Monday, September 29, 2008

To everything there is a season...

Autumn looks like it's well and truly here. I enjoyed our ten-day Indian summer and made the most of it. Now it looks like the only thing we have to look forward to between now and Christmas are the early Budget and the Obama/McCain fun across the Atlantic.

Why can't we hibernate?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Civil Service Spam

I hate getting Spam in my inbox. Loads of rubbish about penis extensions and Rollox watches and such other wank. And the odd pleasant missive from kind gentlemen in Nigeria offering me untold riches in exchange for my bank details. Must get back to them sometime when I'm less busy.

I hate the way it is sent indiscriminately. If they would only get their target market right. I mean, sending stuff about vacuum suction penis pumps to women?

It got me thinking, wouldn't it be great if spam mail was profession-specific?

For instance all the doctors would get the mails about cialis and viagra. And cocaine. Struggling students would get stuff about $100 Ph.Ds. The Progressive Democrats would be contacted by "Discount Funerals. Special Group Rate." Limerick people would be contacted by "Discount Funerals. Special Neighbourhood Group Rate."

And civil servants? We'd get some fantastic stuff. I've imagined it here (click to...erm... enlarge *cough*):

Then all these nice people selling stuff might actually get somewhere. In these tough economic times you need all the help you can get.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Country's Fucked! (Part one of a series of thousands)

This picture of a dole queue in Cork that appeared in the press last week is a sign of the times.

Yes, I had to fuck with it. Even though it's not really funny as I know what it's like to stand in line. Sorry everyone. I'm going to hell.

And anyway, even we civil servants aren't safe. Not with John McGuinness on the rampage. The only safe place to be these days is DSFA, by the looks of things. But no room for slackers with queues like this, I would think.

(Click to enlarge)

On a happy middle-management note, HEOs and APs can sit back and quickly assess their staff's overall performance by marking random members of the dole queue with ink or paint, and then see how quickly they get to the front of the queue. And whether the CO or EO on the counter will spot the ink or paint and tell the claimant to "piss off, you haven't even tried to disguise the fact that you're working."


Monday, September 22, 2008

Govstooge's Law of Crapness

The number of staff assigned to a manager is inversely proportionate to the number of times the manager is likely to get them all together at the same time to tell them stuff.

I've discovered this to my detriment, as I can't remember who I told what to or when.

This makes me look shit in front of the real managers.


Saturday, September 20, 2008


Another EO talking to one of their clerical officers... might I add that this clerical officer is a known berk...

EO: Any plans for the weekend?
CO: No, no. But I might take most of next week off if that's OK with you.
EO: No problem. Which days do you want off? Give me your leave application form and I'll enter them on the leave system for you.
CO: Well, I don't know yet. I might take the days off, and I might not. I'm not sure what I'm going to be doing.
EO: Are you going to come in on Monday?
CO: I think so. But I'll ring you if I'm not coming in. And I'll ring on Tuesday if I'm not coming in that day either (and so on...)
EO: I'm not going to be in on Monday or Tuesday myself.
CO: Oh.
EO: But you can ring the HEO.
CO: Actually, I think I will book the whole week off now.
EO: Ok then...

Patience of a saint, that EO. I'm glad I'm not in that situation as I would be out of a job by now. At this stage I would probably be jumping up and down whacking the CO over the head with the leave form shouting "JUST TAKE THE FUCKING DAYS YOU STUPID TWAT AND GIVE THE REST OF US A FUCKING BREAK FROM YOUR BLOODY TWATTITUDE!" A week without that kind of person in the place would be like a holiday for the others.

Now playing: Utah Saints - Something Good
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, September 18, 2008

National Pay Squabble

At long last the national pay talks concluded. (Yes, I know it was yesterday... I was too fucked tired last night to post anything. Don't ask. Because it's fucking boring, that's why.)

The public sector are to be awarded 6% over 20 months; the first 3.5% of which is to be paid out next September, following a 11-month public sector pay freeze. Pay freeze? Fuck! Aside from my annual increment (dependent on getting 2 or more in my annual PMDS review) I'm to get only one pay rise next year? Sweet sufferin' Jaysus! What are we to do? Where's a support group when you need one? How do I find the Employee Assistance Officer?

Mind you, we've just had a 2.5% increase on the first of this month. I celebrated with a few bottles of Leffe and Erdinger. Mmmm. Erdinger. Secretary Generals on the other hand just have some extra loo roll with pictures of windows and bridges on it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells

Tonight I watched The Naked Civil Servant.

This is a film based on the life of Quentin Crisp, in which the title role is played by John Hurt.

I was outraged by what this film portrayed. Outraged, affronted and completely let down.

There wasn't a form in sight.


(Mind you this was more than compensated for by John Hurt's performance and the subtle insertion of many of the great man's quotes into the narrative. My own favourite being: "Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne.")

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Eve of the Drawer

I derive a lot of amusement from my day-to-day work and interaction with my colleagues. It's hard not to, considering that there's fuck all on the telly and I've just finished reading the Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy and can't decide what to read next. (Maybe something by Terry Pratchett, or the biography of Mao by Jung Chang.)

For instance, playing pedantic civil service letter tennis is a particular joy of mine. I will happily return letters on lovely headed Department paper to anyone who cares enough to write to me in an official capacity. I especially like it when my civil service jargon is interpreted as "obfuscatory" (and no, I'm not in correspondence with any Ministers of State. At least, not that I know of).

Colleagues are great too. It takes all sorts to make up the Department and there's always something slightly mental going on. But sometimes thing can get too intense even for my liking. And that's saying a lot.

Sometimes I'm engaged on work that requires a fair bit of concentration (yes I do work! To tight deadlines no less!). I have to get my head down and hope I'm not disturbed. This isn't easy, given the shitty office layout we've been placed in. The last thing I need is being earwigged by the office bore, who works in my general vicinity, but who is not a member of the growing club that is known as Govstooge's Clerical Officers (catchy, eh?).

The office bore knows well enough to stay away from me. I will either ignore them or look up at them with murder in my eyes.

Recently, I have almost committed murder. Or, at least, a crude meniscectomy. Which isn't really the same thing, but I imagine it's painful. Our boring colleague decided to strike up a conversation with another colleague whose desk directly faces mine. Instead of walking around to their desk, the office bore decided to stand behind my desk, as I was sitting there, to conduct what could loosely be termed as "a conversation".

I, up to my elbows in forms, was not impressed. I reacted in the only way I knew how. I grabbed the handle of my top desk drawer and yanked it open with fury. Images of the bore limping back to their seat following a knee injury caused by high-velocity plywood filled my head.

I had underestimated my tedious colleague. I had expected them not to notice anything, immersed as they were in their own soliloquy of things that no-one else could possibly care about. I was wrong. The office bore lithely sidestepped my speeding drawer and skipped across to their audience to continue their droning monologue, as I sat there seething.

This is not the end. There will be other onslaughts. And I need to be prepared. My next DIY shopping trip will be for wires, pulleys, and maybe a little motor so I can operate the whole thing discreetly.

I could just be more assertive and say, "Sorry, ______ (insert colleague's name), I can't concentrate with you hovering over me, would you mind moving away from here please?" but that's just silly talk.

Assertiveness would just get in the way of my ambition to become the first non-surgeon to perform a delicate knee operation without anaesthetic in a non-sterile environment.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

NEWSFLASH: Junior Minister gets Squits from Dodgy Cake

Today at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Minister of State for Trade and Commerce John McGuinness was locked in a pitched battle in his private office toilet with his trousers and a faulty toilet seat.

The Minister today hit the headlines for calling for job cuts across the civil service, describing it as a system which "destroys ambition, resists change and is now so insulated from reality that information can be withheld from a minister, unfavourable reports are doctored and answers to parliamentary questions that come too close to the bone are masterclasses in dissemination and obfuscation which can deny our TDs the information they need to get to the heart of a matter".

We asked an EO at the Minister's office what they planned to do if their job was cut.
"Dunno really. I might sign on the dole. I like filling out forms. I've been doing it for fifteen years now. I hear it's a growth industry these days. Have to go now, the fairies at the bottom of the garden are calling me. Tra la la."

The Minister's sudden bout of gastric problems may - pending more detailed analysis - be attributed to a cake baked for him by his staff as a celebration of his successful speech (which contained the above comments) last Friday.

The Minister, speaking to us through the door of his private toilet earlier today said:
"Oooargh! I knew I should have gone to Starbucks for a bun instead of eating that cake. It was like lead. Urrrgh. That HEO can't bake. Has anyone got a match?"

Mmmm... IRONY
The cruel irony of the whole saga is how the Minister's description of the civil service as "featherless but plump state hens" led to his civil service staff laying some really rotten eggs for his celebratory cake.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wellies at the ready

Don't know about you lot, but I'm really looking forward to winter this year.

Apparently there's a 20% chance of getting one hour of sun in January.

Hold onto that thought. We all need something to strive for.

A couple of things I've noticed in the last few days:

Wellies don't go well with my work clothes. And some people are STILL wearing bloody flip flops!

Dear Senior Manager

Thank you for thinking of me today.

I thought I was all alone in the section today (in the absence of a HEO) and the fate of the day's work rested squarely on my shoulders.

Then, for the first time in six months, you come down from your enormous office to my part of the world, where I am allocated a space that is precisely one sixteenth of your private room. Did you gaze around the huge open-plan area as you entered, taking in the sight of umpteen civil servants running around towers of forms, irritating co-workers who just stand there talking to no-one in particular while getting in everyone's way, people complaining about the draughts and the sound of fifteen different ringtones at once?

No. You did not.

You headed straight for my desk, waving a piece of paper in a manner similar to that of Neville Chamberlain returning from his meeting with Hitler in Munich in 1938.

"Make sure this is updated," you said.

"OK", I replied.

You disappeared, not to be seen for six more months.

Looking at the sheet of paper, I recognised it as something I have updated, almost weekly, for a long time now.

I suppose you have to justify the enormous salary somehow...

Monday, September 8, 2008

I pity the fuel...

Our office canteen is great. All kinds of things can be had for breakfast, lunch and tea breaks in general. I myself prefer a cup of steaming black unsugared coffee and maybe some yoghurt or something when on a tea break.

Today I saw a HEO in the canteen getting breakfast. I often wondered where these managers got the energy to keep them flapping around the place belching out incomprehensible management speak all day long.

Well, after today, I wondered no more.

It was an enormous plate of baked beans.

A foodstuff low in glycaemic index (being mainly protein) which is widely known for producing a large volume of smelly methane from the nether regions within hours of consumption.

There you have it.

Conclusive proof that HEOs talk out through their arseholes.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cock of the Walk

More defaced pavement fun from Govstoogeland.

Maybe it's not a willie. Maybe it's an avant-garde rendition of a Zeppelin.

Aren't street artists great?

They're better than the piss artists anyway. Their stuff stinks.

The Decline of English

New statistics from the Department of Education show conclusively that skangers are getting thicker. A spokesperson yesterday said that "95% of all knackery scobey chavs can't spell their favourite words, let alone their own names".

An exclusive picture follows.
(Warning, may cause distress to sweary civil servants.)


Friday, September 5, 2008

Govstooge's Guide to Being an EO - Part Deux

PMDS Reviews

(For the uninitiated, a description of the PMDS rating system is linked here. You lucky sods.)

PMDS reviews must be conducted roughly six months after the role profile form is agreed (Interim). And again around Christmas (Annual), when you dole out a rating on the scale of 1 to 5. And agree another fucking role profile form for the next year.

To carry out a PMDS review in a professional manner you will need the following:

A Clerical Officer
(you will find these somewhere in the vicinity of your own desk. If they are difficult to catch for a review, wait until they need a day off and bring their leave form to you to be signed off on and then grab them).
A Role Profile Form - Available from your friendly "Human Resources" section.
A Review Form (Varies, depending on whether it is interim or Annual)
A private room - Almost impossible if you are an EO. I find declaring an outbreak of Ebola on the top floor gives me the pick of large, intimidating senior managers' offices. (Tip of the week).
Riot Gear - Depending on the CO you are reviewing, you might want to invest in a perspex shield, a helmet and some Kevlar body armour.

Once you have all of these you are ready to begin.

When you have cornered the CO for the review meeting, make sure you accompany them the whole way to the meeting room. Some of them have a habit of wandering off (Oh look a new printer) or just generally disrespecting your authoritaah by making you wait. I once spent ten minutes standing outside a meeting room looking up and down the corridor and scowling at my watch waiting for one CO to come for review. I eventually had to go back to the section where I found them still at their desk. I had to walk behind the CO all the way to the meeting room with the role profile form (sharpened to a point) to their back. And then some other opportunistic EO stole my room. The fecker.

Conducting the Review
You will both have to yawn and nod through a variety of bollocks and toss such as "key performance indicators" and "critical success factors", and tick a few boxes indicating "satisfactory/ unsatisfactory" on the form. Simple stuff so far.

Then, you will discuss any training and development needs for the future:
CO: I'd like to do an Irish course.
Govstooge: OK, we'll stick it on the form and give it to the folk in HR.
CO: I'd also like to learn to play Spanish classical guitar. And backgammon. And tennis. Can I put those on the form too? Oooh and maybe some Italian lessons too. I'm going to Tuscany for a fortnight next June you know.
Govstooge: Have you tried the local fucking community college?
CO: I thought this place was it? They told me it was the big grey ugly building on the left hand side of the street?
Govstooge: Do you even work here? Sorry, I have so many staff reporting to me I can't remember everyone's name.

Ratings System
This has, since 2006, been integrated to our pay awards. On a scale of 1 to 5 where "3" is completely satisfactory, an employee has to receive a rating of 2 or more to get their annual salary increment. Yes, that's right, if you're fucking up a bit, they still reward you for it. You would have to slam the nearest HEO's head in the door, go "wibble" at a senior manager for two minutes or more and burn all the forms received in the last month in a big pile in the middle of the office while dancing maniacally around it before you would get a rating of 1.

Occasionally you will meet with someone who disagrees with your rating and thinks they should get a higher one. In these cases, as is the procedure, the HEO must intervene if no agreement is reached between you and the CO. In some cases the CO will not want to deal with the HEO as life is too short to put up with the stream of middle management waffle that invariably issues forth during the mediation meeting. So you win. Heh.

Upward Feedback
Once you have given all the feedback to the CO, it's their turn to give some feedback to you. On how they are being managed and all that.

Govstooge: So, do you have any upward feedback?
CO: No, no, none at all.
Govstooge: Oh come on, you must have something to say.
CO: Well, all right. I'd just like to say that you're the best manager I've had in my entire working life. You're always so polite and willing to listen to my problems. And the on-the-job training you give is superb. And you look fantastic in that top. It really shows off your curves.
Govstooge: All right, that's enough, you fucking lezzer. There was no need for the last bit. Jesus.
CO: Just trying to help. Can you take the letter opener away from my eyeball now please?

The meeting ends with both of you signing the form and consigning it to the bowels of the HR department for all eternity.

Six months later you must do it all again.

Blather, dense, repeat.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Stupid Twat...

Appearing completely clueless and unable to bullshit my way out of it in front of one of my superiors was not the highlight of my Wednesday.

I really need that course on Management-speak.

Greening the Office

As part of the Office of Public Works' laudable initiative to reduce carbon emissions by 15% in all of the buildings they operate, our Department is building awareness on green issues and doing their bit.

Which is great, as I adopt similar practices in my own home (turning off standby lights, only heating the water I need, recycling shitloads of stuff). Why not at work too?

One thing I'm not so enthusiastic about, though is someone's idea to turn off the printers and photocopiers on our floor at 5pm. I didn't even know they were doing this until I went to print an important document for a meeting tomorrow morning and when I walked the length of the vast corridor to retrieve it I discovered that the printer wasn't even on.

For feck's sake. We may be civil servants but some of us don't feck off at 4 every single day you know. Switching it back on wasn't an option as it takes a bloody age to "warm up".

I'd turn it off if I was working late... promise....

Stating the obvious?

At least, I hope I am.

Got a bit of a scare today when I stumbled on an internet article about some civil servants in the UK who were blogging about their work, and faced disciplinary action and even dismissal. Admittedly, they were higher up than I am and had apparently made comments about the political system and incompetencies of senior officials etc.

So, just in case I get into hot water, I just want to point out a few things:

I'm not particularly interested in making insightful political commentary given that the civil service codes of standards and behaviour explicitly states that we must be impartial whatever the party in Government is. There are far better political writers in the blogosphere than me.

I haven't made any direct reference to the exact nature of my work, for confidentiality reasons. Apart from the fact that it involves lots and lots of forms.

I'm also very conscious not to defame anyone. The characters I refer to in this blog are caricatures and composites of people and managers I have worked with throughout my working life, along with a little bit of the madness of the sort seen in The Office or Office Space. And Father Ted. I myself have adopted an evil persona.

The events I write about are sometimes based loosely on actual events and others are completely madey-uppy.

My primary reason for writing all this stuff is an outlet for creative writing which has been an interest of mine for as long as I can remember. And if I get a few comments, so much the better.

What I believe I am writing is a somewhat surreal and satirical account of life at the bottom of the pile of a large organisation.

Truth is, I'm lucky to have a secure job that I enjoy doing most of the time and decent people for colleagues and managers.

If any of them happen to stumble on this blog I'd hope they'd get a laugh out of it and leave me a comment.

That's my serious bit over. Now, back to the silly stuff.