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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Not Indispensable

Part of being human is the intense desire to prove worth. To be worth something. The ego desires acknowledgement of the impact your life has made on those around you. And hopefully in a positive way, not a mass murder Columbine way, most people want to be remembered when they are gone.

Sounds extreme?

Yes.

But even on a smaller scale than life or death, it’s what we want. We start families believing being a parent creates little dependants who need you for everything. It makes us feel special. We own pets knowing we are the centre of their furry/feathered worlds. (If fish float your  boat, I’m not exactly sure how this works out for you although admittedly your screensaver behind glass is more dynamic than mine.) Sad is the human who did not realise one day their children will grow up and need them less. That pets can turn on you and bite if ill treated.

The thing is, we take this same attitude into work. Into jobs without soul, without fulfilment. With colleagues who annoy us and bosses who don’t understand us. And, for the most part, we persevere. Age, circumstance, experience (or lack thereof) meaning very often we try outlast the job. We tell ourselves it’s about stability, promotion, that we are ‘invaluable’. Sometimes our companies feed us the same lies, ‘we couldn’t do without you’.

The fact is, no one is truly indispensable. Not in a work situation. No matter how important you think you are. Empires may fall and rise as despots and leaders are executed or rise. But when they vanish, humanity does carry on and nature finds the vacuum.

That is not to say you shouldn’t enjoy your work and be important and significant in it. That you won’t change lives and make a difference to many.

You just have to remember it’s still just a job. It’s only a part of who you are as a whole.

And more importantly, if you hate it, yes, perhaps it’s not easy to change your circumstance. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. And the surprisingly thing when you do is how many of those people who told you they couldn’t do without you will understand and let you go with greater ease than you thought.

Sometimes because they didn’t like you and are glad you are gone. But sometimes because they are your friends and glad you are going somewhere better.

 

 

 

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Crush ’em

The Pokemon-go thing seems to have calmed. There have been less incidences of my being run over by random hipsters standing in spastic clusters pointing from their phone to spaces of air on the roadside. Funny how quickly some trends blow over. I thought it would last at least as long as those terrible little elastic bands loom band things that even the British Royals were seen wearing at some point. (No doubt gifted by some little child at a function instead of a more easily disposed of posy.)

One trend that still seems to be going strong is Candy Crush, more than two years on. I’m not going to lie, I play it sometimes on the train as it doesn’t take a lot of brain and uses up time when I’m too tired to read or have nothing to read. (I’ve also been stuck on the same level for weeks now so the allure is paling.)

I tend to try not to let people I know know I have it on my phone though. It’s like admitting to frequenting those dodgy no name brand fried chicken shops they have here, picking your nose, shopping at Ackermans and, in the Big Smoke, admitting you voted Brexit.

It was therefore astounding to me that two young strapping Aussies sat opposite each other on the train  yesterday leaning over a communal phone. I think one of them was teaching the other about the game. Frequent exclamations of ‘ahh yeah’, ‘yeah, ah yeah’, ‘ah, that’s a bummer those chocolate blocks,’ emitting from the two of them. The guy who’s phone it was admitting with pride that it was a great little time waster while travelling.

Candy Crush, despite it’s name, it’s brightly jewelled graphics and cheesy cartoon characters, has transcended both genders and a huge age demographic. I’ve been surprised at who else has been playing it next to me on occasion.

Still, those two put me off a bit.

It might be time to find the next big thing.

 

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Lateral Career Moves

 

My poor long suffering mother has gotten used to her children’s differences in options regarding work ethic to herself. She was of a time and era where you tried to stay gainfully employed and you stuck it out, no matter how good or bad it was. You brought home the bacon (or bread or milk) and were glad of your contribution to household and society.

I am of a different ilk. As are my siblings. The last time I said, ‘I’m fed up I may change jobs’, my sibling sent a picture of a tree, ‘you are not a tree rooted, if you don’t like your work, change’. So I said, ‘I’ve resigned’. Mom, promptly, after only a millisecond of a pause, ‘oh well, if you weren’t happy… Hopefully you’ll get something soon.’

I could feel her poor heart sinking at the thought yet again one of her miscreant children could be attempting to rebound back on her. Secretly she loves having us around but publicly she would prefer us to show some sign of outward success.

She sort of has a point. I lost my job when the economy took a huge hit in 2008. About a third of my industry landed up jobless.

At this point I thought, I’ll go intern somewhere, change careers, or at least, work in an office because my little legs are too tired to want to stand all day like I used to in student retail and restaurant jobs. How hard can it be? I know my alphabet. I can file. I can add. I can even touch type, although I can never actually format anything in Word or Excel.’

HAH. Turns out that temporary jobs are harder to get than you think. One temping agency turned me down before I even turned up as I had ‘no experience’. Another let me in the door and tested my touch typing etc in a horrible hour long test. They then also pointed out I was somehow underqualified (and probably overaged although they didn’t say this) to answer phones, file and play general girl friday.

Not to worry, they would get back to me when something came up. I’m still waiting.

In some ways I do feel for the unemployed.

It was a thoroughly degrading experience dressing up repeatedly for these people, trying to get a slightly above minimum wage job that wouldn’t require standing on the street with a sandwich board handing out flyers or flipping burgers.

I was just apparently completely unqualified for the basics required.

Despite all my so called qualifications and work experience.

Fortunately (or not) I managed to get an opening back into the industry I was already in.

So I took it.

It involved the commute from hell.

But it did pay above minimum wage.

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Sterotypes

I had to work late last night and as a rule if you commit past a certain hour the company is obligated to get you food. Issues with the usual delivery company and a credit card followed by a long wait time resulted in a decision to rather do a takeaway from the local Vietnamese restaurant.

One of the guys went off to pay and collect the telephone order – quite a big switch from our usual impersonal internet order with delivery.

Later in the day I made a factitious comment and then apologised that it was bordering on racist assumption.

‘That,’ said my colleague, ‘is nothing. Do not send an oriental guy in a white shirt to pick up an order at a Vietnamese restaurant. I stood for ages at the bar and all the staff just ignored me. But customers kept coming up to me and waving their arms in the air for the bill, like I worked there or something.’

On the upside, the food was good, still warm and the order was correct which is more than I can say for the delivery company.

Oh, and we didn’t have to tip.

 

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Evolution

I never really have time for soap operas. It therefore horrifies me every time I go home, for some mystical reason my mother persists in watching things like The Bold and the Beautiful. What is even more alarming is how many of the characters, literally decades down the line, persist in the programme despite having already had relationships with every possible person in the cast who is not direct bloodline to them.  Talk about a guaranteed job for life.

Besides the fake floral sets and the copious Botox, one of the things that never really makes any sense on soap operas is how, in the twenty first century, noone seems to understand how cellphones work. If people just called each other and communicated a bit more there would, of course, be a lot less intrigue.

It’s things like this that have made shows like the BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ interesting as, being set in contemporary time, a very clever set of rewriting was necessary to allow Sherlock to be a modern man using technology while still holding the intrigue created from the past. Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie both wrote the great whodunnits in times when the telegram was an advanced form of written ’email’. (‘Telegram? What’s that?’ I hear the millenials shout) When telephones were genuinely not the first option for communication. Often the delays caused by the alternative means of conveying information, the reliance on newspapers, the awaiting of the written word in the form of a posted LETTER are what allowed murderers to think they could get away with their crimes.

I don’t actually think the texting children of today would be able to write mommy a letter without their fingers developing some kind of sprain although their thumbs may be overdeveloped from all the texting on the phone.

Of course, one would be excused into thinking if, therefore, we have all these clever means of staying in touch, we should be more connected than ever. Never mind that most people have no idea what their Facebook friend is really feeling beyond an update to 300 other people telling them ‘I just ate a cupcake’. Never mind that divorce rates are higher than in previous centuries as we all believe we have the freedom to leave if it’s too hard to work out. Never mind that people are in therapy and on prescription drugs with greater ease than before.

No, we are in better touch than ever before. I know, because I got a ‘personalised’ email from my online retailer telling me so.

 

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Them that knows better

I am not a fan of social media. Especially quick witty snapshots of peoples’ lives in the form of photos, one liners, instant multimedia barrage updates.

Today I spent an unnecessary amount of time trying to block a feed from someone I used to know. I’m debating just unfriending him but that seems rude. Or blocking him but I wonder if he will know? I really should just get rid of him as we were never close friends but part of a much bigger circle way back when.

I knew him as the class smart ass who appeared to do no work but came out tops every time. He overcame bad eyesight (for which he refused to wear glasses) and thinning hair to bring off a certain, if not ‘cool-ness’, grungy indie look. He wore black tshirts sometimes with logos of rock/metal bands, drank pints of beer and shots of spirits with us and looked and acted like discordant youth who had no worries beyond passing class and trying to get with the pretty girls. Not a moral bone in his body, not a tie to anything beyond a house where his mom desperately tried to get him home for supper.

How times have changed. Since then he discovered religion. Or maybe he always had it but he hid it really well from the rest of us. But he’s now a CoE elder. He has a girl and a boy and bought into suburbia just outside the big smoke and posts pictures of his mediocre life in his mediocre house of his family and pets. All is as it should be really. They are not mediocre to him after all.

The thing that really riles me though is when South Africa held elections he started to rant and rave on social media about latent racism and how we had to stand up for people’s rights. I do not remember him having any black friends and barely tolerating the rest of our motley crew who were non-white (certainly, he never showed a romantic interest in them). Eventually someone told him they would give him money to shut up on social media and someone else told him if he fled the country he had lost his right to have an option.

So he moved on and started ranting about how refugees should be better taken care of and we should welcome them into the UK. Although he lives an area that is pretty Caucasian and English.

Now he’s blaming the fact that some people voted Brexit as the reason for every evil to befall England. From the possibility of visas being introduced to go to the EU (big deal, like the old days for me) to political uproar to deportation issues.

He rants non stop on social media. I think he might be writing to his MP (I pity them whoever they are). But often, although, he is intelligent I think, how one sided is your outlook? Have you considered the other side? Do you really know what the future holds and it will be so bleak because someone didn’t pick your side?

I’m a glass half full person but when it comes to politics, I figure the people spoke, so just get on with it already. If you do feel so strongly then post that picture of you going to the demonstration at Westminster against Brexit and the one for refugees. Show me you donate to the Syrian causes.

You didn’t do that did you? Too busy with your cat and your kids?

Then shut up already because noone wants to know.

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Camping tents and things

  • A one (wo)man tent does not really sleep one man but a medium sized dog, the only thing that will be able to sit upright (maybe) inside it
  • A two (wo)man tent takes two people of average size and height plus two sleeping bags and a torch and a few scattered bits and bobs. Certainly not all the other things you might need for camping. Like changes of clothes, cooking stuff, toiletries, seats, cooler boxes
  • A three  (wo)man tent will leave a gap the size of an average person to put stuff in if there are two people present. This might or might not be enough for you

Truth is it really assumes you need a car at least for all the camping bit. It is possible you can do it with less. I saw a guy camping who was also biking on a bicycle. But this meant that he was wearing the exact same clothing the next day and everything he had folded down into precise and perfect tiny squares to fit into the saddle bags.

A lot of people these days though seem to enjoy very large tents. That have multiple ‘bedrooms’ and a million guy ropes and bizarre alien footprints on the land. Some of them are, I swear, bigger than the studio flat I rented at one point. In addition to these, they extend their realm on a campsite with windbreakers, fairy lights, artificial turf (no, really, I saw a tent that had fake grass ON the grass…) Of course, I assume these tents are designed for families and there are two people minimum with enough age and dexterity (but not too much age) in order to put these things up. It is not a one man job, especially if you arrive at a site when it’s raining or windy. I would imagine one person trying to set up alone would be a fairly Charlie Chaplain moment.

I’ve been trying to work out how those circus tent things work as a result. Not the real big tops. The ones some people seem to be able to buy just to go on holiday in. I imagine some poor sod holding the central pole to the bigtop inside while another idiot runs around in circles outside pegging down the guyropes. But given these things have to stand in high winds potentially, I don’t think the central ‘mast’ is pinned just by the ropes, it must be anchored in somehow so you have confidence the big pole doesn’t thunk onto your head in the night. I’m sure there is a simple solution but I am, by nature, not a friendly person and couldn’t think of a polite reason to ask someone who owned a tent like this to explain it to me.  (I missed my opportunity with a family who had one who’s little children walked past us with mom saying, ‘no don’t go in there, that’s not our tent.’ ‘But it’s so SMALL’ I heard the child reply, ‘how is it so small?’

Out of the mouths of babes half the size of me and I was meant to fit into that tent…sigh…

 

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Camping

Camping. Not glamping. Which is still camping. Which I don’t want to do because I like to think we have evolved beyond sleeping on the floor effectively in the outdoors. Vulnerable to rain, spiders and grizzly bears.

I’ve been down memory lane with a friend of mine about the merits of camping. For some reason he remembers it as a pleasant experience. Proof that time does indeed mist and befuddle the memory.

We began our journey with an overnight stay at a tomato farm, on the floor of their living room. This sounds civilised but the place was inexplicably full of flies. I’m not sure what state the tomatoes were in but the house was diabolical. They were clustered everywhere, landing in lazy flocks upon you if you didn’t stay in perpetual motion. We feared the food we ate there for as much as those flies crawled on us, they landed on every other surface in the room.

The real tent adventure only began the day after involving an army tent and camp beds. In all fairness, the tomato farm people were gracious and lent us their camping gear, seeing as we were camping with their kids who knew how to deal with roughing it in a way I did not. Their daughter had no fear of spiders or athletes foot in the communal toilet shower blocks. The old army tent was actually cooler and more spacious than many of the other more modern synthetic options on the campsite.

The thing is the second night it rained. And not a little drizzle but a proper South African thunderstorm. The ground turned to mud and slid under the tent and into the tent, dampness seeping up the mattress the tomato king’s son and his girlfriend were sleeping on. for army tent ground sheets are not bonded to  their walls. Not that it would have helped anyways. Peak season had merited we were on a slight incline and we might just have washed away as a few of the newer tents that were not pegged in by pros had done. Everything for the rest of the week was mildly damp.

The rest of the camp site was grumpy as a consequence I think, for everything from then onwards was sort of muggy and muddy while we were on site. While rave music was acceptable on a night one of the groups had wanted to relax, the one evening we stayed up past ten we were told off by the self same group for making a noise.

The funny thing is I don’t really remember much more of the trip.I remember vaguely it was frustrating having nowhere to sit ever as we didn’t have enough stools or chairs. And that there was a cabbage in the blue cooler box. But that’s about it.

I wouldn’t have said though as my  friend did, ‘good times man, good times.’

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Old before your time

Plus One  often complains I don’t seem that interested in drinking with him but I will go out all hours with other people. I say it’s also his fault because he refuses to be baited into having a glass of wine with me at home, although he will do so at a restaurant. This means I won’t open the bottle because I don’t want to drink alone. (I wish I could say this means he doesn’t drink at all at home but this is not true. He necks cream liqueurs by the wine glass and tells me this is because they have the same alcohol content as wine so therefore it’s okay. I can’t seem to convince him by default of the cream and the fact it is a liqueur you are meant to sip them slowly not chuck them down like a thirsty American footballer at half time.)

So yesterday we compromised on being social not quite at home but at home by asking the flat above us if they would join us at our ‘local’ for the pub quiz. They promptly annoyed me by being nearly late. And on arrival, choosing NOT to get anything to eat and drink for the whole first half of the quiz. Which I found slightly strange and antisocial. The friend attached to them did get herself a drink. And another drink at half time with the rest and a third one when the quiz ended.

I was in an Appletiser mood so probably just fulfilled Plus One’s prophecies of my not wanting to drink with him. He pretty much paced with the friend – but in a more laid back fashion as we’d been there longer, having arrived early enough to munch and sip before the quiz.

The guy from the flat above did not comment on Plus One, perhaps because he didn’t know us well enough. But he put in at least three not very subtle digs at the friend saying she’d had enough, didn’t she think she’d had enough, didn’t she have work tomorrow, did she really think that last drink was necessary? Sort of ironic when his other half had said to me they would be delighted to join us because he never has drinking partners nearby.

I think they are younger than us.

I reflected that I have gotten to the stage where I don’t count my drinks but I try stay within sober enough to get home okay and feel not too bad the next day. But I am pretty sure I have done at least three if not more ciders as that girl did, plus other stuff, fairly recently in my past on some random evenings. I’m not saying that is wise or acceptable and it is over the limit the NHS recommends.

If I had had that guy judging me the whole evening I think I would have been tempted to break a bottle over his head. Maybe it is possible he knows this girl better than me and she can’t contain her booze, although she looked okay to me. But I just thought, you are too young to be this old. You are still supposed to be out there acting silly occasionally too not spoiling other people’s evenings being a dad.

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