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The Annual Purge (2017 Inspirational Calendar)…

It’s the annual purge of all the terrible things I’ve heard and imagined this year – the corporate equivalent of being overcome with food lust in the middle of a diet and wolfing down a dirty burger.

It’s a long held lament amongst many of my peers that we weren’t taken aside at school and informed: ‘Once you leave education and join the workforce you’ll notice that many people stop speaking English and adopt a farcical hybrid slang in which they’re always looking for bases to touch whilst spoiling games by putting skin in them.’

The zenith / nadir was reached in 2013 when I was handed a copy of ‘Aspire Systems’ unintentionally hilarious calendar in which their staff made nonsensical claims to ‘dare the unknown,’ ‘overtake fear,’ and ‘go upstream!’ My retaliatory effort in which I pledged to ‘dream the impenetrable’ and ‘tick boxes’ did little to foster ongoing relations.

As with previous years I’ve had the problem of coming up with joke names for fictional companies and then finding that they actually exist. These include: Proactivate, Solutionary, Eurekarma and Investigreat (!) but so far no one’s stooped low enough to come up with…

utopiactive

Barring submissions to Companies House, next year’s entry will either be ‘Analytican,’ ‘Passion FruI.T,’ or ‘Unabler’.

violin2JANUARY: ‘I Square the circle’: Like saying ‘I bacon the banana’ or ‘I shave the shark,’ only MORE retarded…

FEBRUARY: I Mind-Fondle: Because if you can use the phrase ‘Thought Shower’…

MARCH: ‘I’m a Thought Leader’: After My mind-fondle I ascend the strategic staircase and get into my cerebrocopter…

ringAPRIL: I lobotomine for gold: Where you see imbecile, I see visionary…

MAY: I go on mute: See, it wasn’t wasted time after all. I’ve mowed the lawn, painted a bathroom, done the weekly shop and…what was that? No, no any other business from me…OK, bye…

JUNE: Where others only ‘whelm’ I SUPERUNDERWHELM!

unnamedJULY: I Can dig I.T: I respond to a colleague’s remark that I look like the 70’s cop ‘Kojak’ by doctoring his pass-card and calling him ‘Shaft’ for 3 months.

AUGUST: I Youthenize: ‘When I grow up I want to write PowerPoint presentations,’ said no child ever.

SEPTEMBER: I testiculate: Like gesticulating, but with more bollocks.

OCTOBER: ‘I react within a 5 day Service-Level-Agreement’: ‘Hey, how are you? What do you mean you can’t tell me till next week?’

violin
NOVEMBER: I am a man of single-minded foh…
seriously dude, what’s with the violin?

ball

DECEMBER: I integrate vertically: Christ, I hear my own words and don’t know what they mean anymore. I look at myself in the mirror and my reflection mouths ‘You’re an asshole.’ How do I find my way out of this labyrinth?

Being a grown-up isn’t what I thought it was going to be…

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Cheeky Bonus!

I knew today was going to be great. Had a feeling deep down in my bones right from the get-go…Alarm went off at bastard o’clock, leapt out of bed like I was in a musical and launched into my solo number ‘Who needs sleep when you’ve got work?’ My walking cane tapped out a jaunty tune as I skipped down the stairs – munched down my cornflakes like they were cocaine (just the three bowls – they’re so moreish!) and was out the door into a beautiful (albeit drizzly) morning.

My journey to the station took me alongside a dual-carriageway lined with hotels and B&Bs. From one such establishment loomed an incredibly tall, incredibly overweight man who walked straight into me.

‘Hey! Watch where you’re going,’ I said somewhat feebly.

Saddened by some poor life choices (It was 7am and he appeared to be eating a kebab) his response was somewhat colourful (lots of confectionary terms – ‘Fudge’,  ‘Muddy-funster’ and the like).

I wasn’t about to get into an altercation with a man who looked like he could snap me like a twig so I let the matter rest, but now we were walking in the same direction and at roughly the same pace – #awks (what have I become?)

For the remainder of this account imagine bullet-time as can be found in the film The Matrix. I shall revert to the present tense…

I spot a giant puddle stretching all the way along our side of the road. It is long and deep. The road is empty. I turn and see that the traffic is being held at a red light. The light changes to green. The traffic is 200 yards away, enough distance to get up to a respectable 35-40 miles an hour by the time it reached us. There is no way I can get past the puddle before they arrive and nowhere to seek cover…

Except there is…

Timing is everything…

At the last minute my pace quickens. The large man flinches. He turns to face me, clearly thinking my intentions to be hostile. I am not looking at his face. I am looking at his shoulders, making sure that we line up. I crouch slightly and brace for impact.

He realised that all is not well to his rear. He begins to turn back. He is a clown rotating to receive his pie more fully in the face. His timing is impeccable.

I don’t see the monstrous arc of water that annihilates him, but I hear it!

The traffic passes. I look down – not a drop of water on me.

‘Bonus!’ I definitely say out loud.

More confectionary terms come thick and fast. I give him the ‘I’m-only-this-dry-cos-you’re-that-fat look’ (A highly nuanced expression I’ll grant you). When this prompts abuse I shift gears and favour the ‘I-did-this-to-you-and-yet-I-did-nothing-at-all’ smile (Goddamn I’m good).

I get on the train – A man taps me on the shoulder as he passes and mutters ‘Very much enjoyed operation human shield – keep up the good work.’

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Guff & Gubbins…

Imagine an embryo in a suit sitting at a desk in a cubicle disguised as an adult. Somehow it has made its way into central London on a grad scheme; the main responsibility of which appears to gravitate around the concept of making me feel old and decrepit. More pressingly (he) is now occupying the room that houses the cabinet in which my work shoes reside. I tap on the glass and open the door.

‘Hi, do you mind if I just get my shoes?’

All the blood drains from of his face. The transformation is quite dramatic. ‘Yes.’

‘You do mind?’

‘Yes I do…sorry.’

‘Oh…well I’ll jus-‘ The wall of stench hits me. He was been breaking wind – a lot. It’s a very tiny room and he clearly wasn’t expecting company. I am physically repelled and contain the outbreak with a hefty slam of the door.

Given a moment to think I realise that I probably should’ve handled that better – maybe acted as if there wasn’t a paint-stripping reek assaulting the inside of my throat and calmly returned later. I smile through the glass to show him that there are no hard feelings and that I shall retrieve the aforementioned footwear in due course. Shortly thereafter he scurries away.

4084833608a5daa7c93e65460d0af83b885b907724ee782c48b0b2c36307d596d5ad42c7Later I am returning from lunch when I see the lift doors closing. I make a dash for it and step inside. There is already someone within – the graduate! He seems mortified to be in a confined space with me. The lift takes an eternity to begin its accent, and we are only moving for a few seconds before a robot announces ‘Emergency call activated.’ The graduate steps forward. A red light is flashing in the space recently vacated by his ass-cheeks. He becomes flustered.

‘Don’t worry about it,’ I reassure. ‘It happens every other day. They should probably think about relocating the button. Someone’ll ring through in a minute and we’ll be on our way.’

…And then the stench hits me – worse then before! We are in an even smaller room. There is no escape. Embryo won’t look me in the eye. His suit looks highly flammable. He is taking a very great risk. This is too glorious an opportunity to pass up.
‘Seriously, there’s no point squeezing one out stealthily. I’m the only other person in here and I know it wasn’t me.’

‘What wasn’t you?’

Come on!’

‘How do I know it wasn’t you?’

What wasn’t me?’

‘…Whatever it is you’re talking about.’

‘How do you know? Cos it was you. If there was one other guy in here then there might be an element of mystery, but as there isn’t, there isn’t.’

Before we descend into a he-who-smelt-it-dealt-it territory a muffled, metallic sounding voice comes from the lift’s side panel. ‘Can I help you?’

‘Yeah, you can let me out of this dutch oven before I asphyxiate.’

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Sri Lankan Trilogy

Nick’s flight would be arriving in the morning which gave me sixteen hours to kill in the capital. Having flagged down a tuk-tuk (scooter crossed with a pram) I went exploring and quickly found myself in the bustling market district of Pettah. Stopping for a nano second I was immediately accosted by a wiry individual who offered to take my picture.

‘Oh, no thank you,’ I replied. ‘My camera is in the hotel.’

‘We go back to your hotel. I take your picture. You buy me beer.’

‘I don’t want a beer.’

‘I want one.’

‘Well buy one.’

‘No. You buy. I take your picture.’

‘You didn’t take my picture!’

‘Not my fault you forgot your camera.’

‘I didn’t forget my camera. Go away.’

‘NO, YOU BUY ME BEER!’

It took a full out sprint to lose him; weaving between the stalls and disgruntled custodians. The street ended and ahead of me the Indian Ocean stretched out. On the beach a halal barbecue was in full swing. I ordered something called Beef Kottah and was seated at a plastic table next to a chubby gentleman crammed into a misshapen suit. He said hello and handed me a business card that stated he was Mohammed Ali, a spice merchant from Mumbai.

‘I am here on a conference,’ he continued. ‘You give me your phone number. I give you a real good deal on spice.’

‘I don’t tend to buy my spice in bulk so it’s probably not worth your while.’

‘You give me your number anyway?’

‘What are the smallest units you sell in?’

‘Five kilogram bags.’

‘See, I’m never gonna use that much spice.’

‘You never know.’

‘No, I’m pretty sure. Take it easy Mohammed.’

‘If you’re not going to give me your number, give me back my business card.’

I returned to the hotel and found its bar brimming with Brits (over en masse for the cricket). A particularly inebriated Wolverhamptonite greeted me with the immortal words: ‘Won’t you join me in a sorrow-drowning drink. I’ve just been on a disastrous date – hired a helicoptor and an accordian player to impress a local girl, but the accordian couldn’t be heard over the rotary blades – total write-off.’

He took great offence at the suggestion that he was telling porkies and followed up with how, having been declared bankrupt, he couldn’t get incapacity benefit for a (faked) bad back, so had caught a ferry to Belgium and, on the return trip, thrown his passport in the sea and pretended to be Croation so as to seek asylum in the UK.

‘My real name is Mark,’ he stated. ‘I can’t tell you my assumed name.’

‘Shouldn’t that be the other way around?’

‘What?’

‘Shouldn’t you be keeping your real name a secret?’

‘What an earth are you talking about?’

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A town called Mortality…

It was with a certain degree of trepidation that I boarded the train at Reading and took the three-hour journey north to the once industrial but recently gentrified city of Sheffield. There I met with seven similarly wide-eyed souls. Nothing had physically barred us from returning, and yet it had taken a group of relatively motivated individuals fourteen years to get their acts together. There was understandable excitement, but also a little nervousness. Will it be how I remember it? Was this a good idea?

Cautiously we ventured out. The students (who had all been toddlers and foetuses when last we’d lived there) regarded our sensible, practical clothes with vaguely amused condescension, whilst the older locals were complicit in their acceptance where previously their had been only judgement.

We found our old stomping group much changed, but also strangely familiar. Large towers had arisen, and some intimate settings had been swallowed up, but the sense of rediscovery was palpable – What did that shop used to be? Oh look, that’s still there! 

Emboldened we sought out our most cherished haunts. First there was ‘The Broomhill Tavern,’ originally famed for having light fittings strong enough to swing off, then the fantastically named ‘Springvale Beer Engine,’ before finally our hall of residence ‘Tapton,’ a building that, when seen through objective eyes, was a garish (and now derelict) 1960’s monstrosity. But our eyes were anything but objective! To us glorious snap-shots in time had afforded the bricks and mortar an awkward kind of  grace. Speaking to a security guard we learned that demolition plans had once again been blocked by the surrounding neighbourhood. A great symbol of our past was to cling to existence a little while longer.

An Italian restaurant was the scene of our most shameless reminiscing. It was here that we proposed a series of increasingly self flagellating speeches and basked in the glory of having stayed in touch over the years; growing through various trials and tribulations, joys and disappointments, births, deaths, marriage triumphs and failures.

Returning to the place that was the making of you evokes feelings that go way beyond nostalgia. There is delight that streets not walked in over a decade can still be considered home, marvel that rose-tinted recollections really were as good as you remember them, and yet at the same time it’s as though it all happened to someone else – in my case a slighter, hairier, less cynical self. Having said all that, and despite its blandness, I find that the word ‘lovely’ seems to sum it all up just right.

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The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead…

An uber-confident and instantly dislikable fop minced over to me at a party and, without introducing himself or asking my name boldly stated: ‘I can deduce what type of person you are with five simple questions.’

Perturbed by his arrogance I vowed to thwart him. ‘I doubt that very much, but go for your life.’

He adjusted his annoying quiff and began. ‘Question One. What do you do for a living?’

‘I’m a wizard.’

‘A wizard?’

‘Is this your second question?’

‘No, but you’re a wizard?’

‘Yes, I write spells and mix potions.’

‘OK.’ He wasn’t so sure of himself now. ‘Question Two. How do you feel when you hear an ambulance siren?’

‘Aroused.’

He didn’t bother asking the other three questions. Perhaps my desire not to be pigeon-holed by a complete stranger made me a little bolshie, but I very much enjoyed the experience of two diametrically opposed people meaninglessly firing words at each other and not connecting on any level.

Many years ago whilst on holiday a Thai tour guide informed me that he was learning English and asked if he could try out a few phrases. I was facinated to know how another culture would approach learning our own language and welcomed the prospect. His teaching companion was a coverless, dog-eared tome. Opening it at a random page he proclaimed that ‘Every part of my body is in pain.’

I wasn’t sure how this sentence would ever be useful to him, or more precisely, if he did find himself in need of it then a limited grasp of the local dialect was likely to be the least of his worries. ‘Which part hurts the most?’ I asked.

‘I don’t understand,’ he replied.

He tried another page. ‘Excuse me my good man, could you tell me where I can purchase a box camera.’

‘You need to throw this book away,’ I cautioned, ‘No good can come of it.’

He shrugged and shook his head. ‘I’m sorry…I…er…’

I felt no small amount of guilt as we parted company; leaving him clutching the manuscript that would almost certainly lead to his being beaten up in the not two distant future.

Back in 2005 I went to Cuba with a couple of friends. Having got lost trying to find The Bay of Pigs (‘Bahia to Cochinos) I collared a hombre and enquired ‘Desculpe, donde es el bahia de cojones?’ which roughly translates as ‘Excuse me, where can I find the bay of bollocks?’ To his credit he kept a straight face, and his directions were surprisingly informative. He did however take offence when he overheard us referring to his farm animals as ‘communist pigs.’ (It’s a well known fact that communists don’t approve of satire, and are required to all have exactly the same sense of humour…which is a shame).

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