Office Life – Preview – 3

Another excerpt from a book about life in an English office.

As Wood finished his cigarette he noticed a programmer called Phil Bracewell coming towards him. Bracewell had scruffy, brown hair, a wispy moustache, and glasses that magnified the hazel pupils of his eyes.

“Eh Phil, I hope you’re not coming over to fart near me.”

“I have been told to go outside when I am about to break wind, as it’s no longer socially acceptable to do it inside the office.”

“It never has been, Phil, at least not in my book. It smells like rotting shellfish after you’ve polluted the air.”

“That’s just the way my innards work,” said Bracewell picking a bogey from his nose and flicking it away in an absent-minded manner, “and besides it’s not going to kill anyone unlike your filthy smoking habit, which will be a drain on the health service in a few years’ time.”

“I smoke on my own, whereas you seem to think your farts should be shared by everyone.”

“It’s a natural thing for anyone to do, it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” said Bracewell, “anyway, I can feel another coming on, so I will go and stand over there by that bush.”

“Good idea, and make sure you’re downwind of the office, we don’t want it seeping in to the office when no one is expecting it. You must contribute to global warming more than most people with all that methane you pump into the atmosphere.”

Bracewell gave a weak smile, thrust his hands into his coat pockets, and headed away from Wood.

Office Life – Preview – 2

Excerpt from the book Different Planet

5 Days in the life of an English office – there’s lots of banter and insults flying around in this story. One person goes to the wrong place for the weekend, another has horrible personal habits, but the main protagonist realises how he can become a better person – he undergoes a transformation after losing a race and feels better for it.

====

“I can only speak about the hair on her head,” replied Tranfield,”but it does look like the colour of shoe polish doesn’t it?”

“God, Martian, who taught you to program, Aristotle?”

“Harry who?”

“Aristotle the ancient Greek philosopher, you dimwit, this code is so complicated no wonder it takes a day to run.”

“Don’t you start criticising my work,” said Tranfield, “or I will stick you in that large recycling bag over there and tie the tag.”

“That’ll be the first time you ever use that bag,” said Joan mischievously, “you normally dump everything in the bin.”

“The recycling is for secure information only, Joanie.”

“It does no harm to recycle the other paper.”

“It all goes to the same place in the end, anyway,” said Tranfield, “it all goes in the landfill.”

“Recycled paper doesn’t go in the landfill,” said Mark Atkinson, who was walking by from another area.

“Who asked you to intervene in our conversation?” asked Tranfield, “go and polish your TOTR BMW or speak to your TOTR wife. With your hair tinged red like that you look like a thin paintbrush.”

“What’s TOTR?” asked Joan.

“Something you’re not Joan, top of the range,” replied Tranfield.

“What’s wrong with him?” asked Atkinson.

“He’s just being normal” said Roger smiling at Tranfield’s discomfort.

“Go away, Atkinson, or I will stick in you in the recycling bag.”

“It’s going to be crowded in that bag soon, isn’t it?” said Joan.

“It’ll have to be another bag for Atkinson, because Roger will fill the first one up completely.” said Tranfield smiling.

“Do you practice making threats?” asked Atkinson.

“He does, whilst he’s waiting for his programs to run to completion, so he gets plenty of practice,” said Laurence ducking under the wet teabag that Tranfield threw at him.

“Martin,” said Wood, “don’t throw things in the office; I think you should come with me and see one of our suppliers.”

“I thought that Welsh git was going with you?”

“Ted? He’s from Nottingham, not Wales.”

“He lives in Wales though.”

“Yes, well he’s had an accident on his way in to work.”

“What’s he done this time? Run over a field of daffodils.”

“He drove into the barrier of the motorway at 100 mph, sideways.” Wood failed to stifle a smile that showed his nicotine-stained teeth.

“Sideways – why did he do that?” said Laurence.

“Well, he thought he was in the middle lane and he pulled out to overtake the car in front, but he was in the outside lane not the middle lane and so he he hit the barrier, quite hard at around 100.”

“What an idiot,” commented Tranfield.

“He’s alright is he?” asked Joan looking at Wood over the top of her glasses.

“He’s fine, he drives one of those Saabs, so there wasn’t much damage to the car,” Wood replied, “Ted will be in the office tomorrow – I think the barrier was a write-off though.”

“How can you drive sideways into a crash barrier at a hundred?” asked Tranfield, “I wonder what was distracting him?”

“Perhaps he was playing his harp and singing a song from the Eisteddfod, whilst eating a leek,” said Laurence, “you know, Martin, like Welsh people do, according to you at least, not that you’d ever stereotype people.”

“Shut up you scouse git, perhaps one of your fellow Liverpudlians stole his wing mirrors, so he couldn’t see in which lane he was.”

“Oh no, Martin, my fellow Liverpudlians would have stolen the whole car, not just part of it, not that I am stereotyping of course.”

“Martin, come on let’s go and see our supplier, Samlesberry Holdings. Roger let me know how your changes are going – give Barry Dingle a ring in about an hour and we’ll be there.”

“Give him my regards,” said Joan.

“How do you know him?” asked Tranfield.

“Joan went with me last time, Martin,” explained Wood, “anyway let’s go.”

“You took Joan to provide Barry with some hot stuff to look at while you told him we weren’t going to pay him for another three months?” said Laurence winking at Joan.

“Something like that,” said Wood.

Office Life – Preview – 1

An excerpt from a book on life in an English office

Wood parked his car as close to the office door as possible. He didn’t particularly like exercise as it tended to show his smoking in a bad light. Joan and Trandorf jumped out of the car and headed to the door.

“That bloody Phil Bracewell is outside again,” said Trandorf pointing, “he’s hiding behind the bushes, presumably despoiling the air around him.”

“Those bushes are looking rather ill, aren’t they?” replied Joan.

“At least it’s not us he’s gassing,” said Trandorf, “you have to look on the bright side.” With that he opened the door to be met by Roger Laurence.

“Hello Martian,” said Laurence.

“What are you doing here?” replied Trandorf.

“Just to warn you that Pete Brown is on the warpath; I think you might have had him arrested by mistake this morning.”

“What?”

Trandorf moved past Laurence and approached his desk.

“That’s him, that’s the bastard there,” said a heavily accented, male voice from the desk by the window. The man had a bushy, greying beard, a large forehead and had a well-developed suntan.

“Who the hell let you in here,” shouted Trandorf, “Ted and Roger why is there a homeless person sitting in my office?”

“I am not homeless,” said Brown, “‘let me in’ I mouthed to you through the window this morning. ‘Sod Off’ was your reply, you useless bastard, who did you think I was?”

“I didn’t know who you were and that’s the whole point; we manufacture weapons here and we can’t have any Tom, Dick, or Harry banging on windows and demanding to be let in to offices. You were lucky they just arrested you – I would have Tasered you, you idiot – why did you arrive so early – what was the point of that?”

“I wanted to start weaving, ‘let’s get weaving’ that is my motto, and people like you cut the thread even before I get started.”

“Why are you dressed like a homeless person with that scraggly beard, mad-professor glasses, and scrappy shoes? You’re supposed to be dressed like a contractor, look smart, even if you sound like a voiceover in a Hovis advert; ‘eeee appen me whippets deed, let’s get weaving, oooo a sit at foot of our stairs, it’s a bit black over Bill’s mothers’”.

Roger Laurence was laughing at Trandorf’s accurate accent whereas Ted was just content to smile. Brown, though, was not finished.

“You have no right to take the piss out of me like that, I can’t help the way I sound – and these clothes are my best clothes, so I can’t dress up any more than I already have done.”

“Dress up? You look like something that would appear in a Salvation Army shop window if they ever used mannequins to advertise their clothes for homeless people. If you look in a mirror you’ll probably understand why they don’t use them, because you look a big, hairy mess.”

 

Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe is a classic story inspired by the experience of Alexander Selkirk marooned for 4 years and 4 months on the largest of the Juan Fernandez Islands 400 miles off Valparaiso, Chile.

This is a story that builds up slowly and becomes more and more readable as the time passes. It is a testimony to how adaptable a man can become in order to survive and I marvel at Defoe’s research that makes this story so believable.

After 28 years, 2 months, and 19 days Crusoe leaves his island home, but will he return? Read the book and find out.

And there’s one line which surely must count as one of the greatest understatements in a novel:

It is true I had been very unfortunate by sea

Keeping in Touch – Chapter 3

Sheila opened the front door and shouted “Hello everyone I’m home.” The silence was almost audible. All she could hear was the cat miaowing.

Sheila took off her shoes and went into the kitchen. Her husband, Walter, was sitting at the table pressing his Blackberry with a pointer. He was frowning with concentration.

“Hello Walter, how are you?” asked Sheila.

Walter sighed and replied “I’m busy Sheila, just finishing off some things for work.”

“Did you feed the cat?”

“What?”

“That furry thing we bought from the shelter six months ago.”

“Oh that, no I didn’t have time, no, I’ve been busy since I got home.”

“Where are the boys?”

“In their rooms I think, I really didn’t check.”

“You didn’t check?” Sheila was alarmed at the lackadaisical attitude of her husband on some occasions and this was one of them.

Walter waved his hand vaguely in the direction of the bedrooms upstairs “Well, I looked in and they were on the Internet, so I left them to it. As I said I have some things to do for work, emails to check, and a couple of meetings to set up.”

“Walter, when did you leave work?” asked Sheila.

“At about five, I drove home and then started working again.”

“And did you talk on the phone when you were driving?”

Walter looked guilty as he said “Just a couple of conversations yes.”

“So how many meetings did you have today?”

“Four, just four.”

“Are you interested in what I did today?” enquired Sheila.

Walter wasn’t concentrating and was going through the motions of being ‘interested’ as he replied “Of course what did you do today, darling?”

‘I entered the customer details for fifteen insurance cases on to the system and I must have heard the snippets of around sixty different phone conversations from people walking by my cubicle…”

“Sixty phone calls – you should get an i-Pad and then you could store them all so you can access them later.”

This book is on sale at a discount between 22nd February and 28th February here

Keeping in Touch – Chapter 2

Sheila waited at the bus stop. After 10 minutes the bus arrived. There were a few seats available. Sheila sat next to a young man wearing headphones. The bus started off. Immediately, he stood up and stared at her.

“Do you want to get off?” asked Sheila.

The youth stared at her. Sheila gesticulated at the aisle and the youth started to push past her. She hurriedly got up.

“You could have asked. Politely.” Sheila spoke to no one in particular.

The youth stared at her and then walked to the front of the bus.

It’s like he’s in a video game, where you just move around and don’t have to speak to anyone, just follow your instincts and do as you please. If someone gets in your way, you just zap them.” thought Sheila as she moved to the seat by the window vacated by the youth. She looked around at her fellow passengers.

On the seat in front, one male passenger was staring at a screen, watching something, Sheila wasn’t sure what. The female person next to him was playing a video game, vigorously using her thumbs. Around Sheila various conversations were going on with distant people.

“Yes, I’m on the bus. I’m on my way – I’ll be there in 10 minutes. Yes, I’ve got the milk and cabbage.”

“I’m on the bus, yes still on the bus like I was the last time I phoned you.”

“The cat’s done what? How did it even get in there I thought it was locked?”

Sheila looked at the seat opposite her. A young, good-looking girl was smiling as she spoke into her phone, quietly murmuring “Yeh, can you feel me touching you– is that good for you?” In front of this girl, a schoolgirl was using a small plastic pen to press buttons on a matching pink keyboard.

“No, just on my way home – I’ve not heard that no, why – your parole officer said what? That’s out of order, so when will you be going back to prison?”

Sheila reflected that she was on the bus too and was going home, but she didn’t feel the need to tell anyone. She took her book out of her bag and started to read.

“Hi, is this seat taken?”

Sheila ignored the voice as she has tuned out the background noise.

“Excuse me is it OK to sit here?”

Sheila looked up and replied “Oh yes, it is, sorry, I thought you were talking to someone else. With all these mobile phones you never know if someone is talking to you or not. I assume people aren’t talking to me.”

“That’s fine. I haven’t got a mobile.”

Sheila looked at the passenger, a young girl of around 21 who had a couple of bags.

This book is on sale at a discount between 22nd February and 28th February here

Keeping in Touch – Chapter 1

Sheila Walker sat at her desk in an office cubicle surrounded on three sides by her colleagues. On the fourth side was a common corridor which was mainly used by people when they were hurrying off to begin private phone conversations. Sheila had worked for the same firm since leaving secondary school in 1996.

At least they let me go home in the evening,” thought Sheila on bad days when the drudgery was especially unbearable.

Sheila entered customer data into her firm’s insurance system. Time dragged. Today, it felt like 3pm already and yet the clock on the wall, the digital clock, said 11:45 a.m. Sheila was spending her lunch break reading her emails aloud to herself, a habit she found difficult to stop.

What is this person talking about? I have never been on E-bay let alone started selling things. I have never owned a plasma TV…”  Sheila was puzzled.

People were walking by talking on their phones as she continued to read…

“It’s totally, like, well yes it is – yes, like totally…”

“…I have already contacted you once and have sent you the money…” read Sheila

“…with Denise in Accounting? Was he drunk or something? Put the pictures on Facebook…”

Sheila continued: “Please get me back to me as soon as you can with further information about the shipping of the plasma tv that i have bought from you. I am looking forward to get your reply. Thanks in advance. The item is a Samsung PS50A457 50 Plasma TV + 3 Year Warranty. Member since 08-Feb-12 in United Kingdom Location : West Midlands, United Kingdom. This is bizarre – I am going to ignore this.”

Someone holding a phone and smiling came into Sheila’s cubicle

Sheila looked up, smiled, and said “Thanks Dermot…is this for the insurance system?”

Dermot made the sign of the phone and pointed at his ear. He left smiling.

Sheila looked at the file and decided it could wait as she was on her break. She looked at her next email, which she thought might be from a customer. Sheila said to herself ‘Donald Smith – I have never heard of him – I wonder what he wants?’

A young woman listening to a blackberry then appeared at the entrance to Sheila’s cubicle. The girl spoke in a monotone voice devoid of any emotion “Are you coming then Sheila?”

“Hi Liz – where are we going?”

“I sent you an email – we’re going to the Indian for lunch to celebrate Barry’s birthday. I’d have texted you too but you don’t have a mobile.”

“I didn’t get that email unless it’s in my spam folder.”

“So are you coming then or not?”

“I’ve brought my lunch, sorry, but I only sit 6 yards away you know, you could have walked over and asked me – face to face.”

“It’s easier to send an email to everyone and I did put the lunch date on Facebook and LinkedIn. I texted everyone in the office too with directions and the GPS location if you’re driving. I tweeted the details and also wrote about it on my blog. Twice.”

“It’s just around the corner though Liz, who’d drive?”

“The forecast on the weather network, the BBC, and MSN was for rain, so I thought I’d cover all eventualities. Anyway, I must be going the others have gone already – talk to you later.”

This book is on sale at a discount between 22nd February and 28th February here

Chasing Cats

For less than $1 you can read This book  which describes 40 made-up traditions similar to the real ones in England.

All the stories are distinct and can be read independently; this is a book for the busy individual who has a spare five or ten minutes to discover the secrets of Biscuit Rolling.
Excerpt: Cat Chasing from Barton-in-the-Beans:

Barton-in-the-Beans is a village in the county of Leicestershire in the heart of England. In the Middle Ages it was believed that there were more cats in the village than in any other village or town in the country. This could only mean one thing in those times: witches.  Lots of them.

            There was no lake near the village. The local chalk soil drained easily so even after heavy rain no large puddles formed. Thus deprived of his best known method of determining who was a witch, the local Witchfinder-General Roger Boydell hit upon a novel method for searching out the local witches. 

            He determined that witches are very attached to their cats; at the equinoxes and the solstices he told his henchmen to round up all the village cats and place them into a large pen. At his signal, a man would allow three of the creatures to escape from the pen. These cats would be chased by the Witchfinder-General’s fitter cronies around the village. If any woman chased after the man chasing her cat, especially on a broomstick, she was determined to be a witch and sent off to Leicester for burning on the High Cross.

            This tradition lasted for 400 years, comfortably outlasting the role of Witchfinder-General by over 300 years. In the mid-20th Century, as people became aware of diets and exercise, it was noticed that the cats of Barton-in-the-Beans were the leanest, fittest, and most athletic cats in the whole county.

            Gradually from all over the country owners of fat, unfit, and lazy cats brought their animals to the quarterly cat-chasing extravaganza. However, some of these owners refused to chase their cat through the village and both owner and cat were sent packing.

            Other owners forgot their witch costumes and were disqualified. Distracted by the local mice population in the surrounding fields, some cats were lost forever. Sadly, some owners were as unfit as their animals and finished up at Leicester’s High Cross hospital.

            The Barton-in-the-Beans Cat Chasing is Leicestershire’s largest group event and is held four times a year with around 500 cats participating over a long weekend. The sponsors of the event include Which? magazine and the Egyptian Embassy.  

Bio: I am a writer. I love writing creatively especially about subjects such as British traditions, where my made-up traditions are no less ridiculous than the real thing. A list of my books, both fictional and factual (about travel), can be found here.

Keeping in Touch – Chapter 3

Sheila opened the front door and shouted “Hello everyone I’m home.” The silence was almost audible. All she could hear was the cat miaowing.

Sheila took off her shoes and went into the kitchen. Her husband, Walter, was sitting at the table pressing his Blackberry with a pointer. He was frowning with concentration.

“Hello Walter, how are you?” asked Sheila.

Walter sighed and replied “I’m busy Sheila, just finishing off some things for work.”

“Did you feed the cat?”

“What?”

“That furry thing we bought from the shelter six months ago.”

“Oh that, no I didn’t have time, no, I’ve been busy since I got home.”

“Where are the boys?”

“In their rooms I think, I really didn’t check.”

“You didn’t check?” Sheila was alarmed at the lackadaisical attitude of her husband on some occasions and this was one of them.

Walter waved his hand vaguely in the direction of the bedrooms upstairs “Well, I looked in and they were on the Internet, so I left them to it. As I said I have some things to do for work, emails to check, and a couple of meetings to set up.”

“Walter, when did you leave work?” asked Sheila.

“At about five, I drove home and then started working again.”

“And did you talk on the phone when you were driving?”

Walter looked guilty as he said “Just a couple of conversations yes.”

“So how many meetings did you have today?”

“Four, just four.”

“Are you interested in what I did today?” enquired Sheila.

Walter wasn’t concentrating and was going through the motions of being ‘interested’ as he replied “Of course what did you do today, darling?”

‘I entered the customer details for fifteen insurance cases on to the system and I must have heard the snippets of around sixty different phone conversations from people walking by my cubicle…”

“Sixty phone calls – you should get an i-Pad and then you could store them all so you can access them later.”

This book is on sale at a discount between 22nd February and 28th February here

Keeping in Touch – Chapter 2

Sheila waited at the bus stop. After 10 minutes the bus arrived. There were a few seats available. Sheila sat next to a young man wearing headphones. The bus started off. Immediately, he stood up and stared at her.

“Do you want to get off?” asked Sheila.

The youth stared at her. Sheila gesticulated at the aisle and the youth started to push past her. She hurriedly got up.

“You could have asked. Politely.” Sheila spoke to no one in particular.

The youth stared at her and then walked to the front of the bus.

It’s like he’s in a video game, where you just move around and don’t have to speak to anyone, just follow your instincts and do as you please. If someone gets in your way, you just zap them.” thought Sheila as she moved to the seat by the window vacated by the youth. She looked around at her fellow passengers.

On the seat in front, one male passenger was staring at a screen, watching something, Sheila wasn’t sure what. The female person next to him was playing a video game, vigorously using her thumbs. Around Sheila various conversations were going on with distant people.

“Yes, I’m on the bus. I’m on my way – I’ll be there in 10 minutes. Yes, I’ve got the milk and cabbage.”

“I’m on the bus, yes still on the bus like I was the last time I phoned you.”

“The cat’s done what? How did it even get in there I thought it was locked?”

Sheila looked at the seat opposite her. A young, good-looking girl was smiling as she spoke into her phone, quietly murmuring “Yeh, can you feel me touching you– is that good for you?” In front of this girl, a schoolgirl was using a small plastic pen to press buttons on a matching pink keyboard.

“No, just on my way home – I’ve not heard that no, why – your parole officer said what? That’s out of order, so when will you be going back to prison?”

Sheila reflected that she was on the bus too and was going home, but she didn’t feel the need to tell anyone. She took her book out of her bag and started to read.

“Hi, is this seat taken?”

Sheila ignored the voice as she has tuned out the background noise.

“Excuse me is it OK to sit here?”

Sheila looked up and replied “Oh yes, it is, sorry, I thought you were talking to someone else. With all these mobile phones you never know if someone is talking to you or not. I assume people aren’t talking to me.”

“That’s fine. I haven’t got a mobile.”

Sheila looked at the passenger, a young girl of around 21 who had a couple of bags.

This book is on sale at a discount between 22nd February and 28th February here