February 27, 2005
February 25, 2005
Back to my Roots
“Eoi. Darrn, you cumin aought leigher? Eim ganna omen aw, bua givus a beel wenya geah inn.
Now, for most people, that would make no sense whatsoever, there isn’t even an Altavista translate tool that could sort that one out. In fact it is good enough for secret FBI code. But, my nineteen years of Essex left made me bilingual. Not in French, not in German, but in Essexspk. I’ll translate for now:-
“Excuse me Dan my dear old friend, are you by any chance giving us the pleasure of your presence tonight? I am going to my humble abode now, but do call me when you get home tonight!
It’s been three years since I last went out in Southend. Okay, not particularly a life changing piece of information I know, but considering I spent the first nineteen years of my life there, it’s tends to say a lot.
For all the non English people out there maybe it deserves an explanation. Essex is one of the most joke ridden counties in England. And maybe, it’s not difficult to see why. Stop at any public area, open your ears and try to understand a form of the English language that has been ‘developed’ since the days of Queens English.
Now, I don’t want to go back to my old mate George Bernard Shaw, when he told me once in 1912 that "It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making someone hate or despise him". But when it comes to accents in England, and more specifically Essex, it just tends to happen. Well maybe not hate George, a bit strong, just a small level of prejudice from some people.
So just where did Essex get this stereotype from? What stereotype? Well, ‘Essex’ jokes are as common as ‘blonde’ jokes. Over time the media and hearsay has created an image of Essex that will never go away.
So here is a sample of one of the many Essex jokes to give you a flavour of the stereotype of my home county:-
An Essex girl goes to the council to register for child benefit.
"How many children?" asks the council worker
"10" replies the Essex girl
"10???" says the council worker.. "What are their names?"
"Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne and
"Doesn't that get confusing?"
"Naah..." says the Essex girl "its great because if they are out playing in the street I just have to shout WAAYNE, YER DINNER'S READY
GO TO BED NOW and they all do it..."
"What if you want to speak to one individually?" says the perturbed council worker.
"That's easy," says the Essex girl... "I just use their surnames"
The men get the same treatment. If you are from Essex, you are deemed to be called ‘Steve’ or ‘Wayne (see above joke), drive a modified cheap car, wear a Burberry baseball cap, tracksuit and conform to the Chav** stereotype of big gold earrings and a fake gold chain.
Now, stereotyping people based on where they are from or how they speak is, of course, narrow minded and ill conceived. I mean look at me, I’m from Essex and I never wore a big gold chain (it didn’t match the earrings and the tracksuit at the time). But by even mentioning this I am giving credence to these stereotypes, maybe I’m just narrow minded and too quick to judge, who knows.
Now, this stereotyping is so far ingrained within the English mindset, that if you say to someone from Kent (a county you can see from Essex, separated by a thin strip of water) that they are from Essex, they would say “Oh, no, I’m not from Essex, I’m from Kent you know!”
So what does my hometown of Southend have to offer me this weekend? Well it just so happens that I still support Southend United F.C, officially the worst team statistically over the last ten years out of ninety clubs. So maybe something else. Okay, it has the longest pleasure Pier in the world, measuring 1.34 miles. Well, it sounds great, they even have a train taking you to the end. The trouble is, there just nothing at the end.
I could always take a drive past my old schools, remind myself about the simple old days. That is if I can slow down, you see the Essex Boys like their fast modified cars so I might not get a chance to stop. Or maybe I’ll just end up at the pubs and clubs I always used to get into when I wasn’t supposed to, maybe I could meet a few Chav's**.
Despite all that is said about my home county, it is the place where I grew up. It did mould me in some sort of way, be it good, or bad. The Essex people on the whole are friendly and genuine, very good humoured and down to earth. After all, my dad gave up the beaches of Auckland for the beaches of Southend, no, actually let me think about that one……….
** A Chav defintion...................
a map showing essex
my car journey tommorow, fascinating
February 22, 2005
When things were simple
I got an email today from someone I knew when I was six. She wanted me to fill in a few blanks from when I was younger, like what I did after we left each other at school, why I've got a New Zealand and British passport e.t.c. So, I wrote this, which in turn reminded me, things were a lot simpler in those days.............
1969 - The Two (Very Different) Worlds Collide Years
A naïve, twenties something trainee teacher goes to New Zealand, when people, just didn’t go to those sort of places. With just a few pounds in her pocket, this naivety was bordering on stupidity.
In the same year, a happy go lucky, laid back, sarcastic, thirties something sufer come lifeguard come mechanic come accountant was going through his normal routine, surfs up at 6am, travel to work, bit more surfing, and a little bit of sleep.
After all, when you live on the beach in New Zealand, that’s what you tend to do.
The naive young woman is driving back from her school when the car breaks down. At that moment the laid back man receives a call from his garage. He tuts, he was going to miss the surf, this call out had spoiled all that. Maybe tomorrow, thinks Mr Cooper.
Whilst driving on the deserted roads, observing the sheep and lack of people, the tyre bursts on the Moris Miner driven by the trainee teachers friend. The deserted roads change from a beauty to a terror. Thrown out by the car, the young teacher is left for dead.
Now, after hearing that her daughter had been officially ‘dead’ for three minutes on the other side of the world, the mother makes sure her daughter returns to England.
“Do you, Mr Cooper, take Miss Andrea Heathcote to be your wife? In doing so do you agree to swap the surf of New Zealand for the sewage infested Thames Estuary of Essex? Do you agree to swap the deserted roads of Auckland for the traffic jams of Southend? Do you wish to swap your surf club for the tennis club of Southend? And with that, he did. In a matter of minutes, Essex in England, not Auckland in New Zealand would be where I began my life
1978 - Born with a noose around my neck
No, I was. The fantastic hospital in Essex was really professional. Whilst my mum was in labour, the midwife was standing outside having a cigarette. I was born with a blue head, not because designer babies were in fashion in those days, but because my umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck, causing me to nearly die just as I was alive. And just as I was dealing with that trauma (I gave the midwife evils don’t worry) I was rudely introduced to the big wide world. With a slap from my sister.
1978-1984 - The Cheeky years
I really didn’t have a care in the world. I slept when I wanted, I drank anything, hey I even ate anything, no reason to be fussy then. And the good thing about being a kid was that I could get away with whatever I wanted to. That’s what I guessed having a big brother and sister was all about. If I wanted to write all over the walls in bright red crayon, I could. And when a rather angry parent looked at me accusingly, I could just point out my sister and claim innocence. After all, I was a helpless young kid, more to the point, I was the youngest child, and the youngest child gets away with these sort of things.
And it didn’t just stop with in house misbehaviour. If I wanted to say to my teacher at school “I’m glad you fell over, you deserved it!” I could. Of course, with hindsight, it would have been better to consider the feelings of my mum, after all, I was saying this to my mum’s boss, the head teacher.
If I wanted to say to my mums friend “I don’t want your bike, I think it’s disgusting” then I did. It was the wonderful age of saying what you actually thought, without fear of hurting anyone’s feelings, after all, I was just a little kid. I’ll just leave my mum to do the blushing for me, after all, it was her responsibility over what came out of my mouth.
1984 – The Teachers pet
My first experience of school. St Hilda’s. Why couldn’t it last like this forever? Now, for a start my teacher was my mum. That was great. I could still paint all over the desk and blame someone else, I never got in trouble. Not only was my mum the teacher, this school just happened to be full of girls.
Now, if I understood the concept of hindsight then, it would be have been perfect. Having girls fight over my attention should have been utopia. It's just I did'nt know it. Girls just used to give me things to get my attention. It was great. At the age of six, I had my first girlfriend, with the pick of a dozen girls. I just could'nt fail. it’s just I didn’t know it at the time.
1984 – 1985 First Proper School
So being teachers pet and being swamped by girls did not last. Although some things didn’t change. “I don’t want to hold your smelly hand” I said when the lady who came to pick me up tried to escort me across the road. But that was the great thing, no need for manners, a guilty consciousness. I was far too young for that.
But it was time to wise up. The girls were getting a lot smarter. Instead of trying to buy my affections with hand held games, they became a bit more deceptive. “Close your eyes, we have got some a secret to whisper in your ear” they say. Of course, the concept of trust and mistrust were hardly formulated at that age, I trusted everyone. If a man came up to me with a big bag of sweets I would have probably thought he was the best thing since sliced bread (or transformer toys then). Instead of whispering that ‘secret’, two girls would kiss me on the cheek and run off. If only it could always be like that.
And with the notion that I couldn’t trust everyone, I also learnt some other valuable lessons. Sometimes you get kicked in the balls. Well in this case it wasn’t getting kicked, more getting hit. A long range, ownerless stone, found its way straight to somewhere I have since realised is a place where boys fear the most. It was the first time I had cried, and cried, and cried. Despite the fact that I cried like a baby that day, the present day scar still makes me realise, I didn’t so too bad in those circumstances. Big grown up men had cried at an awful lot less.
(1985 – 1988) – The only one wearing school uniform
I turned up on my first day at Westborough Primary in a lovely navy blue jumper, fitted with a smart blue tie and light blue shirt. Which all sounds great, except that all the kids were not wearing school uniform.
Despite being a nice kid, I was also a complete and utter bastard at the same time. Like the time I deliberately sent a kids new toy car down the drain pipe, and didn’t even say sorry. In my opinion, it was the drains fault for being too big.
I was really starting to endear myself with the local kids as well. When asked out by a girl who was a friend of a classmate, I said “No, because you are repulsive”. It went down fine, probably because none of the kids knew what the word meant. To be honest I didn’t even know what the word meant, but that doesn’t make it any better now.
It was the no bullshitting time of my life, it’s just I didn’t realise it at the time. I said what I thought because nobody had told me not to. When I was standing in the playground I didn’t stand there and think “Yes, but she will say no?” when asking out Anna Smith. Nor did I think about the long term compatibility factors, it was much more simple than that. Would she play football at break and did she have any nice pencils I could nick? I wasn’t looking to see whether she was projecting the right body language, responded to my paper notes in less than a day or give me subtle hints. If I got a valentines day card from her in the cardboard letter box and she wanted to sit next to me in class, then that was it, no more questions.
Simple Days. Happy days.
February 20, 2005
Preperation for the week ahead
Sunday is a day of rest for some. For me it’s all about the three big ‘P’s, Preparation, preparation and more, preparation.
My working style has been described as ‘calm’ and ‘measured’, but little do people know that despite the appearance of a gliding swan, I am in fact, paddling furiously under the water.
So what does my preparation involve for the week ahead? Well, I get out my secret ‘working to success bible’ and focus on how I will apply the techniques I am learning each week. At some point I am going to write a book on ‘How to succeed in the workplace in ten easy steps! ™’, soon everyone will realise just how easy it is. Maybe I will do a few seminars nationally first, who knows.
Anyway, here are some examples from my ‘working to success’ bible, it’s just a snippet, obviously I can not disclose all the secrets just yet.
1) You have to be 100% behind someone, before you can stab them in the back.
2) If work was so good, the rich would have kept more of it for themselves
3) Never do today that which will become someone else’s responsibility tomorrow.
4) Put the key of despair into the lock of apathy. Turn the knob of mediocrity slowly and open the gates of despondency - welcome to a day in the average office.
5) If you can keep your head when all around you have lost theirs, then you probably haven't understood the seriousness of the situation
6) If you treat the people around you with love and respect, they will never guess that you're trying to get them sacked
7) If at first you don't succeed, remove all evidence you ever tried
8) Know your limitations and be content with them. Too much ambition results in promotion to a job you can't do.
9) If you're gonna be late, then be late and not just 2 minutes - make it an hour and enjoy your breakfast
10) A problem shared is a problem halved, so is your problem really yours or just half of someone else’s?
11) I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it was just some bastard with a torch, bringing me more work.
……. Anyway, I must get back to the preparation for tomorrow
February 17, 2005
I wonder where Neil Scranage is today?
Why, when I was thinking about trying to design a user interface for a reconciliation tool and considering getting a chemical cup of free coffee, was I suddenly wondering where a person I hardly knew seven years ago, was doing now?
Well, one of the hundred or so subconscious conversations going around me at work became a conscious one today. I guess it’s like having a mouse trap set all day, lots of little fluffy mice walk over the trap without you ever thinking, then one, slightly plump one sets of the trap. A chain reaction of thoughts, just without cheese.
Now this subconscious mouse trap conversation was an incredibly boring one . It was not who had slept with who at the department night out. It was not even the one that ‘John had screwed up again, for the fifth time’. Nor was it the moaning about the coffee tasting like it had been purified through a chemicals plant. And funnily enough it wasn’t about how the day seemed to be going so slowly, (one that I was never able to work out, does that mean you haven’t got enough work to do, just keep quiet stupid). No it was something far more mundane than that. “I can’t turn my head for five minutes without him using my P.C when I’m not looking, it’s really starting to piss me off”.
Now that mundane subconscious thought became a conscious one today, because just like normal, small things trigger off a chain of afterthoughts. They trigger off things you don’t really want to think about, like the time you kissed ‘that’ girl at the school disco or like the time you threw up in your hand at that party and hoped nobody would see (but of course they did!). All the thoughts you tried to block, the hidden under the floorboards type memory ones, occasionally pop out at your head for no apparent reason like a big, fat, ugly spider.
I suppose it’s like when people say “How did we ever get on this subject?”, after finding themselves talking about pet food when only three minutes ago they were talking about project deadlines.
So, the conversation about not leaving your pc without locking it. Well, just like most company rules, they are there to be ignored.
“Rule no 5 – When users are not at their desks, they are required to lock their p.c to prevent unauthorised user access”
Now, most people don’t. If you go and get a coffee, you just don’t lock your p.c. And that’s exactly what happened to me, seven years ago, only three weeks into my first proper job. I had left myself open to a practical joke that could have gone seriously wrong.
I came back to my desk. An email was proudly sitting in my newly acquired inbox.
To : Rich Cooper
From : Andrew Walker
Subject : re: Alien Abduction
I think you have got the wrong person,
That was strange I thought, I had never sent out an email to a person called Andrew. So I decided to read the message history and this is what I found:-
To: Andrew Walker
From : Rich
Subject: Alien Abduction
This keyboard has been overtaken by an alien. I am having sex with your fingers right now, your keys feel so horny, I hope you return the complement.
Five minutes later, a smirking Neil Scranage came to my desk. “Have you received any emails from Andy recently?” he said. He was proud of his prank. And, in many ways, I would have been proud of it too. But, and unfortunately for me, he had sent this email to the wrong Andrew Walker. Not the ‘open minded, up for a laugh mate’ Andrew Walker, but a senior manager in the company with the same name. So, fresh faced and keen to make an impression, I had just conveyed my undying sexual desire for a senior manager in the company I had just started working for.
And for that moment in time, which I thought was well confined to my under the floorboards memory, I thought I was going to get fired, then and there. Or worse still, being confronted by a large, balding, homosexual man in the lifts at work. Thankfully for me, nothing was said, I forced Mr Scranage to send an email of apology, and the senior manager decided to practice leniency, even though it was strictly against company policy.
Right, time for a coffee, only two hours before home time, I’ll just lock my p.c.
February 14, 2005
Junk mail hits me again this year
Things were just working against me today. Firstly, when I turned on my phone this morning, I was bombarded with twenty five new text messages. Now I haven’t read any of them, my views on potential spam messaging is simple, spam is one big sham. Well actually I lied. I did read the first one, but I knew it was dodgy straight away. I didn’t have their number stored in my phone and it was signed off with ‘xx’, I didn’t realise the companies who used spam were that stupid as to remain anonymous.
To make matters worse, the door bell went off just before I was leaving for work. Now, I hadn’t ordered anything, I wasn’t expecting anything, so I decided to leave it at that. Unanswered.
And it didn’t get much better. I opened my email to see a cluster of red, unread emails. First there was spam on my phone, and now there was spam in my email. Just like my spam texts, I decided to read the first one. These things really piss me off. It was from a company which looked like ‘A D Mirer’. Didn’t really read much more, once again that had this ‘xx’ business at the bottom. Damn cheek. Wont even say who it was from.
Well, after a strange day, it was good to finally get through the door. Well nearly. The door jammed, extending only two feet wide. This was getting beyond a joke. I had to get down and manually push away the junk mail which was causing the door to jam. The ‘companies’ that were spamming my phone and mail box, were now spanning my letterbox. Where was it going to end?
It was not just the volume of spam, but the nature it. Now it seems they are going to incredible lengths to entice their victims to open the mail. It’s quite clever. It seemed they had actually employed someone to write my name and address in handwritten ink on the envelope. How long must that take! It seems it’s not just British companies that are doing this sophisticated trick. The stamps on these envelopes came from places like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. This was really clever, as I had been to most of these countries recently, how did they know that? Or maybe these spam companies were getting these sent from abroad, they must be using different people to write on the envelopes as all the handwriting was different and it was inconsistent. Some had my post code on, others didn’t. Most had ‘Rich’ instead of Richard, now that was strange. Officially on bills my full name permits.
And another thing, all these envelopes were red. I felt like opening all these envelopes up and writing to the companies to tell them where to stick their junk mailing, but I thought better of that. They went straight in the bin.
I think I have solved it. Recently I was sent emails asking me to update my address and contact details for some of my friends online address book, I think it was called 'Bebo' or something. Maybe this company was responsible for all the junk mail? Maybe I should be a bit more careful in the future.
Okay, the final straw. Not only had these companies tried to trick me with red envelopes donned in girlie type handwriting, they had sent me junk parcels. Unbelievable. Do you really think I was going to go to the post office to collect my undelivered parcels anyway? There were six failed delivery cards. I looked at the first one. ‘Item 1223333452 was attempted to be delivered at 8.00am this morning, but the customer wasn’t in, a signature is required for delivery’. I was in at 8am and I never saw the postman, all goes to confirm that this was just a lot of junk mail, my rubbish bin was nearly full now.
So that was it, a day of junk. It’s funny, I had exactly the same experience this time last year. If it happens two days in a row I suppose I’ll do something about it, but for now the once a year pattern is pretty acceptable I guess.
One of the offending pieces of junk mail I got, straight in the bin, their tactics are really sickening
February 12, 2005
Things in the news this week that made me wince.....
1) Workers taking liberties at work
In my opinion this guy got what he deserved. The sack. He knew the terms and conditions, so why did he just not follow them? In fact, this should be just the start. If the authorities stop there, it will be a failure to society in my opinion. Okay, this was an airport worker, but why should it stop at airports?
Every single workplace should have measures to stop such abuse in the workplace. They could start simple. Maybe a finger measure test. The guidelines would set the maximum amount of fingers you should use as a guide in the morning. Of course, a formule would have to be incorporated calculating finger diameter and strength of product, but in the short term this could easily be achived.
Secondly, and most importantly, companies could put controls in place as the employee walked into work. It would only take a couple of minutes, but it would save a lot of face for the company down the line. All employees would subjected to a ‘wind tunnel’ test. Depending on the amount of give and flow, the employee would pass or fail the test. This in turn could result in the employee being sent home, or disciplinary action. Anyway, I’ve only had a couple of minutes to think about solutions to this significant problem, but it just goes to show, with enough support, there is always an answer.
I guess my conclusion is that there are some important issues that are not being addressed in workplaces all over the world. This article will back up my point. We all know about discrimination, minimum wages, racism, performance management, career prospects, pensions, job security, its just I feel that some issues like the one highlighted are completely overlooked in their value. I’m sure you will agree.
The new, major problem, in the workforce today…………….
moral – take a hold of things at work before they get out of control
2) The pain of her actions
I cannot believe how much this woman is suffering, as she says “This has caused much anguish to me and will do for the rest of my life”. I read this story and I have to say, I really feel for her. She must have experienced so much torment after such an event. Can you imagine the sheer pain at the time the assault took place? I mean, it is some feat to do what she did; she could have sprained her arm or anything.
And then there is the anguish factor. And this is why I feel for her. I mean I know lots of women who have all been in the same situation at a party, had a bit too much to drink, you know, pulled a bit too hard, finding it in your hand and wondering what to do with it next. As with all times, you normally just pass it to your friend, pretend it wasn’t you, and then get her to pass it back to the bloke you have just taken from.
After all, it’s a party, Nobody will remember in the morning! Ok, you will wake up in the morning with sore bits, but hey, it was a party right! I just hope that she can get on with a normal life. Good luck to her.
moral : Never lose your balls in a fight
3) A man sticking to his morals
This article made me think ‘so maybe the world is a good and honest place after all’. We have all been in situations socially, where people make promises, but fail to deliver time after time.
You know the ones I mean. The ‘if you help me out, I’ll promise to buy you a beer next time I see you!”. Now, in truth, the fact that you don’t get that beer the next time you see them, is, not the point. I mean you are not going to be seriously effected if you don’t have 'that' beer, after all, you could buy one yourself. It’s not the failed promise of “you will have to come round for dinner!” that really grates you, after all, you could get your own dinner.
It’s building up confidence in people, it shows that when people say something, they are not just saying it for effect. So, this next article really brought that home to me. Imagine the sheer delight when this person actually delivered what he promised! It just goes to show, the next time someone says in jest “I’ll walk naked in the city centre if pass your driving test”. Remember, it maybe in jest, but after reading this article I would like to think that everyone would do as they promise, and the world would be a better place!
moral : don’t cut off your balls to spite your face