing like me and a window that won't open.

Public Appointments put you in a crate and ship you to your new Department with "This Way Up" stamped all over it. This is invariably ignored and you are dizzy and nauseous when you finally see the light of day. The HEO breaks the crate open on delivery with the Ceremonial Departmental Crowbar which is the first phase in the new employee's induction.

The second phase in the induction process is the HEO standing in front of you with an organisation chart / map of the huge section with everyone's desk on it. Your new boss has helpfully marked your desk on this with a red "X" and circled those of your staff.

New EO: Err... why have I got so many?
HEO: Because we like to throw you in at the deep end. Also, we've been waiting for a new EO for six months now and, frankly, I'm fed up with having to deal directly with the COs. It's been eating into valuable EBay time.
New EO: Fuck.
HEO: Oh, don't worry. They won't bite you. They're a lovely bunch really. See Jim over there. He's been really good since joining this section. Which is great, especially since he used his last EO's in-tray as a toilet. And look at Bob over in the corner. Go over and introduce yourself to him. He's very tactile. He likes to hug everyone. Don't worry if he squeezes too tight. And this is Contracepta. She likes to start the day with prayers and anointing everyone with holy water. Try not to swear around her, she doesn't like it.
New EO: Fuck.

After all introductions have been made the HEO shows you around the building. (Where's the fucking door, you think.) You find where the photocopying room is. The bilingual sign in English and Irish is long gone, and the room is only identifiable by a crudely lettered notice "if the copier's a rockin', don't come a knockin'". You are also shown the canteen, where, you are informed, you are required to spend two hours a day.

Then you are introduced to your AP.
HEO (bowing): Excuse me your greatness, I have that new EO you ordered.
AP (rubbing hands): Excellent. Well, don't just stand there, come in.
HEO shows new EO in.
AP: Just a few tests I need to do. Can you open your mouth so I can count your teeth? (to HEO) Here, warm this rectal thermometer in your hands for a bit, will you? I didn't do that the last time we got a new EO and I'm still waiting for my ceiling to be repaired.
New EO: Fuck.

Later, you also participate on an official induction course, including IT policies, health and safety and how to understand HEO-speak.

In the next edition: How to conduct a PMDS review with a clerical officer without swearing.

Not that time of year AGAIN...

Jesus fucking Christ. It seems like only the other day that I had 0ne of those.

For fuck's sake.

However, I did see a jeep in a field today. Wow.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Madding Crowd

Open-plan offices can be great fun. Imagine twenty or thirty people all sharing the same workspace, and the fun that can ensue from the various tensions within the team, there for all to enjoy. If there are partitions between the desks then everyone can bob up and down like meerkats to watch the show.

I return to my desk in such an environment next week and here's what I've got to look forward to.

Window Wars:
Soon to be filmed by George LooseAss. The plot goes something like this. A clerical officer has a window seat, and therefore, ultimate control of the window. Another clerical officer covets this resource and declares war. The reigning CO, who doesn't want to sit in a draught in a cold Irish summer, leaves her desk for twenty seconds to talk to a colleague. The CO on the offence immediately springs to the window, flinging it open thereby causing an environmental disaster - i.e. a puff of wind upsetting a stack of carefully ordered forms. Some choice language ensues when the first CO returns. EO bursts a blood vessel laughing and has to be taken away for early tea.

Private Telephone Conversations:
Ok, I had this before. Calls to family, friends, radio competitions and various service professionals are broadcast freely across our open space. Yes, annoying, but can be fun too. The best ones are the double entendre ones. A cat-loving colleague loves to talk about the latest exploits of the family pet. Or "pussy". Fnarr Fnarr.

Non-Sequitur Conversations:
Some of the folk in our office are somewhat eccentric and for a few of them, work comprises the majority of the social interaction they are likely to experience. So, for the lonelier folk, any excuse to talk is seized upon. An example I had recently:

A car alarm goes off outside the building.
Lonely CO (standing behind EO): My god, those car alarms can be really annoying.
Up-the-walls EO (not looking up): Umm, yes.
Lonely CO: I have a house alarm, you know.
EO: Err, yeah, you told me that last week, when you got it fitted.
Lonely CO: It's great, you know. But you have to be very quick to punch the code in.
EO: Yeah.
Lonely CO: It took me a long time to choose a code I could remember. Do you want to know how I picked it?
EO: I think you told me that as well. Wasn't it the year of the battle of Clontarf multiplied by the first five digits of a Fibonacci sequence divided by the square root of Hitler's height in metres? And add one?
Lonely CO: Wow! How did you remember that?
EO: I just did. By the way, I like what you've done with your hallway. And those biscuits you kept in the cupboard near the back door were really nice. Do you have any more?

The Sweary One:
This one is simply:
Phone rings.
Govstooge - still up-the-walls: FUCK OFF!
COs look on worriedly as Govstooge picks up phone.
Govstooge (posh voice): Good afternoon, Govstooge speaking, how may I help you?
After the call has ended:
Govstooge: What a fucking TWAT!

The Boss:
HEO (whispering very, very softly):
Govstooge, did you get that email from Personnel regarding one of your COs?
Govstooge: Sorry, could you repeat that. There's a lot of background noise in here.
HEO: I can't - I don't want anyone to hear. And the meeting room is occupied.
Govstooge: Jesus. Can you mime it?

The Entertainers:
Colleagues who sing incessantly. Thankfully there are none in my current office, but I've had to share offices (in my private sector days) with people who had shit taste in music. Stuff like that fucking horrible French accent song "Where do you go to my lovely" (Bleugh) and Foreigner's "I want to know what love is". In the latter case, I downloaded an article from the internet about sex and reproduction and forwarded it to the singer.

Another colleague liked to sing "If I were a rich man" from Fiddler on the Roof (Or Rich Girl by Gwen Stefani). I admit I used to join in...
Colleague: If I were a rich man, yadda yadda yadda...
(Pre-Gov) Stooge: ... I wouldn't work for _______ (insert company name here).

So you see, it can be fun. I'm still holding out for a promotion, though, and then another so I can finally get my own office away from all the madness. I reckon it will take about thirty years, and by then I'll be so deaf none of this will matter anymore.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Queuing for a Loving

I fucking hate queuing for anything. I can just about tolerate the queue in the canteen at work (yes, for we executives must mingle with the hoi polloi of the COs and senior managers). Queues make me tap my feet, roll my eyes and murmur expletives. My genteel and polite upbringing dictates, however, that I accept my place in the queue and await my turn.

I was in an airport check-in queue earlier. These generally move quickly unless they are Ryanair queues where some passengers are overweight (baggage, that is - how long before they start weighing US as well as our luggage). This queue moved nice and quickly and I didn't adopt any Tourette's symptoms while waiting.



Dear Christ, what the fuck was that?

And again:


Jesus! It's the Day of the Triffids! They're coming to get me!



I rotated my head gingerly (No, I'm not ginger. I was merely suggesting an exercise of caution in my movements). I expected to see part of the Scottish bog that tried to eat my foot earlier in the week waiting in line behind me to great me with a cheery "Hello again" as I turned around. Or maybe a giant alien plant with a pair of legs protruding from its mouth-like aperture.

No such luck.

Behind me was one of those fucking smug couples who can't stop kissing or feeling each other up in public. The noises I had been hearing were the result of their hoovering each other's faces with their mouths. Even the stupid fucking twat at work who can't eat with his mouth closed makes less noise.

Now there is nothing more natural than the expression of love between two people. Except, when you turn around, and they see that you've noticed them, they get worse. Plus, being bereft of male company with whose help I could retaliate with counter strikes of slurping, I had no option than to dig out my iPod and turn Cannibal Corpse up really, really loud (Song of choice? I Will Kill You, of course).

There should be a law against it. Or at least, some new travel protocol. I am going to write to Michael O'Leary to see if he would consider introducing another silly additional charge on this type of behaviour in airport queues. Well, he has the Priority Boarding Queue, what about the "Love-struck soppy couple" queue? Other airlines will then follow suit and the whole unpleasant business would be over and done with.

The Mile High club is another matter entirely, which I haven't given a great deal of thought to because I prefer to wee in the airport before boarding instead of wrestling with toilet roll, underwear and flimsy doors in an airborne loo. Let them have their fun. They might even get wedged in there together and give the rest of us some inflight entertainment.

Touching the Void...

I have been without internet access for over a week! A week! What a plight! I have not been in such a situation in over eight years! Have my fingers withered away to nothing? Has my typing speed decreased by 10wpm?

I doubt it, but I am fucking sore.

I've just spent a week up some mountains in Scotland. In lovely typically Scottish weather. A bog tried to eat my left foot. Midges thought I had an "Eat for free" sign over my head. I swore loudly into a valley and listened for the echo. I went a whole day without going for a wee because all my bodily fluids were leaking out into my hair and down my back. The Edinburgh Festival was too poncey for me although there are a couple of pubs in the Grassmarket that are worth a visit, even now.

On the plus side, I didn't get too wet thanks to my proper hiking gear. I got to stay in a gorgeous Georgian mansion in the middle of nowhere, where the food was truly excellent and the internet connection truly non-exixtent. I met some fantastic people, those I knew already and some new folk too. I drank the finest Scottish Real Ale (Belhaven Best, if anyone's interested) and single malt Scotch (Glengowan). I ate cheese and pickle sandwiches beside the trig station on a 2300' summit with a sigh of relief while the wind blew all around and helped dry the sweat. And of course, kilts, haggis and bagpipes. Nice (!).

The stairs at work will never be quite the same.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Feckin' rain...

The rain today got me thinking. Of emigration to warmer climes, yes, but also the different types of people you see out on the streets in different types of weather. I go walking in all sorts of conditions, owning rain gear (NOT yellow!) means I never miss out. A woman for all seasons, if you will.

For instance on a warm sunny day you will see mums and kids out walking, joggers, runners, rollerbladers cyclists and people with their dogs. And you think to yourself only nutjobs and people who have to spend seven or eight hours in a stuffy office would not be out in it.

Then on a wet shitty day, just like today, a casual stroll around the area where I work reveals another subclass. Trolls under bridges. Yes, beneath an underpass there was a group of hooded chav teenagers in their shiny tracksuits, huddled together and smoking a special type of herbal cigarette and roaring and shouting gibberish. There was also a lot of poo. In the absence of dogs, I can only imagine where that came from. I have never seen these troglodytes on a fine day.

Nobody else around, just me and these fucking chavs.

Thankfully they were too stoned and their nylon attire wasn't really meant for downpours of this magnitude, so they didn't chase me.

More Olympics...

More Civil Service Olympics Events:

PMDS Form Relay - EO chases CO around the building with a PMDS form to be agreed and signed by the CO. Personnel section only join in the fun if the EO manages to catch the CO and get his signature so they can file it away. Forever.

Tea Break Sprint - EO has to get out of the office and into the canteen as quickly as possible before the HEO pounces with more work which just couldn't wait until midday.

Canteen Sprint - A test of agility and manual dexterity as employees try to get to the sausages before the person with the dirty fingernails who won't use the tongs provided gets at them.

Canteen Gymnastics - A beautiful display of synchronised movement as staff pivot and pirouette and limbo dance with trays and boiling hot coffee trying to keep out of each others' paths as they negotiate the circuitous route from coffee machine to spoons to sugar sachets to milk dispenser to biscuits and finally to the till.

Waste paper bin basketball - Letters from the public put to good use.

Long jump - CO has to jump over a line of managers from HEO to PO all of whom are bent over kissing the arse of the next most senior officer. Bonus points if the CO is fat and manages to squish the PO.

Insult-to-Paralympic event - Employees go the 500 metres to the nearest printer by wheeling themselves in their chairs because they're too fucking lazy to get up and walk to it.

Window Gymnastics - Fun for all as employees from CO to HEO in open-plan areas jump up and down and open and shut the windows as the weather dictates. Points lost if forms are blown to the floor. Points gained if most annoying employee is thrown out the window.


You would think nothing is happening. Thanks to the time difference, apart from last Friday's spectacular opening ceremony, the Olympics are not chewing up the prime time schedules and only the more hardcore athletics fans among us would get up at 3am to watch the proceedings (I might do the same if I'm suffering from insomnia again tonight...).

I must say the whole build up has filled me with a gross sense of inadequacy and I feel a strong urge to get fit. So recently my neighbours in Ballyfuck have witnessed me out and about puffing and panting as I try to run to the nearest crossroads without developing a collapsed lung. On my two mile circuit (wimp! HA!) I must negotiate dog shit, cow shit, horse shit, potholes and stoned farmers in their tractors. On my iPod such great songs as The Cult's She Sells Sanctuary and Echo and the Bunnymen's Lips Like Sugar (going through a depressing 80s revival at the moment). On my back a 10 year old Che Guevara t-shirt with a disturbing dark triangle of sweat.

Seriously though, this urge will wear off me in about two weeks or so when all the really fit folk return home. I have a better chance of winning gold in the Civil Service Olympics, most likely in the Swearathon. (I would have to do ten more years' service to attain even bronze in the Fattest Arse event).

So I just end up in the local pub as usual. And at closing time there's a roach coach outside selling chips and burgers, which I can eat in front of the telly watching some bloke throw a javelin.

Now playing: Tom Waits - Closing Time
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Notional pay talks

Ok, so the talks collapsed today. "Bugger" went the collective sigh from the nation's diminishing employed.

Well fear no more, fellow taxpayers!

I have the solution!

I know what'll convince them.

I will send a copy of my payslip to each of the unions and employers' groups along with a photocopy of my role profile form along with various reports I've written over the years about dealing with arseholes.

Once they have all stopped laughing, both sides will instantly agree that the paltry amount is hardly sufficient remuneration for what I have to put up with, will shake hands on a nice deal for us all and then go for a nice cup of tea.

Well, it's worth a try.