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?





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.

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.