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

Broken Umbrella Menders Association (BUMA)

An extract from the book 40 Strange Groups which is currently on sale for $0.99

After a rainstorm the one guaranteed sight is a profusion of broken umbrellas strewn around on the wet ground. Most of the time these items are thrown into the rubbish. However, in Leeds this is not the case. Members of the local BUMA collect these discarded umbrellas and fix them with a combination of welding gear and hammers, so that the brollys are stronger than they’ve ever been.

The head of the Leeds BUMA, Brian Farr, explains: “Some of the umbrellas are inherently weak, so we strengthen them with wire and occasionally old stair rods and then they wouldn’t turn inside out in a hurricane. The best thing is we then sell them in our shop and we know we sell the umbrellas back to the very people that discarded them, but they don’t recognise them because we’ve changed them so much. 50% of our profits go towards providing bus shelters around the city and so far we’ve helped build 14 of them.”

BUMA started in Leeds and has since spread to Motherwell, Pudsey, Barnsley, and Dundee. It’s estimated that BUMA has rejuvenated over 14,000 umbrellas since its inception, 15 years ago, a number which provides a solid amount of work. As Farr says “We’ve had one or two of the lads retire, but their sons, and in one case their daughter, come into the business and carry on the family tradition. Long may it continue to be rainy and windy – that’s how we like it.”

The Eight Wives of Henry VI society (EWH6)

An extract from the book 40 Strange Groups which is currently on sale for $0.99

This society, known familiarly as the “The Eight Wives”, is an umbrella organisation for groups who believe a number of conspiracy theories regarding English history, including the theory Henry VI had eight wives, a record that Henry VIII tried to break without success. Other theories include one where Elizabeth I was really a man called Ethelbert, which is why she/he never married as she/he didn’t want her/his secret to be revealed. Another interesting theory is that Alfred the Great was really called Alfred the Grate and was a baker who killed Alfred the Great when he burnt the cakes and assumed his identity.

Roger Evans is the co-chair of the society and believes that it provides a valuable outlet for people’s doubts about history: “We never suggest to any proponent of a new theory that it is total rubbish. We ask how this idea came about and suggest ways its case can be further improved. Alfred the Grate is an interesting one because the skeleton people are searching for will be of the impostor baker, not the real king, Alfred the Great. The descendants of the real Alfred the Great will provide DNA samples, which come from the king’s line, not the baker’s line, so how will we ever find a match with any of the skeletons found near Winchester, when one of the skeletons is of Alfred the Grate and none of the skeletons will be of Alfred the Great, because according to the theory, Alfred the Grate threw Alfred the Great into a river and drowned him – his body floated off downstream? The longer no match is found, the more the theory gains credence.”

The secretary of “The Eight Wives” Heather Randall talks about Elizabeth I and the theory about her being a man: “We believe she was a man and that’s why there were no babies and no records of her ever having intercourse with another man. The heavy white makeup covered any remaining bristles after shaving. A woman’s body was substituted in the coffin after he died, just to preserve the myth of Elizabeth. We are combing through the records trying to find proof, but people have been very careful in the past to cover the tracks. We will keep searching until we find something proving our theory.”

Hindu Reincarnation Memory Club (HRMC)

An extract from the book 40 Strange Groups which is currently on sale for $0.99

Reincarnation – known as Punarjanma – it is one of the core beliefs of Hinduism that is generally accepted by many of its practitioners. Reincarnation is the natural process of birth, death and rebirth. Hindus believe that the Jiva or Atman (soul) is intrinsically pure. The HRMC attempts to provide their clients with information about their previous lives via a series of hypnotic trance sessions, where the client speaks about their previous life experiences.

These sessions are quite intense and should last no more than half-an-hour as the emotions that come to the surface can sometimes be disturbing, especially if the client finds out they were something really ugly in a previous life such as a snake or a camel.

One client, Rohit Ganguly, spoke about his session: “I was hypnotised and then I just remember a series of flashes in my mind as my previous lives as a fly, worm, crab, tree, and fish came out – I am not sure why I was a tree, but I was – and then I became bigger and bigger fish, before becoming a fly again. This upset me at some deeply subconscious level and I awoke from the trance. I will be back next week, because I have to know why I went from a tuna to a fruit fly. I must have done something really bad when I was a tuna – what could a tuna do that was so bad? Did I attack a fisherman that was trying to catch me? ”

The Camel Appreciation Society (TCAS)

An extract from the book 40 Strange Groups which is currently on sale for $0.99

Most people dislike riding on camels due to the animal’s terrible attitude, bad breath, and yellow teeth. Some people overlook these obvious problems in favour of the smooth ride offered by these idiosyncratic animals in the hotter climates of the world.

TCAS has linked up with holiday firms across the globe to promote camel safaris in remote parts of the world such as the Empty Quarter in Oman, the Gobi Desert, and The Sahara.

Their longest trek is the 51-day crossing from Zagora in Morocco to Timbuktu in Mali, where twenty camels are needed to transport the tents and food supplies for the ten travellers on the trip. Travellers on the longer trips report that their attitude towards camels changes during their time together, which may well be the traveller’s equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome.

Madeleine Stokes of TCAS explains the attraction of camels: “Camels have a similar attitude to cats and yet people love cats, but dislike camels. I don’t understand why that is, given camels can actually help you enjoy a trip across a desert. I wouldn’t want to rely on a cat for anything.”

The Edward de Vere Society (EdVS)

An extract from the book 40 Strange Groups which is currently on sale for $0.99

The Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship holds that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays and poems traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare. It is recognized by Oxfordians and Stratfordians alike that writing about royal courts, Italy and law required a certain prerequisite level of education.

Edward De Vere fits the bill here since he is known to have graduated from Cambridge University at age 14, becoming master of arts at age of 16. Furthermore De Vere studied law at Gray’s Inn and had an extensive library underlining his qualifications to write as knowledgeably as Shakespeare about Bohemia, Denmark, and Scotland. At court, Edward De Vere was nicknamed “Spear-shaker” due to of his ability both at tournaments and because his coat of arms featured a lion brandishing a spear.

However, some conspiracy theorists maintain Edward de Vere wrote far more than just Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. They believe he wrote Christopher Marlowe’s plays as well as the early poems of Ben Jonson, Edmund Spenser, and John Milton.

William Wimpole, a member of EdVS, understands the problems these ideas raise: “The evidence for these assertions is rather thin on the ground other than an educated man wrote the poetry and that Spenser’s and De Vere’s first names both begin with ‘E’. What is known is that Edward de Vere was a very quick writer and didn’t need much sleep, giving him many hours to write those wonderful pieces of high literature. It’s extremely difficult to prove this and naysayers always show how different all these writing styles are, but what they don’t understand is that Edward de Vere was a brilliant man who was capable of astonishing changes in literary style at the drop of a hat. One day he’d be Shakespeare, the next Spenser, and then Marlowe.”

Nestorian Christians to recreate the Mongol Empire (NECREME)

This is an extract from the book 40 Strange Groups which is currently on sale for $0.99

The Nestorians are followers of Nestorius (c. AD 386—451), who was Archbishop of Constantinople. Nestorianism is based on the belief put forth by Nestorius that emphasized the disunity of the human and divine natures of Christ. According to the Nestorians, the nature of Christ is divided equally between His divine nature and His human nature, but the two are distinct and separate. Some of the Mongol hordes who created the largest contiguous empire in history, the Mongol Empire, were Nestorian Christians, while others were Buddhist and some were atheists.

NECREME believes that the best way to assure world peace is to recreate the Mongol Empire and unite the disparate factions in China, Central Asia, Russia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe in one huge empire, run by a Mongolian dictator in Ulan Bator, whose word is the rule of law. This Mongol Empire would cover most of the areas in the world where there are currently wars and internal strife. The mighty horsemen of the Mongols would fight all the disparate elements taking part in these battles and defeat them all, solving all these issues and bringing peace to a greater part of the world.

As Norovyn Batbold, secretary of NECREME explains, “The Mongol ruler would be a direct descendant of The Great Khan, Genghis, and he would be advised by the leaders of Russia, China, South Korea, and India. His Mongol horseman would be provided by all the countries comprising the Mongol Empire and would number almost 2 million in number, a force that would easily outnumber any opposing forces it would meet in combat. The Mongols would be back where they belong.”

Office Life

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, and a couple have sex over a desk when no one is watching, but someone is listening.

The main character undergoes a transformation after losing a race and feels better for it.

Office Life is a story about the voyage of Albert Merton from a boorish anti-environmentalist to a supporter of the fight against Global Warming.
 
Initially, Albert is described as coming from a different planet because of his throwaway attitude towards everything and everybody. He insults people and doesn’t see anything wrong in the way he behaves. He is a conspicuous consumer who drives a Hummer, who doesn’t put paper in the recycling, and who despises people who keep fit.
 
Gradually, he begins to see the light. His children are learning about green issues at primary school and there’s a person at work called Nigel Todd who lives a considerate life and keeps fit. Albert challenges Todd to a race, but loses. Albert says he will beat Todd the next time. He starts to live a healthier lifestyle.
 
Albert is a lot cleverer than people give him credit for – he finds out the identity of a mole at his company, who has been giving secrets to one of their suppliers. He does this by looking at the phone messages of the supplier’s main manager, whilst this manager is out of the office.
 
The book is not just about Albert, but also includes a number of diverting characters. There’s a rather fat, jolly contractor, who is exceedingly good at programming, there’s a lady who dresses like her mother did 30 years previously, but who is very practical. There’s a loudmouth character who doesn’t know when to shut up, a woman who doesn’t have sex often enough for her own liking, a man who drives his car into a motorway barrier at 100 mph sideways, and a man who can’t stop breaking wind and who has to go outside and emit his farts in the fresh air. These people and others interact with and influence Albert.
 
Ultimately, Albert is a good person who tries to do the right thing more often than not; he learns a lot from Todd and grudgingly admires him for the stance he takes, even though initially Albert doesn’t respect Todd.
 
Interwoven with Albert’s story is another thread relating to a character called Tommy Bunn, who learns some lessons about life during the book. At first, he does strange things, such as going to the wrong village to attend a rock concert. Gradually, Bunn matures and finally he is able to hold a nice conversation with a female.

Office Life is available here at a reduced price from 1st – 8th February

Sports

This book describes 40 fictional Sports. This should give you something to smile about when you’re at home longing for a little bit of escapism.

The Sports include: 
  • The Dracula Race in Romania. Here contestants have to run around Sighisoara before cycling to Bran Castle and cook kebabs on the way.

All the stories are individual and distinct and can be read independently if necessary; a book for the busy individual who perhaps has five minutes to spare to understand the complexities of Bull Pulling or Unicycle Volleyball.

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.

Office Life

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, and a couple have sex over a desk when no one is watching, but someone is listening.

Albert, the main character, undergoes a transformation after losing a race and feels better for it.
 
Interwoven with Albert’s story is another thread relating to a character called Tommy Bunn, who learns some lessons about life during the book. At first, he does strange things, such as going to the wrong village to attend a rock concert. Gradually, Bunn matures and finally he is able to hold a nice conversation with a female.

Office Life is available here at a reduced price from 1st – 8th February