Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The end of a six year love affair

Thursday, January 20, 2011, will be something of a sad one for me as I end a friendship that has served me well for around six years.

My loyal friend has been with me through thick and thin and through rain and shine during all that time and has hardly ever let me down.

He (or is it a she, I’ve never quite worked out) has literally been with me on my travels north, south, east and west and together we’ve made great discoveries, met lovely people and seen some wonderful sights.

It seems somewhat cruel therefore to end this beautiful relationship – but the time is right. And that’s because I have my eye on a new and even more attractive model.

For, yes, on Thursday my beloved car and I are to part. And, as it drives off into the sunset, I will have to make acquaintances with a new ‘stranger’ whose affections initially will be based purely on looks.

We all, I suspect, have a relationship of sorts with our cars and in many ways I guess it is entirely understandable. My car for instance has done just shy of 127,000 miles which, if I was to say I did an average of 40 miles an hour means I’ve spent some 3,175 hours in its company. Yes, I have spent fully 133 days behind that wheel. And that, I suspect, means I’ve spent more time with my four wheeled friend as with all of my two-legged ones.

To be honest, I shouldn’t get too sentimental because I am about as far away from being a typical ‘petrol head’ as most men are allowed to be. The choice of my new model saw me agonising more about the colour than the size of the engine and when asked about possible extras, I didn’t think of anything useful that might make the drive more smooth – I just asked about a DAB radio. Oh and a multi CD changer.

However, despite being the sort of car ignoramus that Jeremy Clarkson would look on with distaste (although to be fair I’m not alone – Mr C dislikes about the half the nation for different reasons it seems), when I get a car I’m very loyal to it. And even though I may not treat my ‘motor’ as well as I should, I do always have great affection for it.

Of course my ‘auto-love’ hardly compares with that of other people’s. Some folk treat their cars as almost extra members of the family – feeding them well with the best possible fuel, cleaning them so they always look their Sunday best and even popping them into what I call the junk room (but other people call ‘a garage’) so they don’t get cold at night. Touching really.

So as this new relationship begins I will try to be a bit more like that this time. I will aim to keep my new friend clean inside and out (if so, can someone explain why I chose white as the exterior colour?) and I will treat it with the respect it undoubtedly deserves. Indeed, I might even go as far as doing what some people do and actually give my new friend a name. Of course I really will have to work out its ‘sex’ first. Are cars male or female?

Answers on a postcard .. .

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Every 'boss's fear - am I David Brent?

When Ricky Gervais first leapt out of our unsuspecting TV screens and unveiled himself as the boss from hell – David Brent – I, like many others, began a comedy journey that has never ended.

I loved The Office from day one and to my own surprise maybe, just maybe, I now enjoy the witty and intelligent American version even more. It is quite simply a brilliant show – whichever side of the Atlantic you are watching it on.

And yet . . .

The issue for anyone who is a 'boss' at any level is that as you watch David Brent, while other people are howling with laughter, you are thinking “oh my Lord, I’ve said/done that myself”. The problem is, you see, I think that there is bit of Brent in everyone. And a lot of Brent in nearly every boss.

Personally, for example, I work in a tough industry but I believe it’s still possible to be quite a positive soul. And, in my experience, when you smile at the people you work with, you get far more out of them than when you scowl.

The trouble is that’s exactly what David Brent believes as well –- and the great joke is that he is totally self-deluded. So, you do worry.

This all came back to mind afresh this week because we were filmed by a group of students on a creative media studies course at Bath Spa University. They wanted to do a fly-on-the-wall documentary about how the Bath Chronicle is put together and we were delighted to help.

The problem is that it was a mock fly-on-the-wall documentary that was the basis for The Office too and in it Mr Brent and his excellent supporting cast of characters vied to look as good as possible as the cameras whirled. Therefore, as I sat being interviewed by my charming interrogator Ed, all the time I kept thinking “just don’t sound like David Brent”.

I thought I did OK (ish) until I noticed that I had a number of self-congratulatory awards that the paper has won on my wall and I kept thinking of the way in The Office DB kept highlighting some terrible award he’d won years before. It was just one example of how The Office was so brilliantly realised – it exposed all our clich├ęs in a frighteningly well-realised way.

The whole Office phenomenon, however, has at least created a plethora of wonderful “Brent-isms” which can be easily found on the internet. The irony is that he never said most of them in the show but they all sound good enough that he should have done.

So, may I leave you with four Brent-esque slices of officespeak which will be worth dropping into conversation with colleagues today.

  • There may be no I in team but there’s a ‘ME’ if you look hard enough.

  • If you can keep your head when all around you have lost theirs, then you probably haven’t understood the seriousness of the situation.

  • Never do today that which will become someone else’s responsibility tomorrow.

  • A problem shared is a problem halved so is your problem really yours or just half of someone else’s?

Anyone fancy a Brent-like dance?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Miserable? Nah, I'm just suffering from jet lag!

How are you feeling today? A bit fluey perhaps? A bit down? Or perhaps just totally out of sorts?

If the answer to any (or all) of those questions is “yes” then fear not.

For welcome to the life of the average January-hating Briton who has returned to work, school or college this week after what seemed like a gloriously long break.

Before “back-to-work-Tuesday” many people had probably spent the best part of two weeks waking up (probably later than normal) and immediately asking themselves two key questions: “what day is it?” and “am I at work today?”

For many in the caring professions or in retail the answer to the latter is just as likely to be “yes” as “no” but for millions of other people, the reality that holidays don’t go on forever hit really hard on Tuesday morning when their vile alarm clock sprung back into life. And even those of us who love our job or have, indeed, been in at times over the holidays, will have looked at that alarm with contempt.

So I’m delighted to say that I now have a scientific term to deal with the fact that dragging myself out of bed on Tuesday was as difficult as looking enthusiastic about four-day-old turkey. Apparently those of us who had to go back to work this week and have found it harder than normal are suffering from something called “social jet lag”. This term has been coined to describe the impact on our bodies of having to readjust after spending a couple of weeks going to bed later, getting up later, drinking more, eating more and often wallowing in the pleasure of doing very little.

Social jet lag, which would have hit most people by about 3pm on day one of the big return, apparently can have the effect of leaving people with indigestion, headache, clumsiness, fatigue and irritability. If that sounds like you then rejoice: you’re not a miserable old goat, you’ve just got jet lag. Hoorah!

Of course, not everyone was able to enjoy the “back-to-work-Tuesday- social-jet-lag-phenomenon”. For it seems that nearly two million people on the day never got out of bed at all due to the cold/flu/man flu (see previous blog!!!!!) which has struck so many people this year. For all of them, the social jet lag joy is still to come and just to make them feel even better there is a rumour of more snow. Yes, back-to-work-next-week-types, even if you can finally get out the bed, you might not be able to get out of the drive.

So, in the interests of trying to cheer people up as they face this short but still rather tricky week, I found by literally minutes of research that among the cures for the January blues, back-to-work- Tuesday feelings and social jet lag are to remember that most people feel the same, many have spent too much in the sales, plenty have hidden the scales and nearly all are already wistfully counting the days until their next holiday.

The only thing that did depress me a little from my extensive research into cheering everyone up was a quote from someone who said “the reality is, come February, most people are back in the swing of things”.

February? That seems an awful long way away. It kind of makes you want to go right back to bed.