Sunday 24 November 2013

#48 On the road

The train heading north out of the city was absolutely packed. I've no idea why. Fifteen minutes into the journey, the elderly gent stood next to me said to the driver "I hope I'm mistaken but there seems to be only one toilet on board and it's out of order". "That's right" replied the guard. "I've needed a piss for the last half hour" said the man, which I found semi amusing but I guess some people board the train early while it's still sitting on the platform, for whatever reason. Eventually the guard spoke to the driver and...

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about and chatting to Lela, who lives thousands of miles away. It's easier right now as the time difference between here and Flores Da Cunha is only two hours. I guess she's part of the family, having Skyped in for a couple of quick chats following my Dad's last month and now my sister's birthday meals. I took great pleasure in telling this to one of my other friends as I know how unusual she finds it that I'm great friends with someone I met on a dating site earlier this year, who now lives overseas. What can I say? I like her. Lots.

On the journey home, I walked by the latest Jack Daniel's billboard, which managed to make a massive and lucrative fuss about Christmas without actually mentioning the word. Further down the line, I sauntered casually past what I'm pretty sure was a drug deal, closely followed by an Indian bride, standing on the side of the street, alone, in full wedding garments with a bouquet of flowers and a baby in a carrier next to her. When a man pulled up to her in a car, she asked what his name was and then got in.

Sunday 17 November 2013

#47 Christmas shopping

I've decided to be a good house mate this morning by eating some biscuits. You see, the plastic lid of the McVitie's tub fits well over open tins of catfood, which we'd otherwise have to cover with clingfilm or foil. Plus it's washable. 

I recently started watching 24 again. I don't think you could call my recent viewing activity a binge but I've seen about five episodes this weekend. I'll concede if put under duress that the life of the fictional character Jack Bauer might be more interesting than this blog. 

I must have done my Christmas shopping, or at least part of it, on Oxford St for about the last five years. It's pretty busy now, even on 17 November but maybe it's just always busy. I think that's probably true. Unfortunately this year, the Michael Jackson impersonator wasn't out but I did get a look at that giant bubble thing over at Piccadilly. At the time, it looked pretty stupid because the bubble was massive but the amount of snow inside was so tiny that you could hardly see it. They were just setting it up though.

Saturday 9 November 2013

#46 Sarah

On Wednesday night, my cousin was in the city so we went out for some food. The cousins on my mother's side used to live in Bristol until they were about ten years old. My uncle Pete, a hard-working Liverpudlian, made his way up the ranks of the supermarket Gateway (which then became Somerfield before merging into Co-op) and accepted a job offer at Rebel Sport in New Zealand, at which point the family moved half way around the globe. They visit regularly enough to still be the cousins that I see the most.

Last year, Sarah had been having a really bad time with some of the people with whom she was living and decided she needed to get away. She left the house, worked out her notice at work, stayed in a hotel for a short period of time and made a plan for her next move. She had a friend that had worked on large ships in the Middle East and decided to follow suit by heading out to the Persian Gulf and working on a super yacht for a royal family. 

Despite the long hours and periods spent at sea, Sarah got to meet some F1 drivers and eat lavish food. During one spell of shore leave, she found a kitten in a dumpster and befriended it. Near the end of her travels, rather than put her friend back in the bin, she mailed it to New Zealand at a cost of several thousand dollars and it's now kept as a pet by one of her friends at home.

We met a a Vietnamese place called Tay Do, north of Shoreditch High St. Chilled out, bring your own drinks, with huge portions, which none of the six of us came close to finishing. The others at the table were a collection of people that she'd met at various points in her life, who happened to be in London at the time. After hearing most of the stories and finishing most of the food, we stumbled out, said goodnight and I made my way back south of the river.

Saturday 2 November 2013

#45 Columns

"Ask him why he wants to remove those two columns from the table, they were there last month". It was a simple request, until I thought about it. He was a director. Back in the 80s he'd graduated in applied mathematics from Cambridge and had been working his way up the ranks of the firm for the last 25 years. Two years ago he ran the London marathon in 2 hours 35. He was 49 when he did that. This guy had gotten himself to a level that most people never reach in their careers and I had to interrupt his day to ask him about two insignificant columns in an internal weekly update table. 

I pondered the situation for a minute, drew a breath. Was the requester simply frustrated at another change in format and using me to vent this frustration? Was it worth asking because, if right, the new format could be applied across other jobs, simplifying the weekly reporting process, albeit negligibly? In the end, I went with the "unit, corps, God, country" rule from Three Kings and asked the question. The request had come from my unit, the director was part of the corps. I had the courage to ask a pointless question of an important person and it wasn't really my question, so I went ahead and asked it.

In the moments that followed, I almost instantly regretted asking. The director had given the response I'd expected, the response I should have myself given to the requester earlier in the day when said requester was around. I decided that what I should have done was nothing and then explained the next day that asking just didn't feel right. 

Is that what I should have done? What was more important? The chain of command or my own view of the situation? Obviously the former, unless I knew that I was right or had unique knowledge that changed the situation. Given the non-urgency and low importance of the request, I should have left it. I didn't want to seem awkward though by not doing something so simple. Plus this was really good practice for when a similar dilemma of greater importance arose. I figure if it did, I would just have to make a judgement about the importance of the hierarchy versus the importance of the matter at hand and ask other people for advice if necessary.