We have new housekeepers, that’s the name for the army of people who keep our offices clean these days. Often, they are invisible, in at the crack of dawn, in charge of vacuum cleaners, dusters and bleach and gone before we leave the house. Not so the pair that clean our block, which is a two story rabbit warren a bit like the Tardis. I get there around 8.15 and it’s usually bin emptying time – I must be annoying because mine has orange peel, plum stones and yoghurt pots- and the cleaners are noisy. They are sisters and both built for comfort rather than speed, one blonde, the other dark and a laugh a minute in their lavender tunics and trousers, pushing a trolley stuffed with spare loo rolls and soap refills.



Today, being Friday the dark sister told us she is going ‘on the lash’ tonight and when asked if she will be in a sorry state tomorrow she insisted that no that never happens. Her prophylactic is a full tummy and a glass of milk beforehand and lots of water at bedtime, I’ll check on Monday to see if it worked!

Last week I caught blonde sister teasing, really, really big time teasing our senior department manager, a  reserved, formal man of few words. She actually called him a miserable old so and so, because he only grunts a reply to her cheery ‘good mornings’. I felt for him and tried to take it down a level by telling her how busy he is but she wouldn’t be halted. He later confessed that the situation was rather embarrassing, no doubt he has the wherewithal to deal with it.

I remember in the early part of my working life an outside company used to come each week to sterilize the telephones and twice a day a lady arrived with a trolley load of tea, coffee and biscuits. Those days are long gone, and now of course we have to clean our desks, and that’s fine.

Do you have a valiant team of office cleaners? Do you remember the days of the tea trolley? Perhaps you are the office housekeeper, if so I bet you have stories to tell?





Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime

Lunchtime on a weekday is about eating quickly at my desk and then going out for some fresh air to help keep myself awake for the afternoon. I always have my phone camera with me and keep my eyes open, these photos were taken at various times of the year. Sometimes I walk to the main building, the hospital, where there are often health related displays like the robotic surgery equipment I showed you recently. Below is a walk through, blow up model of the lungs to raise awareness of lung disease a couple of months ago. There are very old trees, and wide grassy areas around the campus and also a childrens park nearby as well as a lovely garden in the cancer support centre. If the weather is just too inclement I’ve been known to walk the very long corridors of the hospital to check out the constantly changing artwork on the walls, check out the shops or sit in one of several cafes. Not bad for a lunch break is it?

What does lunchtime mean to you? share at

I’m a blogging failure, will you forgive me?

I want to share with you a little of what’s been happening in my life recently. It’s been quite stressful for some time and all to do with work. I joined my organisation on a year’s fixed term contract in August 2010 after leaping from a job I hated. My contract was renewed a year later, for a further six months, and then three more renewals that took me up to yesterday. A couple of months ago I had to apply for the job I’ve been doing all this time, and I didn’t get it! I was invited to re-apply when it was advertised again and this time around, just in the nick of time I was successful. So here I am with a permanent contract, you wouldn’t believe the relief this has brought me. I’m single, have to support myself and despite paying tax and national insurance for forty years the state would have only given me around £72 per week to exist on if I joined the ranks of the unemployed. Even working I am still poor but my needs are few and my blessings are many, so this isn’t a sob story.

It is a tale of my failure though. My writing has suffered. I’m behind with my blogging. I’m behind with replying to comments. I’m hoping that you won’t all give up on me because I haven’t been present, you’re such lovely, and supportive people that I feel it will be okay. I can never catch up, it would take a week of solid work, so I’m just going to apologise and now that this huge anxiety has lifted I will refocus. I hope I haven’t totally lost my writing mojo because I begin a new writing course soon and need to be able to pull stories out of the bag. Talking of stories, I’ve failed with Madison Woods Friday Fictioneers challenges, missing the last two. Julia’s 100 word challenge for grown ups I might just manage because we have two weeks this time. I’m most sad because I really wanted to support Maggie Elizabeth, with her brand new weekly prompt Maybe some of you will join in with that one; you are all such good writers.

I have a lot of followers, many of you I haven’t said hi to – how rude am I? I can’t stand rudeness and I am ashamed of myself. I wish I could follow you all as well but at present I’m only just managing to visit everyone I do follow.

For the last few weeks a great contest has been going around, Travel Supermarket’s Capture the Colour and I have been invited to join by Blueberrie, and Elisa, and the closing date was yesterday. Guess what I missed it. Actually, time wise I could probably have made this one but after sending an hour trying and failing to choose the photos I gave up. Sorry girls and I really loved your entries.

Anyway, enough of what I haven’t done, enough beating myself up. How do all of you manage to find time to be a polite blogger, thank your followers and reply to the terrific comments as well as posting, working and living your lives? I LOVE to visit you, I’ve learnt so much and had real peoples views of so many wonderful places and insights into lives so different from mine. I get cross and feel I’ve missed out if I don’t visit. What’s your secret? Please share your time management skills!

Last of all, a big THANK YOU – I hope you’re still here 🙂

My Hobbit is Suffering

For the last few days the hobbit has been arriving at the office looking increasingly wonky. Have you ever seen an ancient black and white movie starring Boris Karloff as the mummy? Well that’s how the hobbit was walking. Being a hobbit and inhabiting an entirely wrong world where no-one was free to cast a healing spell, he has been suffering, noisily. And enjoying the sympathetic attention of the pretty audit ladies, who were visiting the department. How has he acquired this painful condition? Well it could be, that not only does he spend his working days in front of a PC, but also because he has a portfolio of shares to manage, he hunches over his home PC until his head crashing onto the key board wakes him up. His eyes are as red as the mummy’s might have been, if the film above had been colour.

I don’t believe this is the real cause though, because on Friday I witnessed something strange. Hobbit cleaned his desk for the first time ever.

I don’t know if you remember that I told you about his car? How it’s interior looks and smells like it’s been dredged up from somewhere very unpleasant? Well, this leads me to believe that it’s the first time he has ever cleaned anything. It may have caused this irreparable damage to his neck and shoulder.

Hobbit has been asking the women to massage his pain away and one kind lady did help, not me of course! I sent him scuttling off to buy some anti inflammatory. Of course he couldn’t reach the site of the pain and asked for help to apply it. In an office with sixteen people, you can imagine the response.

Today he muttered about getting some professional help in the form of a chiropractor, but then talked himself back out of it because of the cost – all his money is tied up in shares. I remembered that our noble employer offers a free physio service and helped him to find the number. He stalled. ‘Go on call them, the sooner you do the sooner you’ll get sorted.’ ‘Not with everyone listening, I’ll do it later.’ I think he’s scared it might hurt. Or that it might be a dragon of a physio. Or that it might be a very attractive physio. He won’t go, he is happy in his suffering.

So why was he cleaning his desk? He has moved and someone new is sitting beside me. Hobbit is  8 feet behind me and I miss him and his Hobbity ways, and his socks.

Crazy Polish Woman has gone downstairs

Yes truly! Ooonika, not how you spell it but I’m trying to provoke a reaction, has upped sticks and left my office and now works in another department. I didn’t frighten her away. I know this because she has been back up at least six times today. She needed to clear her desk, complain, help solve someone’s problem, complain, ask a favour of me, complain about the smell of a heavy smoker down there. Complaining about not having a window any longer. I do, whoopee I can see the sky and the hills!

CPW likes to sing, the Polish equivalent of humming, a sort of dee dee dee sound, when she’s happy or bored or attention seeking. She won’t be able to do that down there in the serious dungeon of management accounts, and I have already missed the noise but luckily, I can hear it in my head. It’s strange when people move on, you miss them, but they are busy learning new jobs and fitting into a different environment with new people.

CPW has promised to help me to translate some dialogue I have to write into sensible Polish but she may be too important now 😦 I know she will keep visiting though because my office has the best and most regular supply of biscuits and naughty stuff. But she won’t be able to hang around long enough to indulge in the type of stimulating and  intellectual conversation we usually have, who will I talk to now? She has been great fun to work with. I’ll just have to look to the hills and hum a dee dee dee in my head, perhaps I’ll step into her shoes and become the Crazy English Woman. I have already slid under her desk to pinch her footrest, right what else has she left behind?

A Hobbit Gets Wet

It started today when he arrived with wet hair and his shirt stuck to his body. He had nothing to change into, not a dry stitch on him. The white fabric was transparent when pulled away from his skin. Tiny waterfalls of rain ran down to the triangle at his throat, which was red from cold burn. He shuddered as fingers stroked hair from forehead to nape. Shoes kicked away and then socks peeled to lie in a heap ‘to dry’ he murmured, still breathy from his run. ‘You need a hot drink’ I said. ‘No no, but I’d like to take my clothes off, have a hot bath.’ I daydream for a moment; this reminds me of a film, something DH Lawrencey, starring some long gone actor.

You thought this was going to be rude didn’t you? Come on fess up!

Sorry, this is what really happened!

There’s a cute hobbit at the desk next to me and I’m his Auntiegee, the crazy Polish woman is his sis and for the last year we have been trying to educate him. Nothing too demanding, no nuclear physics, God particle or even how to tell a debit from a credit. No, just the simple things like eating three meals a day, not just one at nine pm, and how to not get lost on a five minute walk to Heavitree. And then there’s wearing a coat when it’s cold or a monsoon like this morning. He did have a coat, but he left it behind when he left his last flat, in a hurry because the bailiffs said he should. I’m glad he left it, quite frankly if I put it my dog’s bed they would wonder why I was punishing them. And anyway that was five months ago, before autumn and winter. Crazy PW, a couple other colleagues and I have tried to direct him towards a shop – even the charity shop across the car park to buy a coat but he pleads poverty. We know he’s not poor; his Christmas gift was money that’s been swept away by his current obsession, he’s dabbling in the stock market. When asked what shares he is buying he says ‘can’t tell you, it’s classified, if I did I’d have to kill you.’ He always tells me because he knows I’ll kill him if he doesn’t.

He has said before that there’s’ probably a waxed jacket somewhere at home – but that it would probably smell of dog. Like his car. That causes me to have an asthma attack whenever I’m within three feet of it.

We were actually really concerned for him today because he’s had a cold virus thing for ten days, so sitting around in wet clothes has got to be bad news. Our nagging was reinforced through the morning by relentless rain and so at lunch he went shopping. He doesn’t like shopping alone, and the day before he had a Christmas party, I went with him and successfully chose his clothes in ten minutes. I was too busy to go this time and anyway we have to let them go sometimes don’t we?

He went, and returned hugely proud, with a rain jacket-fleecy thing, at twenty quid a huge investment in his own well being. Now if we can just get him to invest in some shoes so that he doesn’t take them off, glue them and press them under the table leg behind me we could be making progress!

That’s my hobbit.



Three Words from a Crazy Polish Woman

My crazy Polish friend gave me my three words today. She’s a very intelligent woman who is slowly inventing a new language sprinkled with dedeeeee type sounds, and I’d hoped that she would come up with some inspiring choices, or even specially invent some, that I could help to define and progress. But no, she gave me some dull accountancy type ones and I thought twice about whether to bother writing from them.

Walking home in the sunshine I started thinking about the thirteen months I’ve been in this job. I work in a finance office in a large NHS foundation trust, a very small bee in a vast hive and it gives me a real buzz. Unlike previous jobs I’ve had, I don’t carry it home and there is zero stress. My colleagues are a diverse bunch who for their own safety, would probably be best permanently contained in the rabbit warren we inhabit for thirty seven and a half hours a week. We have the class clowns, the stroppy mood swingers, the mother hens, wannabe Romeos and the enfant Perdue’s, they’re glorious and I love watching them act out their roles.

The work itself isn’t challenging and many would think it sounds incredibly boring doing credit control for a big part of each day. The thing is, it’s about working people – quickly assessing how to handle everyone you call to get the best result. With some it means being quite firm and assertive, most just being genuine and once in a while – especially with the Welsh men – a touch flirtatious. And then there’s the call centre in Mumbai, renowned for the difficulty in communicating, but I just sit back and enjoy their accents and dream about being in the heat of India. It’s always about building relationships over a period of time, and I think because I’m quite good at that, I’ve been able to make a difference in my job, when the payments reach the bank as promptly as possible.

I’ve had more responsible jobs in the past, ones that would keep me awake at night thinking about those three words my crazy Polish friend gave me, depreciation, overheads and capital, but those are boring and I’m happy being unchallenged. I have two windows beside my desk, I can see trees just outside and the distant hills. I can drift away with lots of sky and birdsong. Other people can do accountancy, I’ll stick to people persuading for as long as they’ll have me, and find my challenges in other directions.

Health and Safety in the Workplace

The highlight of the office day was a lunchtime pop across to the shop in the concourse (what sort of noncey name is that for a hospital entrance?) for some Maltesers, 187 calories the packet said. Except that I didn’t buy that size. I didn’t even buy just Maltesers. Was it my fault they had reduced the little tublets of mini eggs to half price? I felt it was only fair to liberate them. The Maltesers took about an hour to eat, slow I know but I had to stop for a drink midway as being slightly allergic to low cocoa chocolate my throat went into a dry spasm and I nearly choked. I still finished the packet though. You should have seen me downing water like I’d had to get it from a standpipe in a drought, desperately popping them while daring the phone to ring. Amazingly the mini eggs are unopened in my drawer. I going to have to stock check my grazing PDQ, I’ve calculated that by the time my first years contract is up in August I will have gained a stone if I continue at this rate. And, I’ve just been given a contract for a second year. Result? Yep, you can picture it. Ah the joys of returning to sedentary work.

Of course if I hadn’t been cold for a good part of the day I might not have eaten so much. Fact is, behind me sits a 66 year old retirement returnee who loves to hurl his window open with his walking stick to enjoy a gentle waft of fresh air while I have the almighty draught. We have been arguing about it all winter with me saying ‘If you’re hot why do you wear jumpers?’’To cover up my gut’ he replies. ‘So we can’t see the size of your belly if you wear a jumper?’ I answer. ‘Not as much, believe me.’ Okay, it’s now late May, I’m still cold until the sun finds its way round the side of the building, but I’ve shed the warmest of my work clothes, it’s what you do in spring right? Gradually yes? Not if you‘re a retirement returnee with a gut to hide. Nope, no way. What you do is wear exactly the same winter woollies all year round. And fling the window even wider. Especially first thing in the morning, before the sun finds its way round the building, when you’ve worked up the tiniest sweat walking one hundred yards from the bus stop. Can this get any worse? Oh yes . . . much worse. The blinking garden just below the OPEN window is beautifully planted with a haven of trees and shrubs, a paradise for birds and insects and a harmattans worth of pollen all heading towards me via the retirement returnees OPEN window. So in between choking on the chocolate I’ve been forced to comfort eat to keep warm I’m coughing, wheezing, sneezing and rubbing my eyes.