Thursday, 31 March 2011

The first of April

The last staff members who were leaving this week, have now, officially, left the office. As it was my day off today I missed most of the last goodbyes but I've heard from more than one person that it was a pretty unpleasant day, with a few tears and sad farewells.
We all knew these days were coming, in fact, we've had just over four months notice, but it doesn't make it any easier.
I went through redundancy in another newspaper company, based in Paisley, in early 2005 and we were not even given a month's notice. We were all taken into an office, not two months after the newspaper launch, and told by the bulls***ter of a boss that we had to be out the building by the afternoon. We couldn't even make a cup of tea in that place so, in the end, I was quite glad to be out the place but still I had to get out there and find another job. A slight pain, especially as it was only a week after I had successfully gained a new mortgage.
For the past few months in S&UN there were a few folk seemingly not that bothered to be leaving the company and there were a few folk kidding on they were not that bothered, but, from what I could tell this week, most folk were genuinely sad to be leaving and I was genuinely sad to see them go. It's all going to be very different without them.
It's the first of April tomorrow and the new shifts for the remaining 12 members of staff start tomorrow. As it's the first of April I'm half expecting to walk in at nine o'clock in the morning and find the HR lady standing, greeting me at the office door with a P45 and a big grin, "April fool!".

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Fruit cases and balloons

Paul is going round the office drawing faces on balloons. Everyone who is leaving the office this week is getting one. They're going to act as a reminder to those that are left of their former work colleagues. Just in case the twelve that are left forget about them, as we walk through the large, desolate, empty office, through the many abandoned desks and computers leading the way through the room.
Paul is using his fantastic artistic skills, perhaps picked up in a far and distant episode of Play School, to draw happy, smiling, rather freaky looking faces. Bright, coloured bulbs, swaying about on sellotape attached to their computer monitors, grinning with sparkling felt tip eyes, shiny pink lips and coloured hair. I'm sure Felix will make his way round the room with a pin at some point, but for the moment they sway at their various posts throughout the large office, like hot air scarecrows. Unfortunately Gail was the first to pop, leaving a pathetic flop of rubber hanging from her monitor. I think she may have inadvertantly taken part in one of the many games of Piggy in the Middle that Mary, Tricia and Paul were playing as they whiled away their second last shift.
Margaret brought in two giant strawberry sponge cakes for everyones' tea breaks, plastered in cream and icing sugar. Not good for those of us on diets, with fruit for lunch but they were eaten all the same.
We'll miss Margaret's cakes. Cheesecakes and banana loaves were the norm with Margaret and Mary. They'd quite often bake a big cake and bring it in, in order to share with DVD Andy, Creamy Chicken John, Stuart, Gareth, Lost Ian and myself. Tempting us with cream cakes while at the same time threatening us with the cupboard if we misbehaved... Our small, coffee break crew has changed over the past few years, with Lost Ian being the first to suffer the dreaded redundancy, Gareth leaving for better things (well, Rangers News anyway) and Stuart now falling foul of the big 'R'. Both Mary and Margaret are leaving this week, along with Tricia, Heather, Julie, Mandy, Gail, Paul, Gary, Alison, Linda, Paula, JP, Diana, Cameron, Davey and big 1066, sorry David Hastings. Absolutely gutted so many people are going. A real loss to S&UN, everyone of them... most of them anyway.
On Saturday night it was the Prepress night out and, from 8 onwards, we were in Arta. Ka was in town shopping with her Mum during the day, so I met up with her afterwards for the cinema and then a short walk down to Arta, the club notorious between my wife and I for being my false alibi on the night of my Glasgow Stag night.
Arta is a rather trendy bar and club, in Glasgow's Merchant City, with decor including stone statues, big comfy chairs, tall candelabras, thick, patterned curtains, giant paintings and vast amounts of fake fruit piled up in baskets. Not sure what the fake fruit is all about but together it all looks splendid. Jill, a good facebook pal and former employee of S&UN, liked the fake fruit so much, she took some for herself and even tucked some oranges down her trousers to try and convince us all, if any of us were in any doubt, that she does indeed 'have balls'. Obviously she's only got the mental balls, the fake fruit looked slightly artificial down her trousers. Well, to most it does.
Ka had part of her Glasgow hen night there just under two years ago and, after a few bottles of champagne or two, Aunty Nancy decided to nick the fruit basket at her table, believing it to be real. Now she has balls. Walking out of Arta with a fruit basket can't be easy to do. Aunty Nancy still insists to this day that the pineapple was real.
It's also got Monks. When the hour strikes (the specific hour I can't quite recall) a monk strides out on to the stone staircase, his face hidden by his oversized hood, and bangs a large gong and as the sounds of opera fill the air, rose petals start to drift down from the ceiling covering all those waiting on entry to the downstairs club. Looking up I could see the waiters and waitresses from the restaurant upstairs, standing over us, on the balcony, emptying large, wooden caskets filled with the petals. As we waited and I watched the milling crowds queuing up below I considered how unfortunate it would be if one of those large caskets slipped from one of the waiters' fingers. It would be especially unfortunate as I'd left my British Red Cross badge and card at home. I had no proof that I was a First Aider?! Linda, Anna and Tam were all office First Aiders too, mind you, so the unfortunate clubber would probably survive. Unless another falling casket hit one of the giant baskets of fruit, sending a whole pile of oranges and apples down over the top of them. After a few moments he, or she, would realise it was all fake fruit and fight his way out the pile to freedom, only to be hit by a pineapple falling from the bottom of the basket, which would knock him out cold.
"Told you!" Aunty Nancy would shout, popping her head out from behind one of the thick, patterned curtains.
Anyway, we were eventually allowed entry to the club below, brushing petals off our shoulders, and all had a pretty good night. Ka and myself left around one in the morning to get a bus, leaving the majority drunk and happy, dancing and loopy, posing for the camera or playing with their fruit.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Carl from 'Ghost'

Fame, teenagers, John Travolta, relationships, wives and incidents in Glasgow car parks. Just a few of the subjects discussed by the Liverpudlian comedian John Bishop in the SECC last night. In fact Bishop's main subject was probably his wife. After having been married for the past 17 years, in what sounds like a slightly rocky relationship, Bishop gave us tales involving the many ups and downs, highs and lows, trials, tribulations and arguments with his wife. Usually won or started, in some way or another, by the wife. All these tales, and others, delivered in his usual naturally funny, toothy, scouse manner.
Bishop likes Glasgow too but then don't all visiting acts, taking bookings for venues with well over a thousand bums on seats?
He likes Glasgows history, it's entertaining football scuffles and it's great barn. The barn we were sitting in as we listened to him. The SECC, not the SECC Auditorium, where I thought the night's entertainment was, arguing with Ka on the way into town, driving up to Kelvingrove to find a place to put the car. I'd always thought the Auditorium was part of the SECC. Unfortunately Ka was right on this occasion and apparently the Auditorium was never officially called the SECC Auditorium as I thought it had been (or the Armadillo for that fact). The McGarvas backed Ka up on this, after we met them all in the SECC's front coffee bar. Colin, Jillian, Dougie and Grace all looked at me blankly as I tried to explain my reasoning behind my initial thoughts. As Colin and Jillian enjoyed some of the free whiskies that were being given away, the in-laws all ganged up on me and I didn't stand a chance.
Well, it wasn't that last week on the way back from the cinema.
Ka and myself had just been to see Liam Neeson's latest flick 'Unknown', the story of a man that wakes from a coma, following a car accident to find his identity, life, and even wife, has been taken by another man (the thought of it!). A familiar but little known actor by the name of Aidan Quinn features in 'Unknown'. One of those many actors you see in movies whose face you recognise but whose name you don't know or just always manages to escape you. These actors and actresses seem to be in loads of movies and after spotting them you always immediately, without fail, start pointing at the tv or screen saying things like, "Oh, look, it's him", or "Oh, look, him, he was in that the other day!".
People look at you blankly.
"He was in that thing, with whatsername!" you might click your fingers at this point and look into a far corner of the ceiling. "You know we were watching it the other week and he was the guy that got killed!"
As the frustration mounts this 'unknown' knowledge either puts you off the rest of the current movie your watching, ever time you see him or her, or it makes you have to leave what your doing and rush to your nearest google search engine. If this happens to be in the middle of a cinema screening, so be it. I wonder if cinema workers ever have people rushing out half way through a movie, disturbing their popcorn making, accosting them desperately for the nearest internet outlet with shouts of "It's him, it's him!"?
Sometimes you can't even remember what you were watching when you last seen the actor or actress, you can't remember where you were, who you were with, or even, in Liam Neeson's case, who you were!
Anyway, the argument on the way back from the cinema that night came about because of Aidan Quinn. Ka came out of 'Unknown' under the impression this actor played opposite Patrick Swayze as Carl in 'Ghost', the villain of the piece. Remember? The guy that got Sam killed with the help of Willie Lopez?
Ka said she'd hardly seen Quinn in anything since 'Ghost' and I shook my head on hearing this. Aidan Quinn was not Carl in 'Ghost', I told Ka, that was some other guy.
I knew because I seen the guy that was Carl in 'Ghost' in 'The Last Samurai' only a month or so ago, when I sat up late one night to try and watch it. Unfortunately I had no idea 'The Last Samurai' was six hours long and fell asleep around the two hour mark. That one movie seemed longer than a sitting of the whole of 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy, complete with Special Extended Editions with 'day turning to night and then turning back again' extra scenes and easter eggs.
Anyway, Carl in 'Ghost' didn't even remotely resemble Aidan Quinn so when Ka started growing more and more frustrated with my dissent on the matter I knew I was on to a winner. I mentally rubbed my mental hands with glee, steering home from Glasgow as Ka got more riled up and eventually text her movie expert brother, Colin, on the matter.
Needless to say Colin responded almost immediately, texting back the name of the guy that actually played Carl in 'Ghost'.
I'm sure you can imagine what happened next. Ka went very quiet as she read, refusing to respond to Colin's text and being suddenly hesitant in answering me about what Colin had wrote.
Oh, how I laughed, enjoying the moment. I love moments like that. Sheer, unadulterated smugness. I was right. Michael was right. The wife was wrong. The man of the house won the argument!
We do have better arguments. Bigger, more worthwhile, life affirming arguments. Arguments that don't involve Carl from 'Ghost'. I don't win those arguments.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The jolly Reids' outing

It was a bit of a jolly Reids' outing over the weekend as 12 of us jumped on an easyjet flight to Gatwick, early Friday morning. As snow started falling once more over Scotland Ka, Lynsey Ann, Kenny, Dad, Mum, Aunt Anne, Uncle Ian, Aunt Tricia, Uncle Tommy and myself along with Dougie and Grace, Ka's Mum and Dad, all headed to Glasgow airport early on Friday morning.
It was Uncle Jim's 50th birthday and we were all heading down south to Banstead in order to attend his surprise 50th Birthday Party in his local Cricket Club, organised by our cousin, James, among others.
Aunt Ann came over from Fulham on the Friday to stay with Tommy and Tricia who had the run of Tommy's sister's house while she was on holiday, somewhere around the same area.
Colin and Jillian travelled over from another part of London in their glow in the dark car, on Friday afternoon, where they had been visiting Jillian's sister Claire and enjoying a bit of theatre in the city centre and to complete the family gathering, Uncles Tom and Laurence jumped in the car on Friday evening and drove down to Birmingham to hook up with Aunt Maureen on the friday night before heading on further down to Surrey, from her flat in Knowle, on Saturday morning.
For the whole of the friday afternoon we were unsure how we were going to make our presence known to Jim. James was on the other end of our text messages, no doubt stressing as he desperately tried to keep our travelling down a secret. He had planned for us all to surprise Jim on the Friday night, perhaps having us all sitting in his living room as he came home from work that evening. However, James explained that earlier in the week Jim had took the notion to start doing a bit of DIY, taking off the kitchen cupboard doors for instance, getting rid of some wobbly furniture legs, replacing them with piles of books and pulling carpets up. Plans also went a little astray for James when Jim contacted him during the day informing him that he'd be staying in London with business pals. Some blatant lying ensued and James sorted it out with the help of the business pals, who I assume cancelled their plans with rubbish excuses.
So on Friday night we made sure we were all in his local, the Woolpack, for his after work drinks. The Woolpack was a cosey, friendly pub on the Banstead High Street and turned out to be a rather busy meeting point to surprise someone.
After the women, perhaps inadvertently, intimidated some chatting couples away from the largest table in the bar, we all took our seats to wait, at first unaware that we'd picked the chairs closest to one of the pub's larger windows which looked directly out on to the car park. At around twenty to eight, cousin James rushed into the bar, breathless and a little stressed, blurted something about being back in half an hour with Jim and rushed back out again. It was his job to deliver his Dad round to the pub for his first surprise of the weekend. The Reids, Symingtons and McGarvas all waited patiently for another half hour, keeping ourselves busy with some beers, most of us not noticing the incredulous face of Jim appearing in the window at our side a little later as James tried and failed to rush him through the door without seeing us. Our first rendition of 'Happy Birthday' rang through the pub as he entered, laughing, embarrassed and confused. Tricia, Tommy and Ann turned up an hour or so later to join in the Birthday fun, the rest of us greeting them with a more general shout of "Whay-hey!" which turned heads around the pub once more. It certainly must have been one of the Woolpack's more livelier of recent nights.
After the surprise of finding a reasonable fraction of his family in the Woolpack, Jim had immediately started worrying about the contents of his cupboards and the state of his flat unaware that he had bigger surprises to follow.
After a short wander around town on the Saturday afternoon, we finally managed to settle Jim down in a small social bar on the Banstead High Street whilst James nipped home to await the arrival of Tom, Laurence and Maureen in the big Volvo. After Jim getting us all signed in for 50p a head we got the drinks in, Jim being made to sit with his back to the front door, thusly unaware of Maureen, Tom and Laurence nonchalantly strolling up behind and wandering up to our table to greet us. Once more I had the camcorder out and captured the moment as Jim laughed. James, standing at the side enjoying his Dad's reaction, rubbed his hands with a conniving smile. 2 surprises down, 1 to go.
On the Saturday afternoon, Mum, Grace and Lynsey Ann worked on the cold half of the buffet for a good few hours whilst James had organised Cindy and her Mum to work on the cooked half. Apparently Mum had a great wee sandwich making production line going on in her room whilst the rest of us where, you guessed it, in the pub. The Kingswood Arms to be precise, a short walk through the forest and down a posh street from our Inn. Another nice looking, traditional english pub, with timber frames around stone and wooden walls, burning log fires, nooks and crannies in which to hide and big club sandwiches. the kind of pub you always seen Inspector Morse supping an ale in.
The Banstead Cricket Club, although less attractive on the inside, was the main reason for the visit, of course. The Club lies just across the road from Jim's house, along a dark path, unlit at night until you hit the Club's steps, at which point a spotlight beams down on you as you arrive. This location made arriving at the party in secret slightly problematic.
Tom, Laurence, Maureen, James and James' girlfriend, Sophie, were all in the house getting ready to head round to the restaurant James and Ka had supposedly booked earlier on. Our taxis all pulled up outside his house, making us all have to disembark with trays of sandwiches and salmon crackers and then run across the playing field in the darkness as quietly as we could, avoiding the light shining out from the windows behind, in which familiar Reid shaped shadows moved.
At around quarter to eight in the evening, Jim finally wandered into a darkened Cricket Club behind Laurence and James only to find a large gathering of friends and family waiting for him. Cue another rendition of 'Happy Birthday', more laughing followed by the shaking of head and shaking of hands. Needless to say, everyone had a great time. More drinking, a bit of dancing, (mostly from the Scottish contingent I might add), a few speeches, heckling, the great buffet, photo opportunities (taken and lost), shots of sambuca and old man's vodka, wine spilling, Scottish translating, bear hugging, first aid, slagging, introductions and small talk. Everything a good party needs. All the while I darted round with a camcorder trying to take in some of the atmosphere, recording a few birthday messages, whilst getting a lot of dirty looks and mutterings from the less camera friendly.
Even after the main event, back at Jim's flat, the birthday boy himself was moaning at me to put the camera down and my Aunt Maureen growled for me to get 'outta her face'.
I've got some great memories for him on that camcorder, though I doubt he'll need the help to remember it all. As my Dad said to Jim in the Social Club on the Saturday afternoon, he'll never trust James again.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Beware the chides of March

Ka went to town yesterday with my Mum and sister to do a bit of shopping. While she was there she text me asking if I needed anything. I text back 'A present'. So she obediently brought me a present home. Ka must have went to Frasers, Debenhams, Next and probably passed the front door of HMV and all I got was a pineapple tart. "I've just been to the gym", I thought, "I can't eat a pineapple tart".
A pineapple tart and a mug of tea later, I relaxed. Pineapples must be one of your five a day anyway and I was back in the gym today so I'll have ran it off by now. Still all that cream cake goodness can't be good for the cholesterol. Can't be good for the old ticker - more senses of impending doom.
There's a general sense of doom in the work at the moment too. At the end of March everything is going to change. The lucky twelve who managed to retain a job in the restructured production department are all being trained up for the new system or brushing up on other areas in the department they hadn't previously given much thought for. The others, who did not secure positions, are all making plans, moving on, some slagging the company off as they go. There's a lot of speculating on how long the new, restructured department will actually last. Most, however, are just facing facts and getting on with it with varying states of despondency or 'don't give a sh*t' attitudes.
Late during the Monday evening, for instance, we were all awoken from our late shift slumbers by Cameron who decided to firmly put a foot down. His shift had finished at five and he had decided to wait on for his sis, Diana who works over in ads with myself, for a lift home, to save him getting the train. Diana was also under the impression we'd all be getting out early as there was no work left to do in our department and as a result most of us were sitting twiddling our respective thumbs, belly's grumbling.
After Diana's third attempt in asking if we could head home and Felix's third refusal, somewhere, on the other side of the room, Cameron clicked.
It was like the Michael Douglas movie Falling Down, except without the tie or the firearms (or Michael Douglas).
"Well I'm going home!" Cameron announced, swinging his jacket around his shoulders. as words were exchanged things unfortunately descended into a small, stubborn, shouting match between Felix and himself, Diana cutting in whenever she got the chance. It ended with the brother and sister marching out the office and Felix being left at his computer, thanking them for their input.
Unfortunately both Cameron and Diana are moving on, at the end of March, and I, among others, will miss them. Cameron was the first person in the office, and probably the only guy, to come straight up to me, shake my hand and congratulate me after finding out about Ka and my pregnancy. He's also a fellow sci-fi buff/geek and always has a good movie trailer to show us on the friday afternoon. His sister, Diana, has also been a good pal in S&UN and was my number one office Lost and Doctor Who gossiper when both shows were on the box, especially after big Lost Ian left. Diana also does loads of hefty car adverts which I'll probably have to do after she leaves. Thanks Diana.
A few months back, when I was over on the dark side of the office planning a paper one day, Cameron had been telling me all about how he used to be really bad tempered at work. Unpleasant. Impatient. Angry. Apparently now he was very mellow compared to what he had been. Calm. Patient. Helpful. (Okay, maybe I'm overegging it a bit there...) More at ease with his surroundings, anyway, and not losing the rag half as much, or to half the effect he used to.
There was a story told once of Cameron launching a phone handset half way through the open plan office. Of course, I wasn't sure whether to believe this. Yeah, I'd seen a bit of a temper when he'd spoke to certain individuals over the phone and heard the occasional curse from his general direction, but nothing the rest of us don't do when occasionally faced with a permanently crashing computer, a pile up of amendment sheets or a lack of teaspoons in the cutlery drawer.
Why is it work cutlery drawers always lack teaspoons? One day, a new new bunch of teaspoons appears for everyone to use to stir their teas, coffees or hot chocolates but then after a mere few days of teaspoonful bliss, they vanish. Gone. Snaffled away for the teaspoon mafia.
One morning I ended up stirring my tea with my bic and the flamin' pen decided to burst. It brought a whole new meaning to taking your tea black.
Anyway, I'd never seen any phones getting chibbed around in the office. Maybe just the occasional slam. I certainly can't even imagine anyone in our office being angry enough to chuck a phone handset such a distance. My mind boggles about what the person on the other end of that phone could have done to aggravate Cameron in such a way. Could she have requested the reshuffling of an entire planned paper just for one advert? Could she have been complaining about the non inclusion of a late advert? Could she have disagreed with him on the principles of The Phantom Menace? Or could his pen just have burst in his tea and it was actually nothing to do with the woman on the other end of the phone?
Do you think it would be safe to ask him without being on the receiving end?
One things for sure, S&UN life is going to be quite different come the end of March.
Still, at least the handsets will have a longer life.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Wrong turns and red cards

"I think I've taken a wrong turn", I growled as I pulled up alongside Glasgow's Royal Infirmary after leaving Colin's house in Kirkintilloch for home.
It could be the current roadworks on the A80 or it could just be my navigational skills but leaving Kirkintilloch to join the motorway proved itself too confusing for me last night. Especially being in the darkness, surrounded by traffic cones and countless 40mph signs, glaring everytime your headlights hit. For some reason I decided to take the road for Glasgow, believing that to be the best route back to EK. Of course I was wrong and if I'd stayed on the traffic cone filled road coming out of Kirkie, I'm sure I would have come across a road for Carlisle, somewhere through the plastic orange forest. These roadworks on the A80 feel like they have been a permanent fixture for years. It certainly feels like years driving up it, having to stay at 40mph the whole way. Still, nice to see the Motorway Maintenance employees are keeping their jobs.
Kenny and myself had been invited by Colin to watch the old firm game in his new pad. We had a good night. Colin was the perfect host, serving up a big footie buffet comprising of pizzas, sausage rolls, mushroom tasting scotch eggs and enough onion rings to feed a stadium along with plenty of beer, coke, bru and he even took requests for tea and mulled over the possibility of a bovril.
I'm not really into football in any big way and never have been. I always yearned to be a good footie player and enjoyed playing when I did but never could quite get the hang of it. I was always the last, or the second last, to be picked for the playground teams. I even tried to get into the school team at one point, under the watchful eye of Mr Stevens, the Janitor (a big, tall, scarey guy with a shock of grey hair who shouted at you if you tried to throw your lunch in the bin). When the other guys in school were all collecting the Football Panini stickers, desperately trying to swap for their favourite player, I was collecting the Star Wars stickers, trying to get the Millenium Falcon. I guess I was always just too much of a geek.
As a result, I've only ever had a feint interest in the sport of the masses, watching only the occasional game or getting excited about a World Cup and then watching a whole four matches. So I turned up at Colin's house not even knowing who played for what team. Bougherra? Was he not in the Jungle Book? With Baloo? (nose). It's been months and months since I last sat and watched any game of football. The World Cup final was probably the last football game I actually made a point of sitting and watching and last night reminded exactly why.
Last nights performance was more of a circus than a football game. Overpaid, over hyped egos, pouncing about a pitch for 95 minutes, doing their best to look aggressive, baring some teeth, squaring up shoulders, waving hands about whilst screaming and swearing, knowing full well most viewers back home, young and old, are more than capable of the odd lip reading session. One minute acting like cavemen, and the next rolling around the grass after being tapped on the shin.
One Rangers player spent five minutes talking to a rather embarrassed looking injury man desperately trying to make it look as if the bounce he'd suffered on the back of the head, from a passing thigh, was actually, in any way, painful.
It didn't stop with the injury time along with the red and yellow cards though. After the final whistle the managers started haranguing each other, Ally McCoist and hired ned, Neil Lennon, almost starting a boxing match in the dugout. The two, supposedly professional, bosses exchanging words and then growling at one another, spitting venom as police and trainers rush in to break them up. Or rather just before they would have had to actually hit each other which, let's be honest, was never going to happen. You wonder what they would have done if everyone had just left them to it. They would have angrily looked into each others eyes for a while longer and then looked around for suggestions on what to do next as Jim White got all excited in the commentators box.
Neil Lennon called they're little exchange 'passion' today. A wonderful statement. Scottish sports fans all over the country, watching and listening, believing it's okay to act like a complete kn*b becuase it's merely considered 'passionate'. You wouldn't appreciate the game without the 'passion'. A great example of Scottish football to set, not only the West of Scotland but, the rest of the football watching world.
34 arrests were made in and around the stadium for a variety of racial, breach of the peace and sectarian offences.
Stamping out sectarianism in Scotland, the big battle Alex Salmond is trying to win. It certainly won't be helped by those two numpties having a go in the dugouts.
Like I said though, what do I know, I was never into football.
Glad of it.
Saying that, I did win the first sweepstake based on the first player to score so the 95 minutes was not a complete waste of television time. £5 I won. Kenny, you owe me a pound.