Wednesday, 28 April 2010


A New Girl

The new girl is loose limbed. The way she walks, her arms swinging back and forth. Like she doesn’t have a shred of stress in her body. Like she is entirely relaxed and without a care in the world. The expression on her face seems to back this up. She wanders round the office with bright eyes and a little smile, the smile almost a smirk of perpetual amusement and delight. She is young, we can’t agree whether she is a student here only for a placement, or a graduate starting a new role. Her youth is clearly part of why she appears the way she does.

I recall her coming in for an interview; there were a few times where groups of students appeared. I recall her trotting along behind a senior member of staff, as she left the group of others behind, followed to the interview room, that smile cracking her face. Here she is, now into her second week, going through those awful early days of any job – the inductions, the wait for log in permissions, for security passes, the reading of crap that people have foisted on you to tide you over.

One day last week it got to her, the first week boredom. The two of us work in a department of two, the new girl part of the other department that surrounds us. We were sitting talking, as you do, when we exchanged glances, and I couldn’t help but laugh. The new girls head sinking to the desk, and staying there for a minute or so. Today I’m reminded of that, the momentary head in hands moment.

Most days she wears a blouse, light blue or green tints, stripes or something on a white background. Her hair is shoulder length, light brown, unremarkable, she has worn it down, once or twice, but mostly tied back. She wears glasses. Dark trousers. A reasonable facsimile of a professional woman. Altogether it wouldn’t be hard to describe as he being plain in appearance. But actually she is not unattractive - her curves, her smile, that looseness, her youth, all factors to make heads turn really.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


London to Glasgow, with more snow.

Airports. It becomes a love hate relationship sometimes I have to say.
I love the bustle, the vibrancy, the sense of life. The destinations
and travellers, the gaggle of hen parties, the threat of football
fans, large families with overflowing suitcases. Cases put on scales,
removed from scales, adjusted and repeated. They have a machine now,
50p a suitcase and it’ll tell you how much it weighs. But as the hours
go by, you can feel your soul being leeched from you, destroyed. A
long time between flights, or an extending delay. Often there is a hit
and run approach to travel, if you have the time, you get checked in,
bags cleared, grab a bite to eat, maybe a tea or coffee, then you
board the plane. This time, I’ve done that, bags in, buy cheap
collection of Zelazny stories from a curious little clearance shop,
through security, eat pizza and drink coffee. A quick wonder round the
shops on this side, see if there are any good deals, anything
particularly eye catching, nip to toilet, then departure gate. But I
check the gate on the way to the toilet, its been delayed. On way back
out from toilets I head someone asking about the flight at the
information desk, so I stop, I listen, when done I ask them to fill me
in on anything I missed. More than an hours delay, computer problems –
they had mentioned that at check in, no passengers list had made
things tricky.

I go to the stand alone coffee place, get myself the largest tea they
sell, a piece of caramel shortbread, then find a chair with a view of
the departures screen. I sit there and listen to the man at the next
table, phoning home, same flight as me, telling his wife about the
delays. Like me he sits there feeling hard done by, harassed. I go
back to reading Dan Rhodes’ Gold, which I’m getting quite far through.
Glancing to board, reading 2 pages, drinking tea, repeat. A couple of
adults sit down at one of the central tables, soon joined by a flock
of teenage girls, bags everywhere as they slump there, other flights
adding on to the delayed list on the board. An older couple sit in two
deep arm chairs, taking turns to wander off, check laptops. The man
starts to watch an episode of Poirot on his laptop, makes it through
the title sequences, changes his mind and shuts it down. A member of
staff goes round, moving chairs, placing them round the sides of the
seating area, closing this part off for the evening. Presumably they
expect things to wind down, but with 6 flights on the board with
delays, no one is in a hurry to clear out quite yet.

Gets to point where I have about 10 pages of book left and the flight
has been delayed another half hour, bringing it up to two hours. Just
about last person left in this section of the coffee place (the other
half remains busy), I give up, go for a walk. Another visit to the
proper book shop on this side, not in the mood for the short stories I
bought earlier, and not wanting to be left with nothing to read I look
for inspiration. It comes in the form of a new edition of The
Prisoner, 1969 novel from the TV series, written by Disch. That done
I wonder through to the departure gate, tired of the lounge, tired of
this lack of information. There is no more information to be had at
the half dozen gates, as people line up to board flights to Newcastle
and Malaga. I grab another tea, and take a table in the small
collection at this end of the airport. A guy at next table, wiry and
grey, reading some kind of thriller I think. I go back to reading, he
laughs at bits, I laugh at bits, and then I finish. Just as well I
bought that other book, I make a start on it. The guy at next table
turns to the couple on the other side of him, who are maybe in their
50’s, so waiting for Glasgow then? I interject, how can you tell?
Then, looking at the board, I suggest that the projected 8.35 take off
just isn’t going to happen. He frowns – I’m not sure I thank you for
your pessimism. I apologise, but we both know given its now 8.10,
there is no way we are taking off in the next 20 minutes.

Finally announcements are made, vague apologies suggested, offerings
of some kind of complimentary drink to compensate. We start to queue
up for boarding, the people in front looking forward to their free
drink, talking about champagne, about doubles. Though, as the garbled
in flight message actually explains it’s a free hot or cold soft
drink. Which they dispense as they work round the cabin, so the flight
itself seems to fly by reasonably quickly. Its raining as we board,
and we’re advised by the captain its similar on the other end.

Boarding the plane after a couple of hours delay, a crinkle faced
white guy takes the window seat. His face worn, lined, reminds me of
an Australian guy I worked with a few years ago. A young black girl
sits in the same row as him, taking the aisle seat, and they chat a
little as bags are stowed, as we all go through the motions of
settling in for the journey. He wears a heavy jacket, yellow and black
checks, a working man’s jacket. She wears a very similar kind of
jacket, but a branded trendier version, green and black checks, with a
grey hooded top underneath, the hood up over her head, a pretty face,
and dark hair round the edges. When we land she stands up and they go
through the same process in reverse, this time her hood is down, she
wears a pink flower in her hair.

As I get to the cabin door and step on to the stair way I take a look
at the weather. That’s not rain, its worse than that, the icy chunks
flitting by with freezing results. Snow! End of March and more snow.
Damn. We hurry to the terminal, to arrivals and baggage claim, outside
into the night to wait for taxis, the snow collecting on every
surface. Its still thin on the ground when the taxi drops me off at
the work’s car park where I can retrieve my own car. But half way up
the road, driving through uneven surface resulting from road works, I
feel the first sense of slipping control. Further out still, and the
snow is a couple of inches. Car in front slows down all the time, and
so do I. Finally I get to my turn, and get up the hill with no
problem. Though by this stage I’m getting cautious, and the bridge
proves why. No one has been across the bridge, just a little one, but
its steep, and the banking on either side means the snow is thicker. I
can’t get over. The embankment exerts a pull, determined to drag me
from the road.

I got so far up, but no deal. Reverse back. On wrong side of road,
half up on grass. When the old woman in the 4x4 appears. It’s a
blizzard and between her head lights and the snow I can’t see any
detail until I am right up to her open window. She offers to give me a
lift the rest of the way – we are only a mile from where we are
headed. But I don’t want to leave my car quite where it is, I don’t
want someone else hitting it, I don’t want to leave an obstruction. So
I wrestle it a bit more, get it back as far as I can, half of the
road, inches from the fence that divides the road from a steep slope.
It’s not ideal, but not a lot more I can do. I wrestle my bag from the
boot, trying to get it over to her car through the blasting snow. Half
way across and the gritter appears, the oversized behemoth, spraying
grit everywhere he goes to help disperse the snow. There is a line of
cars behind him, sheltering in his wake, as he climbs down and we
discuss the situation. He offers to do what he can; maybe a good blast
at the bridge will be what it takes. It sounds like a better plan than
abandoning my car, so with my thanks the woman carries on her way.
Between us we manoeuvre my car, can I get over with a push, then out
the way to let him go. Then further attempts. By which time I’ve been
here for over half an hour and I’m struggling to get anything from my
car. An older guy appears from the next car along, provides a pep
talk, I roll my eyes, and eventually let him give it a kick to the top
of the hill. He has the freshness at least, and I try not to think of
the smell of having over done it as I get back in and follow in the
tyre tracks of the gritter the rest of the way, the line of other cars
now in my wake. But as I expected, once over that bridge, the rest of
the way is manageable, I keep it steady and persistent.

Last time I got stuck at the final hurdle, trying to get my car off
the road, I’d ended up at an angle. So this time I find a good place
and park as soon as possible, planning for disruption ahead. I trudge
the rest of the way, only a few minutes more, fumbling with bags over
my shoulders, trying to find my house key. Step through the door, bags
to the floor, kettle on, a slice of toast and sink into a seat,
knackered. Not long after I head to bed, midnight gone, knowing I need
to get up for work in the morning, knowing to be on the safe side I’ll
need to get up early, knowing if its going to snow all night then I’ll
take one look at it and say to hell with that. I sleep badly; get up
again at 6.30, from the back window it looks bad. So I put on heavy
trousers instead of work trousers, and get everything sorted, back
into my winter coat, gloves, scarf, hat; all the things I was missing
in the unexpected surge of the previous night’s blizzard. It’s still
snowing as I step outside, but the plows have been out, tractors with
attachments, giving it a thorough going over. Great. But that can also
create a higher wall round parked cars, so the road might be clear,
but I might have 2 foot of snow round the car. But as I get closer I
can see I’m clear, the car in front of me does indeed have a wall
along his side, but the corner was taken in a way that the wall starts
passed me, and I can reverse to the main road and get on from there.
Through the day the snow turns to rain, and it mostly clears. The
window of time means I hit the worst of it, and all because my flight
was delayed.



We’ve gone to a tapas place; we’ve never been here before. Though I
should have been here on a work night out, but I ended up too sick to
go. It seems a decent enough place, it’s got some character. Though
still how tapas works for a Christmas night out is something I am
unsure about. The waitresses all have long hair, tied back into pony
tails, uniform blue blouses. The manageress a little older, she wears
a black blouse, has a nose ring, an eyebrow piercing, bobbed dyed red
hair, and an accent.

To the side of our table there is hunched old man, he sits on the same
side as I do, sat essentially on the same length of bench. Seemingly
unconsciously he kicks back, the heel of one foot banging against the
wooden board fronting of the seat. I look around trying to find the
source of the sound, convinced initially that it must be a kid
somewhere, that restless childish behaviour you sometimes encounter in
restaurants. So I’m surprised to realise its him, watching the foot
twitch, wondering if he even knows he is doing it. He is obviously a
regular, though the waitress isn’t as familiar with his habits as the
manager. The waitress takes his plate, asks if he wants coffee, he
says tea. Minutes later the manager takes his empty glass, asks if he
wants tea, he says yes. The menu is one of those which lists a half
dozen types of coffee, a token hot chocolate, but no mention of tea,
but he gets his pot soon enough. Followed by a complimentary shot of
liqueur, which is brought to him without him asking and at the
manager’s nudging of the waitress.

Along the wall there are two couples. One there when we arrive, girl
with long hair, brownish floral dress, and her boyfriend with his flat
cap on the entire way through dinner, nipping out for a smoke between
courses leaving her to stare into space. Between the cap and the
abandoning her for a smoke my brother and I are unimpressed. In the
corner another couple, they arrive after us and leave before us, both
are pretty regular looking, average, she mainly catches the eye from
the colour of her cardigan, a kind of neon bubble gum pink. A mother
daughter sit to my right, a table for four, they sit with their backs
to the wall, cosy together as they chatter away about lives, eating
their tapas and drinking what looks like a jug of sangria. Round from
them a table of 30 somethings, blondes and brunettes, tall and short,
five women together and one boyfriend – when they leave the four women
leave first, the couple loitering a bit out of place at the back.

Dessert defeats me after three plates of tapas – lamb in a tomato
sauce, chicken and potato croquettes and the heavy bowl of chorizo
with black pudding (which keeps me awake through the night). But that
chocolate truffle is too much, too solid, too heavy, after everything
else, and I am forced to concede defeat. The manageress takes the
plates away, but pauses when she sees so much left, questioning
expression, words half on her lips. I’m full I admit, and it was very
heavy, it is she nods, satisfied, and removes the plate. One of the
waitresses goes through the motions of going home – the staff seem to
have a good rapport – she puts on a cardigan, a jacket, finds her bag,
says her good byes. We ask for the bill, and we step out into the



We’ve gone to this Italian, we’ve been here a few times, but it’s been
refurbished since. The lighting is wrong which is frustrating, oh
sure, it’s fancy, but it’s wrong. And the main thing we are conscious
of as we go through the menu and order food. That done, we become more
conscious of those around us, at the next table there are five
Americans, behind us another two. There had been a bunch of guys in
the cinema bar where we’d met talking loudly about forthcoming films,
but also about an Irish dancing competition. From the conversation
amongst the Americans this is clearly what they are here for – talking
about dance studious, about their entry numbers, and the like. To my
right the table of five, a blonde woman, and perhaps her daughter,
flame haired and beautiful – there are plenty of attractive women out
there, but this girl has looks you can’t not look at. On the other
side a grey woman, then facing them the three women are two men, a
grey man and another man of an age with the blonde. The red head has a
card round her neck, presumably her entry details or something
official. She is the only one who has dessert, a conical kind of glass
bowl, with a stack of pink and brown ice creams, little sweet items
lumps on top, which she spoons into her mouth happily. The blonde and
the red leave, the rest of the table will catch them up, talk of
buses, and locations. Then the younger of the two guys, though still
old enough to have retired from the navy, starts talking with the guys
behind me, who I can’t see. They compare notes on navy careers, on
football appreciation, and then wish each other the best of luck for
the competition the next day and they leave as well.

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