Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Loon on the bus

Crazy bus lady, you must know her. Asian, in her fifties (or maybe younger, she has had a hard life), lots of bags. Big photocopying bill. May or may not be a fan of Dan Brown. Definitely not a fan of the Freemasons. You've seen her, I'm sure. Magic Bus. Stagecoach. Finglands. Telling the tale of her stolen children, of the government's collusion, of the evil of her husband. She has handouts. It's desperately sad.

I was on the top deck of the 86. She came upstairs and started to do her thing. I took out my notebook and started to scribble. I showed what I was writing to my neighbour, who nodded occasionally.

- I feel sorry for this woman
(nod, nod)
- She's so passionate!
(sad nod)
- But nobody listens when you shout. Poor thing. :-(
(nod, knowing smile)

Bus lady stopped, and alighted. My neighbour got off a few stops later. I imagine that, when she got home, she must have said to her flatmates...

"There was a right weirdo on the bus... with a notebook."

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Getting some more miles on the legs

Monday, 28 September 2009

Down in the tube station at midnight

I avoided a noisy drunk as I wandered through the bus station after college. He had a bunch of flowers and a bad attitude, slumped at a bus stop and swearing. I wriggled inside my duffel coat, kept my head down, and walked on to my stop.

Buses on the hour and half hour meant I was in for a wait. The drunk showed up, and started hassling two young girls waiting for my bus. He eased his way in. To start with, resting his flowers on the empty bench near them, then trying to engage them in conversation, and then increasing his volume until he was almost shouting at them. I caught the eye of one of the girls. "Come here," I mouthed to her silently, "come on."

They stood, came to me. I put my hand on one girls shoulder, and moved them on to one side of me, with the drunk on the other. And he came over, growling at them. I put my body between the girls and the drunk. He growled at me too. I didn't say anything, but I didn't move either. He shouted. I didn't move. He shouted some more. I still didn't move.

Then he went.

"Thank you."

I wondered how Batman would reply, but realised I could never be that cool, so I just smiled.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Sexy Al says...

DTRMCR: "What's with that weird name he uses on Facebook?"
Al: "It's a bit embarrassing, like one of those names a fifteen year old would have on Myspace, like Sexy Al, something like that."
Dunk: "Sexy Al? That's one of those ironic nicknames."
Al: "Like Little Kevin from The Wire, who's actually massive?"
Christian: "Wait, is that why you call me Champ?"

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Exploring new running routes

Friday, 25 September 2009

Joining the dots

Had I not gone to Didsbury last night, I'd have got to work before 9.20, but I would have missed Miriam Brown in the street outside the C_____, and I wouldn't have been invited to the pub with her after work. "It's someone's fortieth, you should come along."

The Peveril was rammed. "Hello Miriam!" I was introduced to people left right and centre, typically in the form, "This is _____," he works for the C_____," or "This is _____," he also works for the C_____." A trickle of fear snaked down my spine, as the wheels of my tiny mind turned.

"Miriam," I asked in a rare quiet moment, "does everybody here work for the C____?"
"Yes, yes it's a work function, so yes, they all do."
My heart stopped, and my mouth went dry.
"Is Liz going to be here?"

Liz, you see, works for the C____ too. Liz and Miriam used to work on the same desk island. I know Liz partly because of Miriam. Liz and I haven't spoken for months. It's like that with some break-ups - most, in my experience. Whilst it might be quite nice to be friends, things haven't taken that route. So it goes. And there I was, in the middle of a work function that she might be at. Yikes.

"No, she's away at her sister's wedding."

Phew! I have no beef with Liz, but it would have been awkward for both of us if we met by surprise, especially on "her turf."

The evening developed into one of the best nights I've had in ages. The company was wonderful. Like musical chairs, I found myself sitting next to a new face every ten or fifteen minutes. Stories of volunteering, of Lagos, of poo flying twelve feet, or dogs being put down as a smokescreen. A riot of conversation. As various names were attached to faces around the table, I started to remember some of the stories Liz had told me about her colleagues. In incompetent temp here, a married man having an affair there. Pulling up their file from my mind once I'd identified them made me feel like I was Robocop, or The Terminator.

A rolling stone gathers...

"If I could just have five minutes with everybody at three o'clock," said my boss, "there's something I'd like to talk about with you all."

Moss Side has fallen though. We're not moving to Moss Side at all. We're not moving anywhere until after Christmas. We don't have to leave the building we're in until September. Next September.

I looked around the room as the announcement was made. Smiles broke out amongst the call centre guys. I'm not sure why. We could end up somewhere much further away. Bolton. Oldham. Bury. Small victories though, should be seized upon and cherished. Maybe this hideous dry run of an office move will inspire my bosses to handle any real move more tactfully. Then again, maybe it won't.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Be a better friend.

Woody's lectures are going to be just round the corner from work. Well, until we move to Moss Side, that is. If we move to Moss Side. He gave me a call as he was walking past my building, and I went to the window to wave at him as we talked. Do I want to go for a pint, he asked? Yes please.

We caught up. His course. My ill-fated cycling excursion. My course. His bar job. Films we'd seen. Music we'd listened to.

Clare joined us, and Ollie, in the BP, and we headed to Didsbury. Clare and I had pasta and pesto. She wept as she told me about work. I felt useless as I watched, offering advice that wasn't very insightful. My work doesn't make me cry, I thought, at least there's strength there. She apologised, poor love. Is there anything I can do to help, I wondered. Yes. Be a better friend.

Kumbi was in O'Neill's with Steve, Craig and the other Fordbankers. She's not working because of problems with her permit. Will they throw her out, and back to Zimbabwe? Poor love.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Come wiz me if you vant to... draw

My "How to draw comics" handbook just got a million times cooler.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Furious Five and Kurtis Blow, in conversation

Dunk gave me a heads up that the Furious Five and Kurtis Blow were doing an In Conversation at Contact Theatre last week, and I snapped up a couple of tickets for me and Lucian, and let Bronco and Steve know it was on too.

Steve and Bronco with Kurtis Blow

The show started with the Furious Five rapping, dancing, getting the crowd to wave their hands. It felt like a party. Lu was straight up on his feet, waving his hands around and dancing. He's been off booze for nearly seven weeks, but his party shoes still fit, it seems, and he was wearing them. Kurtis Blow came out, and the party kept on coming. The In Conversation section saw Kid Creole and Melle Mel talking about the early days of hip hop, about life in the Bronx in the 70s, about Afrika Bambatta's breaks. Then they finished off with The Breaks. Ninety minutes of fun and fascination.

Afterwards Lucian said two things. I agreed with one, and partly with the other.

"I thought that the host was a bit of a wiener."

Partly true, he was dorky. But in that earnest, American way where he'd underline the obvious to make sure that everybody got it, where a Brit would assume that to be the case. Highlighting the double meaning of The Breaks in The Breaks is unnecessary, sure, but harmless with it. Case thrown out for extenuating circumstances, I'd say.

"That was a perfect gig. They played all three of their songs that I knew, with no filler, and I didn't have to pay fifteen quid to get in, or queue at a bar, or stay out all night. Exactly how I'd want to see those artists."

For real Lu. Word.

Monday, 21 September 2009

“It’s making a funny noise.”

My colleague, on the phone about her car.

“…yeah, there’s something wrong with it… it’s making a funny noise… um… yeah, okay, it’s kind of VRRR-ROOM-ROOM, VRRR- ROOM-ROOM, VRRR-RRRR-ROOM-ROOM… yeah, especially then, and even more up hills…”

You’d have to be super-talented to convey the sound your car was making accurately, right? For the mechanic on the other end of the phone to know what was wrong with the car, he’d have to be pretty talented too. Yet I was the only one who thought this situation was weird.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

The truth, in text-sized chunks

“I don’t want to fool around anymore, and you don’t want to be friends. Looks to me like it’s going nowhere.”

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Tiny T-Rex

A man-sized T-Rex? Wow! This is way cool. More here.

Fossil hunters have unearthed the remains of a man-sized forerunner to the colossal Tyrannosaurus rex from an ancient lake bed in northeastern China.

The remarkable discovery has allowed dinosaur experts to piece together a picture of a diminutive but formidable predator that was so finely tuned to killing they describe it as "Jaws on legs".

The beast, named Raptorex kriegsteini, roamed the Earth 130m years ago, tens of millions of years before the giant T-rex became the most fearsome predator in history.

The finding has stunned palaeontologists because the skeleton resembles the larger tyrannosaurs in every respect except its size. Measurements of bones recovered from the site reveal that the new species was one hundredth the size of T-rex.

Analyses of the remains by researchers at the University of Chicago and the American Museum of Natural History in New York revealed the dinosaur to be a juvenile of five or six years old, measuring nearly 3m from nose to tail and weighing only 60kg (nine stone).

I wonder if I should tell Randall Monroe about it. He's already got a bit of a thing with Raptors. Best keep it to myself, I suppose.

EDIT: Someone's already published a link on the xkcd forum. Sorry Randall.

pic via Wired

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Monday, 14 September 2009

College, day 1

An introduction: to the course; to the college; to each other; and to our tutor Anne’s teaching style.

The course seems very exciting. The subject matter is basic, but broad, as befitting to its aims. Operations, rather than strategy, is the focus. Perfect. The college used to be a school, and it shows. The library isn’t massive, but it has comic books: I saw a Hellboy on one of the tables. It doesn’t have much Batman though – I checked the catalogue, and I’ve got my own copies of both of the comics in their collection. So it goes. I liked my course mates too. For once, the ice breakers didn’t feel forced or false. I was genuinely interested in finding out more about them. And my tutor Anne? She’s new to the college, and new to the course. Did it show? Maybe a little. Not most of the time. But at one point, talking about the Harvard system of annotation, her style went through me like a jagged nail through a plimsoll. I hope it wasn’t typical for her: she’s teaching twenty-one of the thirty-six sessions.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Moss Side problems

It looks like the Moss Side move might have fallen through. Happy? Sort of. Maybe we'll be decamped to Oldham instead. Hmmmm.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The unread drawer

The course convenor for the Bolton course hasn’t been particularly helpful. He suggested, rather strongly, that I ought to think about taking the MBA course instead of the course I want to do. I held fast. He explained that the first year of the MBA is the same as the course I wanted to do, only more advanced. I’m looking for an introductory course, no dice. He explained that the modules were the same modules, only that there were three of them, rather than six. That’s not what I’m after either, I explained.

“We’re not actually running that course this year.”


On the flipside, the convenor of the Stockport course couldn’t have been more helpful. We talked about the modules, the course schedule, the residential weekend – we talked about assessment, and about group assignments. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it. Where do I sign?

Afterwards, I met Jacqui and Sam for Wagamama and a few beers. I bloody love Sam and Jacqui. We ate noodles and exchanged cycling tips. Nothing changes in the old office, nor in the new one. The procurement dodging that my boss has been championing raised a few eyebrows. Their reports drawer would bulge if they were reviewing my service, I said. It wouldn’t matter, they said, nobody reads them anyway.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Cycling holiday

So, we’ve booked a tipi. The bikes should fit into the car.
Coasts and Castles
, here we come.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Random post button

The most loyal amongst you, oh loyal army of readers, will be overjoyed to learn about a new addition to my blog: a random post button in the sidebar. Thump merrily away at it, and enjoy snapshots of almost 700 days of blogging.

Actually, the most loyal of you won't find much use for the button - you read the whole blog in order on a rolling basis, getting to the end one day and starting over on the next. For you, the only reward I can offer is the content before you. I hope it will suffice.


Sunday, 6 September 2009

Caterpillar, squirrel

I was mooching around the garden, under the dangling branches and amongst the longer grass. “Time for a tidy round,” I thought. I noticed a small green smudge on the horizon. As my head turned, it followed. I took off my glasses, and saw, on the inside of the lens, a small green caterpillar. I blew, and off he flew.

Later, I watched from my window as a squirrel leapt onto the grill of the barbecue. “How would he taste?” I wondered. The squirrel darted under the grill, and drank at the pooled rain.

Thursday, 3 September 2009


I passed my exam. And I got a merit too.

What next? Maybe a course in management? Maybe this one? I do like Bolton too.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Congratulations John

My friend John just announced his engagement through his Facebook status. I thought about commenting...
And I've passed my exams too! that everybody who leaves a comment saying congratulations to him in one way or another is also inadvertently congratulating me. Having not yet got my exam results, I dare not tempt fate in this manner.

EDIT: 22:30, and 27 comments later, I wonder if I made the right choice. Gems of comments like...
Congratulations to you both. Great news. Hope you are very happy.
oh my god never thoght i'd see this day. way too grown up to compute but congratumalations
Wow, guys thats awesome news!! Congratulations to you both
I can only echo the shock and well-wishes above... Congratulations!

...make me wish I had posted the comment. Well done John, and boo to me, DTRMCR, for listening to my conscience at the expense of a gag. So it goes.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Paranoia, paranoia, everybody’s coming to get me…

Where are my exam results? Not, it appears, waiting for me in reception at work. What! Outrageous! Is this not the week commencing the thirty-first of August? What the… whatever, it’s not worth worrying about, especially as I’ve been waiting since 24th June for these results. So what’s another week? Pish! More alarmingly, my Belle and Sebastian comic hasn’t arrived yet either. So it goes.

My boss called me into her office to talk about the report that I gave her two weeks ago, and that she hasn’t yet read. As ridiculous as that sounds, that’s just how she rolls.

“So, have you included…?”
“Yes, it’s on page…”
“And how about…?”
“Yes, it’s under section…”
“What about….?”
“Well, could you make sure that you include it, please?”

And that was it. Ramble time. We got to talking about a report that my boss had written that was presented in absentia at a meeting she couldn’t attend. There was some opposition to some of the things that the paper recommended by some people at the meeting.

“They’re after me,” she said, “I know they are. It’s another plot. They want me out.”

I wasn’t so sure. They’d disagreed with her views in a forum for debate. Debate is about thrust and counter-thrust, balancing points against each other. Not about personalities. She went on.

“I don’t trust him, especially. He’s always very nicey-nicey when you’re there face to face with him, but he’s sly – very sly – and I think he’s up to something. We have to be very careful, you know.”

We have to be? Hello, are you mental?

“Just bear that in mind.”


I went to the pub with Chas, an astonishingly talented Polish admin officer from our team. The communication is poor on their side of the room. Middle Manager is worse than my boss at handling people. Some of us went to the room of doom in Moss Side to measure up for furniture last week; Chas’s team haven’t been told that we’re definitely moving. What a crock of shit.

Chas watches Terminator 2 every couple of months. He likes formula one, and fears that robots will one day take over the world.