30 Jun 2004

They’re coming to take me away

The invitation to the forthcoming Away Day landed in my inbox today. It has been scaled down somewhat as a result of Project Long Beach. Instead of Camalot we are going to a Trust House Forte in the morning followed by a treasure hunt in the afternoon then a meal in the evening.

It’s supposed to help us build the team but we’ll end up killing each other instead.

The invitation has been done on Power Point by Bernard and is littered with clip art and phrases such as “Motivation”, “A will to win”, “Creating the vibe”, “Going for it” and “Making a Real Difference”. I think that he says these things in the hope that one day one of us will twig what he’s getting at and spring into action.

It’s not happened yet but you have to admire his faith.

Martin was looking forward to “having a few slurps” and getting to know me better. “You hold back too much’, looking forward to seeing you with your hair down,” he said, “after some sherbets.”

He then started humming “Cococabana”.

29 Jun 2004


There have been problems with a ‘Deluxe Patio Heater’; the suppliers can’t get them out fast enough. They were at a cut down price and it has resulted in an unexpected demand. Call after call has been a complaint. People are getting impatient.

The headset has been out of the velvet-lined box.

Customer: “Do you not realise that the summer solstice has passed and the nights will be drawing in. I’m going on holiday soon, I won’t get the benefit if the heater does not turn up; summer’s going to be over before I get it.”

For goodness sake – if you are on your patio and it starts to get cold - GO INSIDE.

Me: “If you are going on holiday, why not buy one of our beach towels, they’re only £10.99.”

No sale.

28 Jun 2004

Throwing in …

Martin is still breathing down my neck. The mentor period is due to end this week, but he does not seem any further forward.

Tony has been gone for ages and his team are performing better than ever. I will not dwell too long on the theory that the teams seem to get along better without a manager. I’m not sure what they’ll make of Martin – they are a tight knit group who dine together, have an active social scene together and actually share their stapler together.

Brenda called me over today looking excited. “New this week,” she said, “your team is on a special promotion. You are targeted to shift 1000 towels at £10.99 each. After every order I want to hear the sound of selling, selling and selling. Honk! Honk!”

They are ‘St George’s Flag’ towels. “Brenda, these are about two weeks too late! We’ll never sell them!” I said.

“Less of your negativity. People are going on holiday. There’s Henmania. You’ll have no trouble.” She insisted.

Martin was humming “Young Guns (Go for it)”.

24 Jun 2004


I followed SMEGELL through the car park barrier again today. In addition to her ‘Baby on Board’ sign, she has decorated her car with those England flags; one on each side and another stuck to her car aerial.

I have a theory. I think that the flags have been sold to the unsuspecting public by a criminal mastermind as part of a car robbing scam; there are cars up and down the country with their windows open enough to get a knitting needle into them. We’ll wake up tomorrow and all the cars will be gone. Mark my words.

We were speculating the headlines tomorrow when Wayne Rooney collects his inevitable yellow card: “Stop taking the Mickey, Rooney” “How Roo-de!” “He’s on the Wayne.”

Its terrible how the papers build people up in order to knock them down, which reminds me, appraisals start again soon.

23 Jun 2004

The Exorcist

Martin has been humming “Vicar in a Tutu” by The Smiths; it could be “I’ve got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” it was difficult to tell.

Along the walls of the Call Centre are low-level cupboards with roll-up doors that nobody ever opens. They contain the ghosts of advisers that have left ages ago. They haunt these dusty shelves and the skeleton frames of worn out wire-baskets. A graveyard of stationery:

A headset without a muff, six pens tops, a ball of rubber bands, files of tatty plastic wallets filled with out of date process maps, an umbrella, induction packs for people who lasted a week, a Christmas bauble and a thousand bent-out-of-shape paper-clips.

Project “Long Beach” is going to be our salvation.

22 Jun 2004

Slimming World

Martin has been humming “There’ll always be an England” today.

Much to my horror, Martin has been co-opted into the Sales Stream (The Secret Rulers of the Call Centre). He’s got in without having to earn his stripes.

In the meeting today, Ian was equipped with multi-coloured post-it notes and yards of paper. He is famous for coming up with stupid names for projects: “Project Top Hat and Tails – A Feasibility Study into a Call Centre Uniform” for example. He’s trumped himself this time with “Project Long Beach – Slimming Down the Operation”.

It’s a familiar theme. We are going through a period of expansion, but we need to slim down the costs and do it on the cheap. An example of cost cutting is the changes that have been made to our forthcoming ‘Away Day’. We were going to go to Camelot Theme Park for fun and frolics; instead we are going to a local park and taking a packed lunch.

During a brainstorm, we went through six packets of post its and came up with a groundbreaking initiative: A Stationery Amnesty.

Hand in your staple guns – no questions asked.

21 Jun 2004

A Hell-Shaped Room

Thanks to all those potential stalkers who have been concerned about my disappearance over the past 4 days. Your concern is touching, but you really should get out more.

I have not been away. Bernard has locked me in a bed-sit where I’ve been watching the Call Centre on a plasma screen for 24 hours a day. I’ve been able to watch my colleagues and listen to what they say about me behind my back. Much to my annoyance, they have not noticed my absence. Bastards.

Seriously, the Call Centre over the past couple of days has been locked into two camps: fanatical Euro 2004 supporters on the one hand, and Big Brother obsessives on the other.

The feeling from both camps has been unanimous: “what did they expect, putting hyped up drunken people together – a tea party?”

15 Jun 2004


Martin’s ‘Best Boss In The World’ coffee cup has a lining, a centimetre thick, of coffee stain. Honestly. I’ve not seen anything like it. “I’ve never got round to washing it.” In defience to office convention he has turned his back on the vending machine and started to bring a flask of hot water and a catering tin of Nescafe.

Every hour on the hour he fills his cup with two heaped spoons of coffee and stirs the potent brew, a little too loudly, before slurping the contents like a camel in a drought.

He’s never less than a foot away from me and whistles “Me And My Shadow” at intervals.

In an otherwise uneventful day the lens fell out of his glasses. He went to scratch his eye and poked the lens out of the frame, “Shit! Shit! I’ll need a dog or a stick now to find my way home.”

I think I’ll stick to the vending machine.

14 Jun 2004

Belle End

Gentle reader, I can hardly bring myself to write my diary for the love of my life has gone away. Belle, the keyboard cleaner, nymph of my orisons (whatever an orison is), has left the cleaning company.

Two young boys who have one eyebrow between them have replaced her. They whiz round the place like Thing One and Thing Two. They do not give my fluff the attention it deserves.

Come and wipe away the tears from my keys.

11 Jun 2004

Ice, Ice Baby

“Warm enough for you?” If Thrush has said it once, he’s said it a thousand times, and if he says it again, I will be forced to kill him.

The usual complaints about the air conditioning have started early this year. The rattle of ancient desk fans mixes with the sound of sighs and muttering.

In winter the air conditioning is blamed for churning germs and in summer it is accused of not working.

The annual “Gentlemen May Remove Their Ties” message has been circulated and Ian looks naked. He looks castrated without a ‘Whistling Foghorn Leghorn’ swinging underneath his chin. He’s even gone as far as unbuttoning his shirt to allow little black hairs to poke out of the top.

Martin is a big bloke and was clearly uncomfortable in the office heat. I offered to sit the desk known as The Fridge so he could cool down.

The air conditioning has created its own version of the Artic in a corner of the office; it's ideal for fat blokes, pregnant women and penguins. Once we sat at The Fridge Martin looked much happier and goose-bumped.

“Cool enough for you?” Thrush shouted over to us.

Pass me an ice pick.

9 Jun 2004

Hob Nobbin’

Martin is really quiet. He’s not really got much to say for himself, but he stinks of ale.

I am his mentor and have the task of ‘Inducing’ him into the ways of the Call Centre, as Penny puts it. I’ve tried to find some common ground with some ‘off the shelf’ small talk, but it didn’t work.

He became animated when we started to talk about biscuits, of all things, he seems to be a world authority on them, “I like a hob nob with my afternoon tea. Where’s the kettle? I’ll make us a brew.”

“We can’t have one. Heath and safety won’t let us,” I explained. “But, we have a great vending machine; it makes everything taste like hot dog sausage brine.”

He looked wounded and carried on with his biscuit lecture, “You know, I’ve never been one for ginger nuts. It’s really weird because I don’t not like them nor do I like them.”

Martin, that’s not weird, its just indifference.

Welcome to my world.

8 Jun 2004


Bernard took us for lunch, on expenses, to mark Martin’s arrival. We went to one of those imitation pubs, filled with imitation ornaments, and imitation staff selling imitation beer.

There’s a tacit understanding at these lunchtime events that we will not order anything too lavish and certainly no alcoholic drinks. I’d like nothing better than a pint of Speckled Hen to set me up for the afternoon and despite Bernard’s mock insistence “to have something a bit stronger’ we all know better.

‘I’ll have a diet coke, “ said Janice.

“So will I,” added Nigel.

“Make that three,” Ian said.

“I’ll have a fat one,” I joked. Bernard looked puzzled. “A normal coke. I’ll have a normal one,” I thought of explaining the joke but realised it wasn’t worth it.

“I’ll have a pint of John Smiths with a whisky chaser please,” Martin said.

We all laughed. Bernard realised that he was being serious and placed an order.

Mmmmmm Martin’s Wankerdaq price is about to crash, he’s a man after my own heart.

7 Jun 2004


A big grey box has arrived from Birmingham. It can only mean one thing: Martin is on his way.

Brenda gingerly picked through the contents and started to lock them into Tony’s old desk. There was a library of management books (Bernard is going to love him) and a big mug with ‘The World’s Best Boss’ written on it in purple.

Janice seems to have a bit of a downer on Martin already, “I bet he bought that cup himself.”

Opening price on Wankerdaq: £1.59.

3 Jun 2004

Watching the watch man

Barney, the big gay bear, has been busy completing his Big Brother display. He’s blown up the faces of the housemates and stuck them to little cars. It ‘s quite effective, but Nadia’s big square, bo selecta head is particularly alarming.

Each of the housemates represents a member of the team and as they make a sale they move around a track.

Tizzy was excited, “I haven’t had my hands off the remote all week, I’ve been flicking from Hells Kitchen to E4.”

“Bean flicking?” Barney said, “I’m glad you are taking matters in hand.”

2 Jun 2004

Soft Cell

John Doe is still doing a great trade in Tesco Value Baked Beans. I can see that it’s going to be a great atmosphere to work in over the next few days as the race to beat the sell-by date kicks in. I considered asking for the air conditioning turned up to eleven in anticipation.

According to Tizzy, John is replenishing his stocks in his bunker, because “you can never be too careful.”

He saw THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and thought it was a documentary. I had a worrying thought: what if my team were the last people on Earth?

Caught on the call monitor today:

Customer: “I bought one of those Eco-Clocks that you plug into a potato. Tell me, is the spud okay to eat after it has been used?”

Thrush: “Yes. And it has less calories.”

Our future is safe.

1 Jun 2004

Bully Beef

Last year, John Doe created a shelter in his garage in anticipation of the global war following the conflict in Iraq. The sell-by dates are coming up on some of the items in his store, so he has started to take orders. Tizzy seems to be his best customer; her and Dave will be eating corn beef hash until Christmas.

Fido was excited too. He’s in a state of apoplexy any way due to the Death Wagon rolling into town and selling bacon and sausage barms at the gates of the Call Centre. Bernard had Chris, the owner of the Death Wagon, hounded out of town by some hired gunslinger from the council, but he’s back with a new line in artery-lining products all wrapped up in recently defrosted bread.

Thrush, who has to have the last word in everything, was encouraging John with his enterprise, “You want to get some of your stuff on e-bay. You can make a fortune.”

I look forward to seeing a former member of my team appearing in a Sunday Times Rich List: Corn Beef Baron.