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Almost Christmas

I can’t believe it’s meant to almost be Christmas. It’s true the shops have had their Christmas stores open and their lights up since beginning of November but I wasn’t paying enough attention at the time.

Now, however, it’s totally in your face. Two candles lit on the Advent wreath, kids singing carols on the street for money (hopefully for a charity).

My new workplace has gone all out for Christmas. The few decorations I’ve known as office Christmas decor have generally been very carefully coordinated affairs, with (often very contemporary) themes to Christmas. So it’s all red perspex or white snowflakes or traditional green living trees.

In this office they have literally thrown everything but the kitchen sink into the effort. It’s a bit like when we were kids at home when my mom would let us go mad on the house. We’d put fake mistletoe across some doorways, hang gold origami stars over the others, pull paper chains across the television, wreath the entrance and go to town with tinsel on the plastic tree. It was sort of themed in that mom bought the bulk of the decorations that made their way all across the house in one year. (Whereas the tree looked like everything gold tinsel and ornaments through the ages that were homemade, factory made, sad and broken, new and sparkly had all exploded across it at once) When first purchased the decorations were beautiful and trendy, now they are so old they are probably trendy again. Either way, I am quite nostalgic for them as they recall all my Christmases as a child when I see them.

I know with hot South African summers everything was fake and smelled of plastic. Unlike in Europe where some people do choose to have real trees shedding needles across the floor and the smell of pine forest inside.

The office didn’t want the mess though. But they did buy live poinsettias. The thing is, they also bought blue fairy lights, a white tree with silver and mauve baubles, with a stack of white and blue presents below it, a bowl of blue and white baubles with a coil of (white) fairy lights inside it, a vase of green and gold ones that just sits there and fake silver and green wreaths. All of this interspersed among the filing cabinets and desks with (I kid you not) a veritable forest of fake orange trees.

The one lady said it was beautiful and amazing and so nice they made such an effort. I looked really carefully at her face and I think she thinks she actually meant it? Personally I appreciate the effort but I wish someone had picked one theme only to run with.

Rather greedily I am enjoying the mince pies and chocolates that seem to just replenish themselves daily at the moment. (Although it is also probably accurate to say I derived more enjoyment from my old office’s weekly Friday sponsoring of cold beers in the last few hours of work)

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Lost

I lost my purse this weekend.

I am annoyed.

This has never happened to me before so I’m at a bit of a loss.

Ironically I periodically turn out the contents because I think I will lose it but I hadn’t done so lately so I lost more than I normally would.

  • Around 40-45 quid, normally not that much money in there but I had a paranoid turn about taxis and late nights and buying emergency food for a braai that particular day
  • A coffee shop card with all it’s stamps, validating a free coffee, probably worth up to £3.70
  • My drivers licence which I don’t even USE in the UK (Was using it for ID for something weeks ago) This costs £20 to replace and has my address printed on it but so far no joy with honest citizens
  • Random change from around the world, especially the States and a 2 pound coin with the London underground logo as a special print run
  • A series of store loyalty cards. My suspicion is at least one of them has over £20 on it.
  • Receipts for the last million places I have gone
  • Hopefully not two cinema vouchers I’d collected the week before, valid for any cinema within a certain franchise. Value at box office around £20
  • Bank and credit cards. Fortunately they don’t charge you to replace these in the UK but they aren’t that efficient about sending them immediately either so I’m literally cash poor now
  • One silver earring. (I lost the other one but I’ve been convinced I bought three of them so kept the earring in the hopes of finding the last triplet somewhere)

Probably about £100 if not more GONE in one go. They say the average handbag in the UK is valued at well over £250. When you remember people put their phones, ipads, house keys etc into them,  I can see how this is the case.

note to self: Weed out what is in your purse/bag more regularly because you never know when it may go for a walk. And don’t carry the non-essentials with when you don’t need them because they become essential when they are gone.

 

 

 

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Filed under anecdotes, learning, modern living, paranoia, Uncategorized

Secrets to Getting Ahead

I think I’ve said before I suck at office politics. I was reading a really interesting article by another blogger on Google interview questions though. And I went to this strange management thing where they discussed recruitment and how you test people for suitability in a group interview process. (I don’t know what I was doing there as I’m not ‘management’, I’m just the disruptive odd cog in the clockwork.) Which got me to thinking about how people advance their careers.

So my advice in moving ahead, not that I follow it, as it goes against most my principles, morals, patience and ethics not withstanding:

  • I think I’ve mentioned this before on a post. Say back in slightly different words after a ten minute interval what the big boss just said. For some reason bosses don’t seem to realise you just mimicked them and often think you are very clever for coming up with THEIR idea. Either way, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they seem to fall for this easier than one would expect
  • If it is a person of the opposite sex (or even the same sex if they are that way inclined), flirt. Subtly. But never go for drinks or anything with the person concerned. Just drop a lot of hints in meetings and around photocopiers about your abilities
  • Create a posse. Gather everyone on your level and below and make them feel good about themselves. Have them reporting back to you as your eyes and ears to all possible developments you can abuse. Also, they are handy at covering for you when you are late/hung over/bad at your job.
  • Bring food into the office. People really are that shallow. You have to be tactical in that you ‘just love baking’ or ‘was just passing the store at lunch and thought we could all do with a little lift’ but some people do really mistake a few biscuits for generosity and your being a team player even while you are busy stabbing daggers into a coworkers back
  • Don’t come in late but it doesn’t really pay to come in early. Rather hover around and try outstay your boss by a couple of minutes a few times a week then rush out the door when they have left. It makes them think you are a superhard worker.
  • Run don’t walk to meetings, this also deludes the boss you are really busy and packing your hours in.
  • Volunteer for whatever after hours activity suggested, no matter how stupid, whether a team sport or babysitting the boss’s kid
  • Ask people a lot of questions about themselves and nod in deep interest and agreement. Never sound like you know the answer to what they are saying but imply they are vastly superior in knowledge and experience, no matter how stupid or novice they are. (This flatters senior management AND the posse you are collecting)
  • Always look eager to please.
  • Dress as if every day you are going for a job interview.
  • Cultivate an interest in whatever sports/teams/hobbies your boss and colleagues partake/follow so you can make general silly small talk with them at any point.
  • Kiss a lot of ass. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but sadly it does…

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Scarlett

I’ve been reading ‘Scarlett’, the continuation to ‘Gone with the Wind’.

Mind you, I haven’t been able to read the book chronologically as large tracts of it are set in Ireland which seems highly improbable, along with Scarlett being unladylike enough in that day and age to ride astride instead of side saddle.

The fact is, the sequel is an enjoyable read but you can tell the original author was not involved in it and a lot of the charm has gone. The joy of Scarlett is she is a pure unadulterated selfish bitchy little Southerner. She is good at business when it’s meant to be a man’s world and she’s pretty but she doesn’t understand subtle gestures or herself.

The original book also glorifies unintentionally the Southern way of life, how the darkies were taken care of, like any valuable livestock and were loyal and true, how Southern men were gentlemen willing to die for and with honour.

The author of the sequel is unable to glamorise slavery and the fall from it. Some historical facts ring true, other elements of Scarlett’s life just sound too unlikely and out of character for someone with Scarlett’s upbringing. Her choices in the first book were bound by a desperation she doesn’t have in the second to succeed against famine and poverty.

Scarlett has grown up and developed as a person. Probably similar to Harper Lee’s Scout, this was inevitable and inevitably I would resent it. But it’s the bits that seem inaccurate to the times that annoy, likewise when Scarlett makes a decision that doesn’t seem to respect the times.

Good read but realistically, I don’t think she was meant to get Rhett and the premise of the whole book begins to fall apart when hinging mostly off how she tries to do this. She may have been stalking Ashley previously but a big event called the Civil War certainly derailed her train of thought in many ways.

Also Rhett had far more gumption and drive and knew her better than she knew her…

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If I won the lottery

About a week ago plus one bullied me into buying lottery tickets as they had to pay out due to a massive number of rollover weeks. All those useful lottery phrases, ‘tata ma millions, tata ma chance’, ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’.

Whatever.

All I’m doing is GIVING my money away. I am just not a lucky person. I’m the type of person who goes out in fragile textile cloth shoes then gets rained on. And then gets a blister due to the shoes.

Needless to say, I did not win the lottery. I didn’t even win back enough to pay back the two tickets I bought.

I did start to think though, what would I have even done if I had won?

Truthfully, probably not much. I come from an upbringing with a parent who was psychotically obsessed with the fact that you had to ‘save something for the future’. And I’ve known a lottery winner who blew it all on a new husband, a new house, a load of plead poverty ‘friends’ who crept out the woodwork and then didn’t have money later for her children’s university educations.

I don’t think either I’m quite ready to retire, I always think I am but I’m pretty sure I’d get bored at some point.

But I’d leave work on time. All the time. I’d still try do a good job but I’d be less worried about my career and the consequences and being the best because there is no other option. I’d try be more entertained by work. Maybe I’d even try something new that paid less.

I’d pay off the flat and actually buy nice curtains for the windows that currently have NO curtains and will get cheap ones when I finally get them. I might even buy a bigger flat but I’m not even sure about that as that’s sort of flaunting your wealth and I hate moving.

I’d go on holiday more. And for longer, to more exotic locations. And stay in nicer places when I do and definitely eat in better places. Although I’d still eat in the worser ones too because I love nothing more than street food and scummy little dives of places filled with locals.

I’d be able to pick any fitness class I wanted. Maybe I’d even try get a personal trainer but I think that would get boring. Just me and some guy yelling at me to keep jogging. And it would have to be a guy because at the risk of sounding sexist, women are too easy as a rule on their clients.

I’d get taxis sometimes instead of public transport. And travel in business class maybe on the plane and first class on the train.

I’d worry less about international roaming charges when travelling.

I’d get better travel insurance full stop.

I’d be in a better position to make anonymous charitable donations/gifts direct to the source. (I’m not a fan of how much gets lost in administration but you can’t often give enough to make a substantial realistic purchase for what someone needs.)

I’d get a better umbrella that doesn’t turn inside out at the first wind and that still folds down compactly.

I’d be able to throw my friends and family a big party when I went to see them without worrying about the credit card. (Probably easily explained on ‘exchange rates’)

I’d go to the spa more. Have more massages/facials, feel pampered and delusional that I’ll be able to hold back the processes of ageing in the process.

I’d ignore plus one’s desire to have all the lights on at the same time and run all the appliances like dishwashers and washing machines half empty. At least, I’d try. I suspect I’d still get annoyed about this.

I’d probably become thinner. Because, as my mom once said, it’s easier to be thin when you are rich because you have better access to good nutrition and people who can help you keep fit.

At least, I THINK that’s what I’d do.

Just a pity I’m not generally that lucky.

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Angry people

We’ve had issues with kids coming into the lobby of the building where we live, specifically it seems to use the plug point near the lift to charge their phones. It seems there is no power at their houses or possibly THEIR parents don’t like them turning up en masse waiting to be fed. But they also tend towards tossing chocolate wrappers around, occasionally trying to burn cigarette marks into the walls or set fire to the lift and disabling the front door and the lift. The result of disabling the front door was it was open to everyone and apparently some homeless guy thought it was a good place to nap the one day.

They’ve been escalating in cockiness and aggressiveness. It’s made a lot of residents angry and resulted in a two hour argument when we all got together to discuss the issue.

I know it’s an age old thing, the boredom of youngsters manifest into delinquency.

But it’s a concept I don’t really understand. I can’t say I was particularly good at channelling myself as a youngster. I can however think of better places to hang out than in someone else’s lobby.

Whether it be riding buses half the night or dragging out a soft drink for hours in McDonalds or just plain sitting at home being obstinate in front of the tv, all options that weren’t really open to me as my parents were quite good at trying to ferry us into ‘useful’ activities, this was more along the lines of my misspent youth.

It’s true you can’t hit children anymore to discipline them but they also seem to have lost the concept that meaningless destruction of property and intimidation are not really fruitful exploits to look back on in later life.

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Just another day at the office

Feeling worn down by this office in general at the moment. It’s made me nostalgic for the old days.

I remember my second ‘permanent’ career posting years ago. The company was expanding at an exponential rate. I spent the first two weeks sitting on a temporary desk point as the person who was usually there was on her honeymoon. I had her slip slops under the table and a pile of paper on the side of me she hadn’t cleared before leaving. I could just about fit between her belongings as she had nested in there.

Moving onto my ‘proper’ desk was a relief as there was now a space for my own little pile of paper, even if the desk wasn’t very large. The office expansion had also meant that they had run out of phonelines to cater to the number of staff members. Squashed between me and a director was a new guy who turned out to be an ex pat from SA as well.

One of his favourite stories on meeting new people when I am present is to recount how he had a barrage of noise on either side of him from myself and the director. The director was particularly fond of loud screaming matches with people on the phone or in front of his desk while I just like to talk.

My colleague and I would literally eyeball each other before grabbing simultaneously for the phone we had to share due to the lack of phonelines. Often, having won the thing, you would dial for an outside repeatedly over ten minutes only to hit an engaged signal. There were more phones despite the sharing than lines going out.

We, at least, had a system. An old timer had a new guy put next to him when they ran out of space and shuffled all the desks round to put in extra people. They too shared a phone. The first time it rang reception placed the call without asking who had picked up.

‘Hello, Jay speaking. No, I’m sorry, there’s no Adam here, this is Jay’s phone. I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number.’

‘Did you just say that there was a call for Adam?’

‘Yes, wrong number.’

‘Adam, I’m Adam you fool. That used to be my phone, we have to share it. When you pick up and they want to speak to Adam, it’s ME, Adam, the guy who introduced himself to you this morning as Adam.’

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Slightly odd

In the last decade or two book stores have undergone a revolution. In an attempt to try seize back sales from online giants like Amazon and a host of charity shop/second hand book stores where one can feel ‘smug’ one has saved a volume from being pulped while regaining a piece of ‘history’ at a discount cost they have had to try attract people to them.

This chiefly seems to take the form of instore coffee shops. These subcontracted cafes serve quality franchised coffee in the middle of the store, the enticing smell of roasting coffee beans wafting across the scent of new paper and ink. The chairs and tables themselves tend to be the grotty standard fare of the franchise or these upholstered things that are supposed to be a poor man’s version of a wingchair belonging in a Victorian study.

I find these coffee shops slightly offensive for a number of reasons. They always lack natural light, being in basements or in the middle of the fourth floor in the furthest point on the floor plate from a window. (While the BOOKS which should be sun allergic can see daylight.) This oppression partly caused by the fact that book shelves surrounding the area create a certain claustrophobia even if the whole store had no windows to start with. The coffee tends to be slightly overpriced. People take books from the store and read them in the coffee area like it’s their personal library, oblivious to the fact that they have not purchased aforementioned book and are now breaking the spine of it (nothing worse than receiving a new book with a creased spine) and risking coffee and crumbs on it.

My biggest issue though is someone has clearly thought about lifestyle and the type of middle class person who they think regularly likes and buys books and how they would like to rest between bouts of retail therapy. BUT if they had really thought about what these people wanted, more of these coffee shops should be licensed. Only a few of them carry wine for example. And what ladies who lunch and buy books and bake and knit really want is a nice Chardonnay yes? While the gentleman who gardens and plays golf and wears tweed and polished shoes and read the Economist and Wilbur Smith would like a whisky. And maybe there are actually people under the age of forty who would like to sit in the coffee shop and not have it be so dreary but a little more funky.

Or maybe that’s the point. We want you to feel like we’ve changed for you and adapted for you. But actually we are pretty much as we were twenty years ago with a few frills. And we don’t want the coffee shop overrun because we are actually in the business of books not beans.

But if you are going to do that, just carry on being what you were twenty years ago. There is nothing more pleasing than racks and racks of beautiful book covered scented in new paper and dust motes. This is a bit like when granny died her hair from lilac rinse to auburn with pink streaks and thought she was down with the kids who were now all dyeing their hair white and lilac (which they are!)

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Guardians

IMG_1904

So I moved house. But not actually ‘house’ as such. We moved into an old ‘seminar/conference/boardroom’. With blue carpet tiles, fluorescent lights and blue pinboards across the walls. Yet, you have heard me correctly. This will be ‘home’ for the next few months. A room that is probably similar in size to our current one bed flat but not technically a ‘flat’ in itself.

In England, as in South Africa and indeed many parts of the world, squatting is a problem. If not squatters, vandals who either break bits of a deserted building up for fun or who ravish it for what they can sell as scrap.

In the UK a few companies have come up with a creative solution to prevent this. Effectively, legal squatting. They are put in place by the landowner to protect the property from being vandalised or worse occupied by undesirables you can’t later evict.

The companies take over offices, schools, care homes, usually sizable buildings to make the effort worthwhile. They then rent out the spaces to random people who want to pay less on accommodation and don’t mind roughing it a bit. This means communal toilets, kitchens and bathrooms. This means travelling light because you may have to move within 2 weeks or a month’s notice. This means your bedroom/living room may once have been a chemistry lab and so be it on your head if you come up against a swab of chemicals when you brush up against the wall.

Technically it is not ‘rent’ as there is no change of use application put in. It’s a ‘licensing agreement’ whereby you sign away a lot of your traditional rights as tenants for this free and easy lifestyle which involves never having candles on the premise in case of setting fire to the building you are ‘guardian’ to. I can see a program like this going very wrong or very right in Africa.
It does mean you stay for a lot cheaper (and scruffier because you get what you pay for). It makes moving from the place fairly easy as there are no complicated estate agent fees and rules beyond a basic credit check and deposit. It means you don’t have bills to pay but you probably also can’t get the internet wired in (a trauma for someone used to unlimited broadband) and your post will probably permanently go missing. It means post it notes from random people to other random people saying ‘you are not eight, don’t pee on the toilet seat’. It means not leaving your shower gel in the bathroom for too long if you expect the amount of soap in it to be approximately where you left it last.

It will be an adventure…

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New Beginnings

So its been awhile since I’ve been here and I’m not sure how I’m going to keep this up because come next month I will probably have to forfeit my broadband connection.

And my kitchen (with gas hob)
And my bathroom (with nice shiny clean bath and toilet seat I know I can safely sit on without freaking out about catching diseases which is what all mothers tell their daughters)
And the living room (where one of us tends to flee to when the other of us is being seriously annoying)
With its vast white built in storage units (where I get to be a semi hoarder by just dumping stuff in there no one can see)

My life as I know it is about to change. And become intensely bloggable or frustrating or exciting or maybe all of the above.

I have reached the point in my life and my career I can sort of afford to live a decent lifestyle. Within reason buy the things I want and go the places I need to go. At the same time I am still property poor and our landlord has chosen to raise the rent on our flat by an astronomical 30% by including the water bill from June onwards and generally pushing up the rent to ‘match market prices for the area’ is probably the term he is using.

I cannot ever earn enough to afford to buy in this scenario.

We looked at renting and found a new flat close to our current flat. In fact, we even put down a holding deposit to rent it. On the plus side it is available exactly when we need it. Is only two blocks from where we currently stay. Has a gas cooker.
On the downside for the rent we currently pay it is about 2/3 of the space. There is only a small under counter fridge which reflects this. As does the bed against the wall that resulted in an argument before we even moved in about who gets squashed up against aforementioned wall. The rooms are small and pokey. (With inexplicably two sofas in the living room but no shelving or drawers or anything.) It faces onto a nightclub. The other half is not convinced the door lock is safe. The estate agents are pirates. The colour scheme is diabolical and looks like something out of a DIY programme on DSTV. Blue walls with navy ‘feature wall’ fireplace, canary yellow corridor with the canary yellow pushing into the bedroom. Which is also painted purple with a baroque gold and purple wallpaper behind the bed. I’m not adverse to yellow and purple. It makes me think of passion fruit. But I don’t really like it on the walls. In fact, I don’t like colour on the walls at all.

Funny enough you notice for some reason the walls disturb me more than the rest of the factors. I think it is because they affected my reasoning so badly. That and the fact that the estate agents seemed unable to answer in any logical fashion any question I asked.

We are losing that holding deposit.
We have a new plan.

We will be slumming it…

More to follow…

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