Employment Update

I feel like Nancy Drew.

My initial suspicions were roused by seeing an email I wasn’t supposed to see (but my ability to sneak peeks at things I shouldn’t is greater than my boss’s ability to cover his tracks), from my predecessor, saying how much she was looking forward to coming back on the 17th.

Of course I panicked – what other role could she be coming back to? Why had this been a secret? We have a weekly vacancy bulletin and she didn’t feature in it. Later that day I picked up the company’s Internet and email policy from the printer – the HR director had printed it, which I thought was a little unusual.

I cleared all the odds and sods out of my desk and ensured all my filing and records were up to date – I still remember the dreariness and frustration of having to go through another employee’s desk drawers when he got the elbow without any warning. I then spent the evening registering my CV with various agencies and was starting to look forward to being able to dress up for work in the morning and going to nice, plush City offices for a day of surreptitious book reading.

However, today there have been further developments. I was in my boss’s office with him, sorting out some tedious due diligence for a funding thingy, when someone left a voicemail on loudspeaker. It was an employment lawyer. My boss instantly deleted the message, and then called in the HR director to tell her to call the lawyer, asking me what the guy’s name was. He then muttered “we’re getting rid of someone” as an explanation.

Later on, he sidled past me and observed that a colleague (absent today) spent all his time browsing the Internet and not doing any work. This colleague’s line manager spent a lot of today hopping in and out of meeting rooms with my boss and the HR director, closing the door behind him. I recalled that at our Christmas party, several people came up to me to whinge about this particular person: in the past he’s done certain things that really, thoroughly irritated me, he’s into firewalking and has a chakra diagram as his desktop wallpaper.

So, currently, I have two theories.

1. I am going to be ousted in favour of someone who actually wants to be there. If this is the case, I have been given no warnings, no appraisal and my boss has been incredibly indiscreet.

Facts in favour of this theory are:

Email from predecessor
My boss’s excessive secrecy about said email.

2. They’re sacking the other chap for gross misconduct on the grounds that he’s accessing the Internet all day (though I’d sack him for the firewalking and chakras) and not filing bras. My predecessor is returning to do his job.

Facts in favour of this theory are:

Mutters from my superiors
Comments from colleagues at the Christmas party
Comments from colleagues this week expressing surprise that he was still there (clearly something happened over Christmas)
Printing out of the internet/email policy
The apparent inclusion of his line manager
I don’t see why my predecessor couldn’t do his job

I may be paranoid, but I have a very boring life and this sort of thing intrigues me. Plus I have an interview on Tuesday afternoon.

I’m off to mess around with one of the Hardy Boys. The non-ginger one, I think.

New Year

I had a nice holiday. We travelled up to Leeds on the train, spent a few days with my family up there and then had a couple of nights in Settle, then on to Manchester to see a friend of ours. We made Christmas dinner for my family, which was much appreciated. The amount of goose fat we used as a turkey emollient will remain a secret, however.

School, sorry, work, started again today. It got off to a great start when I glimpsed an email which seems to suggest that my job is very shortly to disappear. I must admit, I have been getting heartily sick and tired of the way everyone is micro-managed to within an inch of their lives and yet are also expected to flounder around if they don’t really understand what they’re supposed to do.

There is an obsession amongst senior management with the behaviour of the staff: leaving on time is frowned upon and they are generally treated as naughty schoolchildren. If I say that I was not allowed to buy a bottle of champagne as a gift for a staff member who’d worked really hard on the grounds that hard work is its own reward, you might get the idea. It took five meetings and a lot of whinging before a Christmas gift was given to all staff: the repeated complaint was that only good staff should get a present and the rest could just stew. Coming as I do from a background of legal firms who take staff retention seriously, I found the attitude astonishing. Of course some people will take the piss, but if they receive a present, they may think twice. Good staff work even better if they feel their achievements are recogised and rewarded.

If my hunch is correct, the silver lining is that I will be able to do what I keep saying I want to do: temp in the City and write on the side. Ultimately I would like to be able to increase the writing and decrease the temping. Besides, I’m sick of being the only person who does my job: it’s lonely and there’s nobody to ask if I have a problem.

Border Collies

How many Border Collies does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one, and I’ll replace that dodgy wiring while I’m here.

Border Collies don’t count as real dogs, so it’s OK to like them if you’re not a dog person. Before I actually met one properly, I was somewhat suspicious of them. I’d been told that they are nervy, unpredictable and snappy. So like any badly trained dog, then.

It’s true that they’re not good with children: they dislike anything small, noisy and brightly coloured that runs about shrieking and tries to poke fingers in their ears.

Flappers

Flappers

Flappers can be recognised by the characteristic flapping motion of their hands when something unexpected happens to their computer. Like it beeps. They bleat pitifully for help. Typical alarm cries are ‘What’s it done now??!!’ (it of course only does what you tell it to, mongo) and ‘help! Something funny’s happened to my computer!’ Up I get and minister to the distressed. The flapper will always, at some point, make the following words come out of their mouth:

‘Oh, of course, *I* don’t know anything about computers!’

Really. Well, you appear to be able to type into it and switch it on every morning. It’s not a crime to learn about something, even less to admit that you have learned something, or that you would like to. Flappers say those words semi-triumphantly, as if they are asserting some moral authority over such dreadful cyber drones such as me, who have bothered to sit down and think about how that beige box with LEDs actually works.
My general reaction is to sigh. Sometimes I suggest that they wouldn’t say the same thing about telephones.

I blame Windoze. Of course. Someone did comment to me that back when they were basically using Emacs to word process, everything was a whole lot easier. One simplifies things by making things simpler. One does not generally simplify things by making them bigger, more complex, and a more friendly colour with little boxes that pop up and suggest what you should be doing.

But I also blame the thickness. I have been working for roughly 10 years less than the flappers. I have considerably less experience of using computers at work.

How come I can manage?

Cause I’m not a flapper.

O Christmas Twee

“Gifts”. I hate that word. To me it implies a small piece of trash that nobody wants and which is only ever bought for someone else.

Over the last couple of months, my occasional wanders around our local discount store have become more and more depressing. They’ve created a little grotto entirely given over to outdoor Christmas lights and musical Santas.

I suppose what I find most hideous isn’t the sparkly, dancing Santa in fur trimmed robe but the thought that some poor underpaid and exploited sod in China had to make that horrible thing. All that time and effort expended in making something that nobody really wants and certainly nobody needs.

I suppose it keeps the world economy functioning, but if anyone was thinking of getting me a tinsel wrapped box of unpleasantly scented bath soaps, please don’t.

Balderdash

Can I just say that this is utter crap. It’s like saying that if you eat beef, you’ll catch elephants. The candida yeast that gives you thrush is *not the same* as the yeasts that ferment beer or raise bread. Also, looking at someone’s irises is not a recognised diagnostic method – I believe the only thing you can prove is that the person has eyes.

Candidasis is another one of those invented illnesses for gullible people with too much money and time on their hands. I suppose it keeps them out of trouble, since I know what it’s like to have a genuine food intolerance, I feel slightly qualified to attack them. An illness is not an accessory. It is not like a 1,200 Birkin handbag with a six month waiting list. Deciding that you have an obscure disease that can only be cured with expensive supplements and a complicated diet is a ridiculous bit of decadence, like the Victorian cult of the invalid.

The wealthy and bored should be bloody grateful that they have enough to eat and access to clean water, sanitation and decent medical care, not inventing vague complaints to impress their friends.

House of Dorchester

While queuing in the Post Office the other day, I noticed an advert for Christmas gifts available from the Post Office’s website. Apparently the Christmas Gift of the Year is a collection of seven chocolates called Seven Deadly Sins. Later on, I saw these chocolates for real in the supermarket, and had to investigate.

Made by the swanky-sounding House of Dorchester, the gift contains an assortment of filled chocolates, each associated with a different deadly sin. One of the first things I noticed was that Avarice is missing and has been replaced by Greed, making it difficult to distinguish between Greed and Gluttony. Presumably this is because the manufacturers thought people would not understand what Avarice is, which is a shame because it would be an ideal opportunity to expand the vocabulary of the masses.

Anger – White Chocolate Praline
Gluttony – White Chocolate Lemon Truffle
Greed – Milk Chocolate Maple Praline
Sloth – Milk Chocolate Praline
Lust – Dark Chocolate Praline
Envy – White Chocolate Apricot Truffle
Pride – Milk Chocolate Coffee Truffle

Quite why apricots would make one envious is a mystery to me. Maybe it’s the cyanide.

It’s hard to know where to start with criticisms of the product, apart from the malapropism. It’s horrendously overpackaged, each chocolate coming in its own little box within the bigger box. The fillings sound quite boring and are all quite similar. It would have been interesting to have used appropriate centres: something sour for envy, perhaps, or chilli for anger, and the Avarice chocolate could have been decorated with gold leaf.

A peek at the ingredients reveals that not only are these unimaginative, overcomplicated sweets, but also that they are of poor quality. The chocolate contains vegetable fat which indicates that it is not a premium product. At 9.99 for only 14 chocolates, this makes them even poorer value. Chantal Coady’s Rococo assortment, available at Waitrose, costs 15 for about the same number of chocolates and includes fillings like geranium, violet and the intriguing Venus Nipple.

Perhaps the most saddening aspect of the gift is the idea that these chocolates are hedonistic and sinful: so indulgent that their consumption puts your very soul in danger. It might, but not in the way the marketing would have you believe. There is no evidence that the chocolate was ethically traded, nor that they are especially nice to eat.

Real chocolate *is* dark, bitter and sinful. It fills your mouth with an explosion of complex flavours and then melts away leaving nothing behind. It’s worth getting overweight for.

I’d advise giving the Seven Deadly Sins assortment a miss and spend the 9.99 on some Valrhona Cariabe, a bottle of cheap wine and a night in.

Pricey Kinks

I spent yesterday afternoon browsing around Selfridges. What I really wanted was a pair of dove grey ribbed woolly tights like I saw in the window of Prada on the Boulevard St Germain, but I couldn’t find any, not even in Prada. I wonder if it’s because the hosiery industry doesn’t or can’t respond to trends as fast as other branches of fashion, but anyway. I pottered round the lingerie department and found a rather fantastic but fragile bra in Agent Provocateur. It cost 215. I think that’s expensive for an outer garment that other people might see, but extortionate for an off the peg bra.

There’s something slightly tragic about the recent trend for expensive sex toys and lingerie. Of course, beautiful underwear is often pricey, but there was something disturbing about the people riffling through the quarter cup bras and python skin whips.

Spending a thousand pounds on a watch, a dress or some jewellery is giving out a clear message of status, or at least, showing the world that you haven’t reached the limit on your credit card. What message does a thousand-pound sex toy give the world? Presumably you don’t show these things to your friends – or if you do, I assume one washes it first.

Now, apparently, one *cannot* be seen having sex unless one is sporting a 500 bra and g-string combo and brandishing a python skin whip encrusted with emeralds. I presume one’s enjoyment of the act would not be enhanced by the knowledge that one is wearing dry-clean-only lingerie, so why would anyone bother?

Sex is supposed to be something you do either alone, with one other person or a small group of people, depending on the circumstances or your personal peccadillo. It is an end in itself: surely pricey accessories are missing the point? Then again, this is a world where designer brands exploit any niche they can find in order to flog pricey accessories to the gullible: Dior snowboards and Chanel tennis rackets spring to mind. They smack of the same thing as a 1,000 dido: of a person who is playing tennis or snowboarding not because they enjoy the sport, but because they wish to flaunt the object.

The reason that occurs to me is that the dead-eyed women fondling the expensive lingerie have TOO MUCH MONEY. They are driven by the subtle advertising messages in the high-end magazines they read and believe that wearing hundreds of pounds worth of lingerie will somehow make them more desirable than the sales staff who serve them. These garments and the expensive toys will make the sex they have *better* than the sex the sales girl may be having, because they spent more money on it. Apparently there is a new trend for executive swinging parties, where such objets d’kink can be shown off and admired. Swinging still sounds tawdry to me, whether the swingers are done up in expensive black silk or cheap red nylon. If you don’t want monogamy, fine, just don’t pretend you also have a partner. The red nylon type of party at least sounds more honest.

Good sex, whether it’s alone or with a prostitute, casual acquaintance or the love of your life, isn’t dependent on the accessories you tote. Like any physical act, like dancing, singing, swimming or even snowboarding, sex is dependent on skill, practice, self-awareness and emotion. I don’t think that a ballerina in a 1,000 outfit would dance better than an equally talented one wearing a 25 leotard.

I hope the women in Agent Provocateur didn’t have a disappointing Saturday night.

Spiders

I just had to check inside the trousers of a grown man to make sure there were no spiders inside. Whilst I did so he hopped up and down in girlish terror.

I own two electric drills and can assemble IKEA furniture without any trouble. Neither am I afraid of wasps, crane flies, mice, rats or snakes.

Clearly there’s something wrong with me. Perhaps I clutch at bras to prove I do have some girlish traits after all.

Secret Santa

I know John Walker’s team of Christians always respond to him: I want some information…

What’s the oddest Secret Santa present you’ve given/received? Do you think that pooing reindeer you got last year carried a hidden message about the amount of time you spend on the toilet?

Or do you think that Secret Santas are simply a device used by shops to sell useless tat for under a fiver to panicking office drones?

Comments

I know people read this… I never know what they think.

I suppose that’s because most people find this because they’re searching for pictures of Sienna Miller naked. When they find I don’t have any pictures of Sienna Miller naked, they probably go away, horny and upset. I don’t have any pictures of Abi Titmuss naked either – nor do I have any of her clothed, which I believe are infinitely rarer.

What is an Abi Titmuss?

Brent Cross

If one were to take the tube to Brent Cross after dark with the intention of walking to the shopping centre, one would end up wandering around endless deserted footbridges, high-walled alleys and urine scented underpasses. One might get utterly lost after following the only signpost, turning a corner and being faced with the North Circular.

After pausing and regrouping, one might strike out in a likely direction, run out of pavement and have to dodge speeding cars. Turning again, one may also realise that one’s turned a circle and is back where one started.

I don’t see why anyone should have to dice with death just because they decided to walk somewhere.

Air on a G-string

Apparently the powers that be have decreed that the thong is Out. These would be the same underfed, black clad fashion editors that delivered the edict about 10 years ago, that Visible Panty Line was a henious crime that would condemn offenders to an eternity amongst the sullen and angry in the 5th circle of hell.

At this pronouncement, lowly sinners traipsed into lingerie departments and solemnly purchased an item of underwear most commonly seen on strippers and exhibitionist aerobic instructors. They would tolerate the sensation of having a permanent wedgie to avoid the possibility that an outline of their knickers might be visible to the general public. For what catastrophe might befall the Western world if it were known that women wear knickers?

Those of us who simply bought the correct sized trousers watched in mild alarm as knickers (the back of them at least) melted away. For a while, the thong seemed unstoppable. Apparently it was the downfall of a president; it was the inspiration for music – and then something paradoxical happened. The garment designed to be undetectable began to be flaunted. The combination of scanty but mannish vest tops and low-slung combat trousers revealed the narrow waistband and rear of the thong.

The thong’s scantier sister, the g-string, became available in elaborate fabrics with jewels or intricate designs at the back and was worn to be seen; to draw attention to the hips and the possibility of bum cleavage, and to give a feminine contrast to figure-concealing baggy trousers and a fashion adapted from male skateboarders.

Thongs are now available everywhere. One can even buy thongs for quite young girls, which I know has caused some raised eyebrows. However, I would argue that if one can buy a beige bra for a school-age girl who doesn’t want to be teased because a white one would be visible under a school shirt, a thong offers a similar solution for a girl who is teased because of VPL. When I was at school, the situation did not arise because we were not allowed to wear trousers – and trainer bras only came in flabby white lace.

Throughout all this I have remained true to my big knickers. I come from the North, where we understand the necessity of keeping the cold out and wearing vests in the wintertime. Thongs, whilst useful if one is an exhibitionist, model, stripper or slapper, are also (whisper it) not very flattering and make even the most peachlike rear end look enormous. Kylie never models the back view of the thongs in her Love Kylie range of lingerie – perhaps she doesn’t want to spoil the image of her legendary derriere.

Big knickers, shorts or “boyshorts” as they’ve begun to be known, *also* prevent VPL and don’t leave your bottom exposed to the bitter November air. Fashion journalists, always on the lookout for freebies, are apparently now asking to exchange the thongs they receive for boyshorts. Thong fan Britney Spears can be seen cavorting in a demure short and bra combo in the video for My Prerogative.

Shhh

Can you hear that? That’s the sound of an upper class in despair as they realise that they don’t run the country any more. After over 1,000 years, we’re finally in control.

As for the whines that the hunting bill took up too much parliamentary time: well, whose fault was that? The pro brigade delayed everything as much as possible, and the Parliament Act was only necessary because of the obstreperousness of the Lords.

I heard a woman on Today this morning declare that she would continue hunting after it was banned: “And I probably won’t be able to go to America because of my criminal record, my husband will lose his job as he’s a policeman, and my business will fail if I go to prison, but I think that’s worth it.” Fair enough, if that’s what she wants to do: I’m not going to lose any sleep over her self-inflicted fate.

And as for the foxes, I know the fate of a few fluffy mammals doesn’t really matter in the great scheme of things, but I’m sure it matters to them. Tally ho.

A Man’s Guide to Lingerie

What to buy your special lady friend for Christmas?

Most women love lingerie, but you should be aware you’re entering a minefield. Before you start slavering over the Figleaves website or catalogue, sneak a look at her underwear drawer. Whilst you may like the idea of the full on basque, thong, suspenders and stockings combo, she may well prefer something a little more practical. Check what she currently wears, and if it’s mostly plain, white comfy bras and big knickers, go with that. If you spot the odd lacy number for special occasions, you can get her something more elaborate.

A word of warning about thongs or g-strings: if she doesn’t currently have any, don’t buy them for her. Women can have very strong feelings about their knickers, so if she’s not a fan of thongs don’t try and convert her. Similarly, check the bras to see if they’re underwired or not. If she doesn’t have any, or only a few, she probably finds them uncomfortable and you should steer clear.

Bra size is important too. Whilst you’re delving in her drawers, check the labels on her bras and knickers to find out what size she takes. Women’s bra sizes can fluctuate over time, so make sure you check her newest stuff for her up-to-date size. If she’s pregnant, starting/stopping the Pill, or you’re really not sure, play it safe and buy her a camisole and matching bottoms. This way, you can buy her something you’re sure will fit.

The most important thing to remember is that if you want to enjoy the underwear too, make sure you buy her something she likes and will wear. Even if she mainly likes plain white underwear there’s plenty of choice. It’s far more sexy to give her something you have a chance of seeing in action than something she keeps squirreled away in her drawers.

Remember that she’ll really like matching sets. Going on what you find in her drawers, here are some suggestions.

If you’re looking for something special that’s not over the top, DKNY is a good place to start for something beautiful and a bit unusual.

If she likes non-wired bras, Choice is a new label from Calvin Klein: I’ve always rated CK’s non-wired bras for giving a good shape whilst not compromising on comfort. I particularly like the print on this range as it’s a little bit edgy but still pretty.

If she’s small, she might like the Atlantis bra: it’s a cult product which boosts small boobs by up to a cup size.

If she’s got bigger boobs, Freya make good, supportive bras for larger sizes that don’t look like something your grandma might wear.

For a female friend or relative, you’ll want to play it safe. Dressing gowns, good hosiery (Wolford is the name to look for) or pyjamas are a sure way into her good books. All you’ll need to have is an idea of her dress size.

Hunting, a return

I wonder what the poshos are going to do with their weekends after February.

They have been complaining that this is all to do with class warfare and has nothing to do with foxes. Well, they’re sort of right. It *is* class warfare, of the best kind: they have realised that they no longer run the country. Most people in the UK don’t want hunting with dogs to go on, and Parliament represented the will of the people. This is a good thing, as it seems to happen so rarely.

Paris

I spent the weekend in Paris with some pals.

We ended up in a cafe near our hotel. Between us, we had some beers, hot chocolate, crepes and the Sirop De Grenadine Nick always insists on ordering when he’s Abroad. Of which more later.

In the UK, I can’t think of anywhere you can do that: have a snack, a nice cup of tea or whatever, and a beer if you want it, pretty much any time of the day or night. It’s a far more civilised approach to a night out than the traditional British stratification of eating and boozing. The two worlds separate at about 7pm every evening, when the pubs stop serving any food apart from crisps.

Realistically restaurants close at about 11pm, after which you can choose between going home, going to a club, going home or going to a midnight showing of Bridget Jones – The Edge of Rubbish. So you end up going to a club simply to spend some rowdy time with friends. This state of affairs is not found in the rest of Europe.

Anyway, Nick and his grenadine. Waiters giggle when he orders it, and then disaster inevitably ensues. On Saturday, he managed to knock the full glass over whilst gesticulating. The bright, deep pink drink went all over the floor and a girl’s coat. Nick offered the girl a napkin to mop her coat, but for some reason she mopped the table for him instead. I don’t know why. Must be a French thing.

Oh, yes, and if you haven’t got a Chip and PIN card yet, don’t buy anything from Galleries Lafayette with your old card. You will be very sternly Told Off. There’s something about European department store employees that reminds me of an unusually strict primary school teacher on her coffee break.

Look at these insights into how we’re all different, but still the same!

Sienna Miller

Oh, by the way, if you’ve got here looking for pictures of Sienna Miller naked, I don’t have any. Apparently that’s the most common search term that leads you fools to me. Presumably you don’t stay long, but if anyone can tell me who on earth Sienna Miller is and what she does apart from Jude Law, I would be most grateful. I thought I was up on popular culture – I mean, one can hardly move in my office for copies of Heat – but she took me by surprise.

Incidentally, you know “Dr” Gillian McKeith, Heat’s favourite quack? Not a real PhD. My sister had her Viva this morning for her PhD, which has taken her ages. She should have done what McKeith did, and bought it off the Internet. Saves a lot of trouble.

Sorry

Yes, I haven’t updated this for ages and I have absolutely no excuses. No wild trips to Europe, no crazy parties involving cocaine, 1,000 handcuffs and nudity and no deadlines from the Guardian.

All I can really say is that I spent the last two weeks getting a bit older and measuring my feet. And panicking about a leak in my bedroom ceiling that my landlady is being very lackadasical about.

A commonplace book on the internet.