Thursday, 18 August 2011

'Holiday' Blues

Temp: Hello, I know this is really last minute but I only found out last thing last night... I have to go to a funeral on Tuesday - is there any way I can book it as holiday (4.5hrs)? Also whilst I'm here could I book the bank holiday off on 29th August (4.5hrs)? Sorry it's not 4 weeks in advance.

Agency: Apologies but we will be unable to process this request as we are up to maximum hours for the next four weeks. Should you require any holiday after this duration please let us know.

I've been temping for this agency for one and a half years and that whole time I have stayed at the first company they put me with; my hours have fluctuated due to the company's demands but I currently work about 29 hours a week (though I've made it clear to both parties that I need more full time hours which seems to fall on deaf ears). I get £6 an hour and know that for each £6 I get my agency gets at least £3. I don't get sick pay, I don't get automatic bank holiday pay and in May I was told that I now have to give four weeks notice of holiday rather than two. I sent an email today asking for just a few hours holiday on Tuesday but apparently compassionate leave, even when I'm asking to take it as holiday, isn't something they do either. 

Around this day nine years ago, when I went to pick up my A Level results, the Head of Sixth Form took me aside and tried to convince me to go to Brunel University instead of Buckinghamshire Chilterns because it had better prospects. I wonder had I taken his advice would I be where I am today?

My agency doesn't seem to think I'm capable of doing an admin job that I asked to apply for yet most of my time on reception is spent doing admin. And I do my job well - I've been told by the people I work with I'm the best receptionist they've ever had and whenever I go for interviews they tell me they hope I don't get the job because they don't want to lose me. I was 3% off a First in my degree, got good grades from school and have worked in television in extremely high pressure environments but, apart from giving me something to brag about, what does that actually mean?

Maybe I should have got that First rather than a 2:1. Maybe I should have continued to work at QVC, despite the bitchy atmosphere and the bullying I witnessed, because I actually saw what it was like to be paid more than £12k - something that's not happened since.

Oh, the Should 'a', Could 'a', Would 'a's are such easy songs to sing. I am crossing my fingers that the Operations Manager at ITV who gave me glowing feedback about my interview a few weeks ago can find a job for me (the girl who already works there got the job I'd applied for). I can tell you now that I won't let it go in a hurry.

What Happened Next:

My manager had arranged for cover but I had to call her to say not to worry about it and that I'd to have to come in around the funeral just to get a couple of hours pay because the agency wouldn't give me holiday. She said OK but was shocked they wouldn't give me the time off for it. A few minutes after hanging up she called me back and said because of what the company has put me through recently (changing my hours all over the place and back to split shifts) that she would pay for me to go to the funeral. That was really nice of her but what a bloody palava. 

Lesson: NEVER EVER GET WORK (if they can get you any) THROUGH AN AGENCY!

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Book Man

Where I work we have two different book companies that come in every few weeks with a selection of books and novelty gifts for us to peruse and (ideally) buy - last week there were Kate and William mugs and a learn-to-play-recorder set to name just a few of the treats on offer.

We refer to both of these companies collectively as 'The Book Man'.

Today TBM came to pick up the books, mugs, recorder etc. and it took me some time to get to the front door to let him in. He looked at me questioningly and I explained that I was a bit stiff and finding it hard to move as I'd done yoga twice at the weekend. He responded with a supportive, 'So you've overdone it a bit' - I nodded, proud of my sporadic attempt at exercise.

He went on to talk about how wonderful the weather's been and that yesterday he was in London...

It transpired he'd been doing the marathon. Only his 121st one. This guy must be in his late 50s and he was there talking to me holding a massive pile of books, not a hobble or suggestion of stiffness in sight. I felt embarrassed and ashamed to be half his age and rendered nearly incapacitated by two 40 minute yoga sessions when he was off running 26 miles on tarmac in the blistering heat. I'm really glad I hadn't told him that I'd also attempted a run this weekend, in a field and neighbouring wood, that had lasted a maximum of 20 minutes (I'm sure some of that time was spent walking/trying to alleviate a stitch) and had taken me 15 minutes to walk to because I get really painful shins if I attempt to run on concrete.

Off he hopped back out into the sun, mountain of books in hand, whilst I hobbled back to my desk to hang my head in shame.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Wheely Bad

Today at work I was asked to stay on all day. A 12 hour shift? Yes please.

I decided to go home at lunch to collect the soup Steven had so lovely-ly put out for me to take to work this morning but given I usually come home for the afternoon I decided to put it back in the fridge. So having left my lunch at home it's only natural they should ask me to stay on.

When working a full day we get half an hour for lunch. It takes me 15 minutes to get to/from work by foot. SO I thought a good plan would be to walk home, get the soup, get the bike out of the garage, that I inherited from my mum and step dad when they moved to Africa in February, and cycle straight back to work.

An excellent idea in theory - not so much in practice.

I've not ridden a bike for at least ten years and I hereby declare the definition of 'it's like riding a bike' to mean that something is bloody difficult, if not impossible.

I got on it and realised that the pedals have those cages on them so your feet can't come out. Do they not know me at all?! This is the girl who used to have to take her feet off her moped and place them millimeters off the ground when going round corners for fear of losing her balance. Cages on your feet is just asking for trouble.

I walked the bike a few wheel rotations (sorry distances aren't my thing) down the road and had a fiddle with the brakes. The front ones weren't working. I tried to figure out if I could get to work without catapulting myself over the handlebars. I decided I couldn't. Somehow the man in me figured out how to reattach the front brake. I had a stab at riding it a few wheel rotations and wondered how long it would take me to go back home, get into the house to get the garage key I'd posted back through the door, open the fiddly garage door, step over the ladder to get the bike in, close the fiddly garage door and walk back to work.

I thought it'd be quicker to try and ride/walk the bike to work.

I rode it about a quarter of the way down my road - getting off to get onto the pavement. (When I was about 14 I managed to fall off my bike attempting a road to pavement mount and was not going to relive it especially with vegetable soup swinging from the handlebars.) I walked it up the main road and got back on for a downhill side road. Pot holes + downhill speed = not doing that again. Three quarters of the way down the hill I decided enough was enough and wheeled that damn bike the rest of the way.

It was the start of the warm weather and I had a couple of hills to climb whilst pushing this bit of wheeled metal. You could say I was flustered when I got back to work.

The girl who's down with me on reception at the moment told me that the seat shouldn't move (I didn't mention that did I?... As you sit on it it points down - if the cross bar wasn't there you'd slide right off) and that it was a boys' bike which probably didn't help me not being able to ride it.

8.30pm came around and I forced myself to wheel the thing back. As I was making my way out of the building a staff member asked if I'd like the bike shed key for future use. I told her I'd have to learn to ride the bloody bike before I needed storage for it.

I thought I'd see if night time bike riding was a little easier but less than ten seconds into it decided I should stop before I ran over the man coming the other way (yes I was on the pavement). I stopped and pretended to be looking for something in my bag. I didn't want him to think I was cyclically challenged. I waited until he'd passed before I dismounted and wheeled the enemy home to a life of imprisonment and dust collection.

Scouring Pads and Piss Mist

On Saturday night, for a friend's birthday, we went to a restaurant in town where the lights are low both in brightness and length; the waiters kept hitting their heads on the lampshades whenever they placed anything on our table.

Whilst eating my £11 bite-sized pasta dish, which I'd chosen because it was one of the cheapest things on the menu, I found a piece of curly wire in my mouth which was, according to the manager, from a scouring pad. He apologised and took my food off the final bill. When it came to paying, our party split the bill equally. Parting with £27 for three glasses of wine is always a pleasure. I felt like I was in that episode of Friends but I was too much of a coward to say anything. Had I known in advance we'd be splitting the bill I'd have ordered a starter and a steak instead of scouring pad linguine.

Towards the end of the meal I needed a wee so I went off to the toilet. As I was urinating I was alarmed when up through the toilet bowl and out between my legs came swirling steam. This has happened to me before in nightclubs with metal toilet bowls and for some reason it made sense then - you know, warm wee on cold metal. It wasn't half as alarming as when it happened on that posh porcelain toilet in an expensive restaurant. Perhaps I expected the toilet bowl to be heated given they were charging extortionate amounts for child portion main courses.

Once back at the table I couldn't keep the steam situation to myself for long and explained what had happened to nine bemused people sat around the table. I implored them to go up to the loo to confirm that I was not a) mental and b) the holder of mutant bodily fluids. Before we left I managed to get a couple of takers for the experiment and stood outside each of their cubicles shouting through the door, 'Any steam yet?!' to which the replies were a resounding no. You could say I was left feeling like a bit of a freak.

I've just typed 'steam when urinating' into Google and it comes up with very few corresponding results. What's listed is mostly about cats or poodles pissing on carpets. Not only that but it also asks if I actually meant 'stream when urinating'. It is worrying that Google knows so little about my steaming problem that it feels the need to ask me if I'm actually searching for the correct thing.

On the second page of results there is this Urban Dictionary definition of 'piss mist'...

Delightful. I shall remember that next time I piss on a fire.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Just Browsing

In a bid to get thick and lustrous eyebrows I have been indulging in a bit of threading. This may seem like a blatant oxymoron but apparently, and this currently seems like an urban myth to me, there are ways of encouraging brow growth using this lovely hair-removal technique.

I've been a couple of times before and both times I came out with eyebrows way too thin (you could say I was left thread-bare hahaha) as I hadn't been engaged in any kind of consultation beforehand as to what I wanted from the brow grooming. If I were to describe them with punctuation I'd say I came out with brackets when all I wanted was quotation marks: a bit of size variation to spice up my face a smidge.

My eyebrows before all this threading business began. Looking at them, I think I actually preferred them. (Please excuse the eye makeup - I was going to a party dressed as a Christmas tree.)

Today I took matters into my own hands and drew the brows of my dreams in pencil on a Post-It note to show the brow people.

The Post-It Note of Dreams.
(It seems the Christmas tree eyebrows weren't far off. Why did a mirror not inform me of this?)

 The lady looked at the sketch and set to work. During the experience she intermittently took a pair of scissors and had a little snip here and there. Sat with my eyes closed and head back I started daydreaming that she was taking the scissors to my nostrils to begin snipping at not my nose hair but the skin where the nostril meets the main part of the nose. Thankfully I was consciously daydreaming otherwise there's a chance I may have screamed out accusations at the unsuspecting threading technician. That would have been a hair removal story to tell the grandkids. I still ended up coming out with eyebrows a bit thinner than I'd like but they're becoming a bit less bracketey and headed quotation-markward.

To get the shape I want I have to manipulate my forehead.


OK, OK, we get the message. You've got eyebrows.

And at least my nose is still in tact (not that you'd know it from these photos).

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Oh Crap

I'm on an evening shift, at a point where I've done all my work and can now peruse the internet whilst a Drink Impaired Driver's group plays out in one of the meeting rooms. My job now is to be here in case of an emergency. If that panic alarm goes off I have to go in there to assess the situation and decide whether the police/ambulance/fire brigade need calling (I'm probably not the best person to do this given my laid back approach to most things).

But as it happens I find myself in a bit of an emergency, in need of a plumber. I am currently on a break from flushing the toilet and waiting for the water level to go down. After nearly a year of inadequate bowel movements I have finally got my poo-jo back and have been blocking toilets here, there and everywhere. Mainly at work. The week before last I managed to do a turd so large I flushed five times to no avail. That day I was doing a split shift so I went home for a few hours and then came back. On visiting the toilet later that evening I saw my numerous flushes had made little impact on the brown torpedo and there is no doubt it had been used since my encounter with it. It took a further toilet brush attack and a few more flushes to get it down.

Tonight I have managed a similar feat. I went for a number two about but did not think to check if it had gone down. I had to go again at and on lifting the lid saw my extravagant use of toilet paper had not made it down an hour and a half before. I didn't think to flush it before attempting another evacuation so when flushing it afterwards I managed to cause an upsurge of water and the view of two poos too large for the meagre toilet bowl to take. A few flushes and toilet brushes have made no impact and after staring at the water level for a few minutes it looked like it wasn't going down. I thought perhaps it may be a case of a watched bog never unblocks so I came downstairs to give it some space to do its business.

I thought I may as well comment on the whole fiasco while I wait.

I shall now go and see if any progress has been made. (I also need another poo - I wonder if all the chocolate I've eaten today is causing this excessive amount of excrement)...

I have been defeated. Not only by the toilet refusing to unblock but also the fact it has been discovered by someone in the building who has taken the time to fashion a 'toilet blocked!' sign and found some sellotape to stick it up. (Sadly I have no camera phone to document this turn of events) The annoying thing is I didn't realise this staff member was still in the building and there's a chance he'll have heard me speeding my way up the stairs to cause the vandalism. I am crossing my fingers this doesn't encourage an email to be sent out to the entire building in the morning.

I just never learn do I? 

p.s. I used another toilet for my 3rd poo of the evening and managed not to block it. That's one less 'toilet blocked exclamation mark' sign that needs making.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Nose Roses

Yesterday I went on the hunt for a mini watering can – the kind that has a really thin spout but no shower head (I am quite certain it is not referred to as a shower head in the gardening world but let’s not nitpick). The reason for my search is that I came across a nasal cleansing technique on my travels across the internet, called Jala Neti, where you tip hot, salty water into one nostril and it comes out of the other one. Apparently it’s good for curing rhinitis which I’m sure I’ve got as I constantly have runny, irritated nasal passages and, forgive me but it’s getting right up my nose.

There is a special piece of equipment used in the process of Jala Neti called a neti pot but in the video tutorial I saw on Youtube they say it’s fine to use a waterbottle with a squeezy top or a mini showerheadless watering can instead. I tried the squirty water bottle version but I already have a fear of my nostrils stretching to Fern Cotton proportions due to constantly having my fingers, and thumbs, up there. (In my defence that’s because of the constant itchiness and also my nose always seems to house crusty bogeys.) I’m sure my enlarged nostrils won't be getting any smaller by sticking a water bottle up there so it was time to find the watering can option.

So I went into a hardware store around the corner from my work and asked the man if they sell them. He told me they used to but that no one really knew what to do with them so they stopped. He asked me what it was for and before I had time to answer he continued, "Watering roses or something?” Had he not suggested this I’d have definitely told him what I wanted it for but I’m not sure he could handle the truth so with my awkward, highly unskilled lying technique I looked to the side and nodded my head and said yes. Yes my dear fellow, it’s for the roses up my nose.

I went on to search a flower shop and TK MAXX but was unsuccessful in my mission. I would have gone to a garden centre but they’re all so far away! I did, however, purchase one of these amazing chopping boards (inspired by my friend Alex Berger who bought one for our cooking fanatic chum, Adam Detre) that fold inwards so you don’t lose any bits of onion when you tip it in the pan. Super! But still neti potless - the hunt continues…

Friday, 21 January 2011

Promises, Properties and Pigeons

I have some serious issues... I'm going to have to refrain from specifying how often I'm going to write on here because everytime I do that I just embarrass myself by not following through. Perhaps less embarrassing than actually following through but that's another topic altogether.

In my defence I have been trying to figure out where I'm going to live as my mum and step dad are moving to Zambia at the end of February to run a game reserve lodge and I've been staying with them since I came back to Harrogate from London at the beginning of last year.

I've had offers from my friends Charlotte and Grace and there was the option to move back to London but as it turns out I'll be living with Steven who you may recall from an earlier story as the one who kept sending out mixed messages and doing runners throughout last year. But I took a leaf out of Cheryl's song book and I (passively) fought for this love. I gave him the space to get through his issues and things seemed to turn around in a massive way; I watched him change from this person I didn't recognise anymore to the person I remember him being - (we've known each other for 14 years).

I was fully under the impression that he was going to live with his friend Chris, known in some regions as Morridog. Then one evening, at the start of the new year, out of nowhere he said he wanted to live with me. I had mentioned in passing towards the end of last year if it was something he'd consider which he tried to avoid answering for a few days and then said that because he's waiting on where he'll be going for his teacher training he didn't want to say yes and then not be able to do it. Anyway out of the blue he decided that we would live together and the search began...

There are LOADS of properties on the rental market at the moment but there's always something not quite right. Early into our search we found this really lovely place which I don't think Steven was sure about because there was a dead pigeon outside. It looked like it had just sat down to have a little sleep at which point Jack Frost came along and did his business.

The flat would have been perfect had it not been for the lack of hallways, and the dead pigeon outside. The lounge was huge with a big bay window and led straight into the bedroom which was also really big with built in wardrobes and an ensuite. The bedroom led straight into the kitchen (weird) which had a little pantry-esque thing attached to it and then there was a private back yard which would fit a table, chairs and a car. It was right in town and the price included water. Had it not been for the fact that the bedroom went straight into the kitchen I think we'd have snapped it up.

The search continued and I started getting really pissed off that we hadn't found somewhere to live yet. It was getting to the point where I started throwing mini tantrums - never the way to keep someone wanting to live with you. Never the less we plugged on...

At the end of last week we went to see one a few doors down from my house which I've always peered into when walking home and it suddenly appeared up for rent. It was really gorgeous inside with a really cool bathroom - the toilet had it's back to the rest of the room so you didn't feel embarrassed pooing in front of the shower. The only fault with this place was the bedroom was tiny which Steven wasn't convinced about. I tried to persuade him that a double bed would fit by encouraging him to take hand to elbow measurements which I'd record in my phone so we could compare them to our beds later. Turns out I forgot to save the measurements so made him look silly in front of the estate agent for no reason.


The next day was Saturday and we went to see one that I thought would be a bit small. The pictures did not do it justice. As soon as I went in I felt like this was the one. We both looked at each other like we were thinking the same thing. There were two bedrooms so we'd be able to put a computer desk in one of them and also have people to stay. The lady said she thought it was council tax band B or C which would have been too much for us but when I got home I checked on a council band website and it was A! Hurray!! We told her we wanted to go ahead with it so she said she'd send the paperwork.

The House
Monday came along and we had a flat booked in from before we'd seen 'the one' so we thought we may as well go and have a look. Well that went and put the cat amongst the frozen pigeons didn't it?!

There was a really heavy old fashioned front door and then in the communal hallway it had wooden panelled walls which looked like something out of a tutor castle and there were sheilds carved into the walls. There were definitely ghosts hanging out down there - I'm not sure how I'd feel about being there on my own. Once we got up to the flat it was totally different and modern and really spacious. It was a bit cheaper than 'the one' but then it only had one bedroom so I got in a bit of a stress because what were we going to do now?...

You walk up the stairs and this is the lounge
We went to mine and made a list of the two properties against each other and they came out pretty much equal in their pros and cons scores. Both had no freezer, both were about the same distance from town etc. etc. Bloody hell. In my desperation I reached out to Facebook and a Magic 8 ball for help but knew deep down we would have to make the F-ing decision by ourselves ignoring my screams of "I hate having choices!!"

You turn around and these are the stairs you've just walked up and the rest of the lounge - in the distance you can see the master bedroom.
I rang the lady dealing with 'the one' telling her our situation and asked if we could come and see it again at night to get a feel for it so on Tuesday night we went again and it was still as lovely in the dark.

Turn right and you'll walk into the kitchen. Go through the door...

...and you'll be in the second bedroom (which is minus this weird wardrobe)

As we were leaving we told Amanda we definitely wanted it. She said that she had people coming to see it the next day so was there any way of getting a cheque to her before then. I told her I'd go home and find my cheque book and we'd drop it off. I told her not to worry about it bouncing because there's enough money in my account. Amanda, Steven and my mum pissed themselves.

We got home and Steven told me they laughed because talking about cheques bouncing is a bit taboo and it was just really innocent of me to say it. Why am I unaware of these social conventions?

Come out of the second bedroom and this is your view of the kitchen. Go through the door and turn right and walk down the hall...
Anyway I found my cheque book and we've reserved loads of the furniture that mum and Sean are trying to find homes for and we'll be moving in on the 12th Feb!! Exciting!

Now I just have the enthralling task of packing and, given I save every receipt that has ever been handed to me, even for chewing gum, it is going to be a right bastard of a job.

...and you come to the master bedroom which has a lot more space behind where the camera is positioned.
(All pictures from