Friday, November 26, 2004

Day 8

Yes, day 8. Last time I reached day 8 of anything was when we lost the master remote control for a while, dark days I tell you. This day 8 is much better as it’s my first day off since I got here. As expected I’m pretty knackered, but I’m looking forward to actually seeing some of Belfast over the next couple of days. Although Amy tells me they’ve been finding fire-bombs around the city centre, so maybe I’ll just stay in.

So what’s it all about? The week has been spent putting a new store together. Step one is getting a load of crates of books (mostly sorted into sections) and wacking them in roughly the right place on the shelves following a big plan that someone has done. Step two is properly sorting each section: alphabetizing, putting in sub-sections, pulling out the wrong stuff etc. These two steps took about 3 or 4 days to complete. Step 3 is the normal faff of micro-management (walking around with a single book for about half an hour trying to decide whether it should be in cultural studies or current affairs), prettying up table displays, face outs, POS and a load of other jargon. Basically the stuff that everyone does normally within their job. The stupid part of this, of course, is that this is all on-going work that is never really “finished” (unlike the infrastructure stuff) so we could do it until the cows come home; additionally the sections will be handed over to a load of people with no experience, so all those hours will be for naught as they decide to do something differently or just miss-shelve stuff.

I did feel a little pressured on the first day as I didn’t really think this through, it seemed like a test with the head-office bods checking your displays etc like hawks. One guy I was working with was really worried about the whole training people aspect of the job, but as it turned out there wasn’t that much involved and most of the managing just consisted of explaining to people the next job that needed to be done. After all, it’s a bookshop not rocket science and most of the display stuff is obvious if you’ve been doing it for a while. So, while still hard work and fairly mundane it has definitely been more fun than the normal job, mainly because there have been no customers. Bliss.

Interestingly everyone else I’ve been working with is a grade 5 or a manager. They were all really surprised when I said I was only a grade 2… apparently you’re not even meant to order stuff until you’re grade 3, let alone manage and train people or be sent on new store jobs. Naturally we’ve all been doing the same managerial stuff as the new store support team, so I’m left completely miffed as to how Jim can allot me responsibility without reward. I don’t want to manage, but a fair wage would be nice. Me and Al have definitely been screwed, my next dilemma is whether to email Jim about this.

The other really odd aspect to this is the amount of money being spent on us. £25 per night for food and drink, all other meals and transport paid for, flights, a hotel at £80 per night. Clearly it would be better for the company just to pay everyone a little more and curb the jollies. Not that I’m complaining right now, but as a general philosophy it seems to make sense.


Anyway, enough business. It’s still boring despite being in Belfast! My lack of blogging has been due to my glut of evenings out. There’s been 4 or 5 of us staying in this hotel for most of the week, so every night we go to the hotel restaurant and try to eat a three course meal (I fully managed every course last night, I’m so proud and fat). This normally takes a good hour or two. Then, naturally, we retire to the bar for a nightcap which, again, often ends up taking a good hour or two and being more than one. Yes, everyone I meet who works for Waterstone’s loves to drink. I think it’s something to do with all those broken dreams. It helps that we’re not paying either. We ventured out to a pub last night and crawled back about 1am leaving the place in full swing. How beautiful to have a choice about what time to stay out till.

It has been really good fun, although very bad for my ideas about sitting in my room being creative. My most creative time was actually at the airport when I wrote about how uncreative airports are. I was wrong, hotel rooms are even worse. They’re just not worth sitting in most of the time and no matter how tired and how hermit-esq you are/wish to be the bar always seems like a better option. Lack of music has been a big problem, some of the CDs on rotation at the shop were killing me, at one point we had a medley of Kylie and Guns n Roses. OK for a song or two, but after that just ugh. And then you come back to a quiet hotel room and the voices in your head are singing “go disco!” and there’s nothing you can do to drown them out. Horrible. Truly horrible.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Bland words

I tried to write some blog last night, but I was far too tired to write anything interesting. Problem is most of my daily stuff over the last couple of days is sorting, putting sections together and staff training… very boring to write about, although there is plenty to say about this stuff to other Waterstoneites. Plenty of boring stuff that is.

I do want to say loads of stuff about the bizarreness of this whole thing, the ridiculous amounts of money being chucked around and a load of other stuff, but I don’t know where to start, where to finish and what to put in the middle. Perhaps when I have a day off (probably not until next weekend) I’ll be able to get my thoughts in order.

What I’ve seen of Belfast seems nice, some decent grand old buildings in the centre and some big hills on the edges. Unfortunately it warmed up a bit today, so no snow yet, but I’m still hoping. Obviously there’s lots of areas that are a bad idea to visit, but as I’ve been mostly staying in the hotel that hasn’t really bothered me that much!

Oh, and we discovered today that someone had forgotten to order Harry Potter. Whoops.

Well, enough blandness for now.

Friday, November 19, 2004

a copy of a word document

Yeah, I’m mobile now… ish. Sitting in the departures lounge at East Midlands in café Ritazza or some such with me laptop. Except that the battery is knackered so I’ve hi-jacked a plug socket and there’s no wireless in the area (perhaps not surprising for an airport) so I can’t go online either. So not all that mobile really, more like stationary in a new location.

I must say this “lounge” is a little disappointing. As usual there is a dearth of comfy seats, but there is also a dearth of anything else. One small café and some businessmen. Oh, and a TV which is actually very far away from me but turned up annoyingly loud and showing that kids programme with the two chefs, one named Ben and one named Small (who, coincidently, is only about 6 inches tall). No one is watching it, why is it there? There is no option to change the channel or turn down the volume as far as I can tell.

Spent a bit of time before writing some stuff in my notebook. My main observation so far is simply the deadness of this travel time. It seems like all this sitting and waiting could be relaxing and used productively for reading and writing but, instead, it is simply dead time. Taken up with mooching and waiting and buying expensive snacks. There are none of the normal distractions of life, no other things to do (cooking, cleaning, crafts, gardening, TV, going out) but, no matter how hard you try, there is still too much thought involved in the waiting and watching to fully devote yourself to anything else. Always checking the time, looking at the departures board or staring into space to devote yourself to a greater cause. Dead time. Neither work nor play, earmarked for nothing but waiting, the most endless and unfulfilling non-activity there is.

Except that I am writing, so I’m proving myself wrong. I am fidgeting a lot though, and I feel rather uncomfortable. And I managed to do very little before I left the house this morning, except continually check I’d got the bus times correct and then leave 30 minutes early anyway. Not very jet-set.


Sitting in my room with a lack of soberness. I met three other people tonight. One guy, called Jim, works at Deansgate and, naturally, knows Liam. We ate and drank lots, our budget is a very reasonable £25 per person per night. It was a good night but, frankly speaking, I’m now pretty tired. It’s always knackering to be meeting new people.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

exciting things

Off to Ireland later today. Very excited. The only problem is that I have to pack, but I'm very comfy in my bed right now and I don't really want to move.

I'm in a swanky business style hotel in Belfast for the next week, so hopefully I'll be all wirelessed up and can write some drunken posts about the place (probably mostly consisting of "mmmm, the guiness is so good"). Actually I'm hoping to get some good writing time in, they'll be no household stuff to distract me so, apart from being knackered from working really hard, it could be a productive time.

Just don't mention the troubles.


The morgue booklet went down well at work yesterday (thanks for your comments everyone), I still can't decide what my next step is or if I'm 100% happy with it, but I suppose I'll get a few more printed (and try to improve the couple of pictures that are far too dark) and offer it for sale on MonkeyInFez. I keep meaning to investigate PayPal, I'm pretty sure I should be able to set up an account there that can take payments and make the whole selling stuff thing a bit easier... who wants to post a cheque for £2? Or, indeed, get around to cashing one...

Monday, November 15, 2004

some more mumbo-jumbo

today's favourite passage from francis wheen's how mumbo-jumbo conquered the world:

"Although much post-modernism may be nonsense, it is nonsense with a purpose: by using quasi-scientific terminology the po-mo theologians intended to explode the 'objectivity' of science itself. The fact that they knew nothing about mathematics, physics or chemistry was no obstacle. Luce Irigaray, a high priestess of the movement, denounced Einstein's E=mc^2 as a 'sexed equation', since 'it privileges the speed of light over other [less masculine] speeds that are vitally necessary to us'. In a similar vein, she protested at 'the privileging of solid over fluid mechanics, and indeed the inability of science to deal with turbulent flow at all', attributing this bias to the association of fluidity with femininity: 'Whereas men have sex organs that protrude and become rigid, women have openings that leak menstrual blood and vaginal fluids... From this perspective it is no wonder that science has not been able to arrive at a successful model for turbulence. The problem of turbulent flow cannot be solved because the conceptions of fluids (and of women) have been formulated so as to necessarily leave unarticulated remainders.'"



Very exciting! Listening to Radio 6 tonight and who should i hear but seachange, and then the presenter said it was a contender for record of the year! yay for si.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

good stuff

Excitement all round today. It seems like I’m going to be able to go to Ireland for 3 weeks with work to help set-up some new stores. I was pretty much ready to write off the next few weeks as a head-down crazy crimbo rush: exhausting, unrewarding, creatively unproductive and, put simply, something which you can’t wait to be finished with. And I did so used to love Christmas.

But now the 11th hour reprise as an opportunity which was briefly mooted a few weeks ago then lost to fate reappears. It may actually turn out to be harder work, days and days of just putting a new shop together, but they’ll be no irate Christmas shoppers and I’ll be (hopefully) in some picturesque locations. Bizarrely I might also end up saving some money as my transport, accommodation and food is all paid for. Things you’d never think could happen when you just work in a shop. So jet-set darrrrrhling.


The second bit of interest today was an email from my potential PhD supervisor in Chemistry with news that she has been awarded funding for a new project which could be my new project if I decide to work in Chemistry. So now I have a title: electron-nuclear dynamics and coupling in polarized vacuum ultraviolet laser ionization of optically prepared molecular states. Yeah! Check out the uber-geekness of it all.


Still not much happening on the creative front, hell, I haven’t even been blogging much these last couple of weeks. I tried to write some more about the election but the words weren’t flowing and I’m sure that everything worthwhile has already been said, only a nauseating feeling of sick certainty remains at the back of the stomach, rising bile driving forth the urge to rant and rave against the lunacy, but the words gagging me, stuck in my throat as I contemplate the full horror of where we go next.

I did manage to put together a few copies of my morgue book (as mentioned about a month ago) thanks to getting hold of a beautifully crafted long-arm stapler. It’s not quite perfect, some dodgy margins and a couple of pages that are far too dark, but once assembled into an object it’s actually quite satisfying. I’m now in two minds about whether to keep working on it and try to make some improvements, or just leave it to fester for a while (as usual!). If anyone wants a copy let me know.


Some other good things over the last couple of weeks were: Sufjan Stevens and Gravenhurst at the Maze (read more on my brother's blog), White Post Modern Farm Centre (not White Post-Modern Farm as I initially thought), lunchtime jazz in Leeds, gloves-on-string and silly hats at the fireworks (and curse global warming for it not being cold enough to properly enjoy getting wrapped up!) and The Algebraist by Iain M Banks (of which more in a later posting, another good but not great novel).


And finally, turning to the subject of unregulated free-market capitalism as championed during the industrial revolution and, latterly, by Regan and Thatcher and, to a lesser extent, Bush and Blair:

The rights and interests of the labouring man will be protected and cared for – not by the labour agitators, but by the Christian men to whom God in his infinite wisdom has given the control of the property interests in this country.

So quoteth an American mine owner in 1902, so quoteth Francis Wheen in How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World as he dishes out righteous beat-downs to ‘the voodoo revolution’ of the free market.

Friday, November 05, 2004

yes, but...

we're still fucked, but beer and bowls on bbc2 is really mellowing me. and as pete pointed out, we've at least got 4 more years of steve bell cartoons to look forward to.

what i want to say

i tried to post on wednesday morning, but my internet wasn't working:

fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck

but tonight i am definite:

fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck

we're fucked

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Watching democracy

I can’t decide if I should stay up to watch the results. As normal the TV coverage is a hodgepodge of riveting and banal, filler and revelation, and pointless shouting from Peter Snow. Most of this is frustrating, but it feels like this pain and excitement should be experienced first hand rather than going to bed and checking the result in the morning.

What has been interesting (or worrying) me today is the continual campaigning of Bush & Kerry. I am very bothered by the implication that people will decide who to vote for simply by who turns up to their state the most. I’d like to think this wasn’t the case, but there must be something in it otherwise they wouldn’t be making the effort.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Things feel fluid today (and I don’t just mean the rain), they feel wrong. Change is coming, it feels exciting and heady but strange and wrong at the same time. Something is going to happen soon.