Tag Archives: my workmates

A Clean Pair of Heels

I can only hope, gentle reader, that you are not eating as you are reading this, or at least that you have a bucket close by if you are.

We were in the kitchen at lunchtime today when one of the Pencil-slim Young Wans, the collection of wonderful young women who have become such good friends at work, suddenly asked one of the others had she “done the thing with the fishes”. She replied that she had, and it is very very hard, having heard that, not to ask what’s the thing with the fishes. And this is how, for the first time ever, I heard  the phrase “fish pedicure”.

Apparently there are salons where you go along, stick your feet into a tank of warm water, and fish nibble away at your toes, eating all the dead skin.

I don’t know why I bother my arse trying to make up funny stuff while the real world has things like Fish Pedicure Salons. It’s like being in the same room as Mozart and playing the kazoo.

I thought the idea was weird enough already before I heard that you do not do this alone, there are other people in the salon with you. I suggested it might be embarrassing if all the fish in your tank floated to the top, everyone would stare at you. I was told not to be silly (we’re talking about fish eating your dead skin here, but apparently I’m the one who’s being silly), you don’t get a tank each, you all dip your feet into the same tank (seriously? I’m the silly one?).

One of the girls said that they get rid of your eczema and everything. I asked (I know, should have kept my mouth shut) does that not mean that you just pass it on to the fish and she said “yeah, suppose so”. I then said is that not like going to your pharmacist and giving him your zits and she honestly said “yeuw, that’s gross”.

I must point out, by the way, that most of the girls ate Marks and Spencer sushi the entire way through this conversation. Whoever said that women were the weaker sex certainly wasn’t talking about their stomachs.

I Googled the whole thing during the afternoon. The fish are known as Doctor Fish, and in case any of these words ever turn up on a menu, please be aware that they are from two species: Garra rufa and Cyprinion macrostomus. Other nicknames to look out for and avoid include Nibble Fish, Kangal Fish and Doctorfishen.

The article also says: “in non-medical contexts, Garra rufa is called the Reddish Log Sucker”.

I don’t even know where to start.

Names Again

One of my friends in the office has the same name as Tingirl – let’s call her Tingirlname, for the purposes of this post.

She had a meeting this morning and told us at lunchtime that the girl she had met had the stupidest name she’d ever heard – Tabitha, let’s say (though it wasn’t, I’m just picking that because it always reminded me of cats).

“It’s from the bible,” said one of the others (Ellen Mildred Garth from the post about Latin names, is anyone still reading at this stage?).

We then began a discussion about really dreadful names in which, I’m sorry to say if they’re yours, the names Gobnait and Nábla fared particularly badly. It then rambled through the number of Irish names which have superfluous letters (a big hello to any Cliodhnas and Maedhbhs who are reading this) and finally got on to the origins of each of our own names.

As we tend to take lunch at different times the participation in this conversation was somewhat fluent – people left to go back to work, others came and joined in. One of the bosses had just joined us when I asked Tingirlname “what does your name mean, it’s the same as my daughter’s and I’ve always wanted to know”.

“I don’t actually know either,” said Tingirlname.

“I do,” said the boss, “it’s from the bible, it’s derived from the name Tabitha”.

You really can’t make stuff like that up.

Babushka Doll

A girl called Olga left our office today, after more than ten years working for the company.

As you may have gathered from her name, Olga is Russian (and you’d have known that even if I’d used her real name instead). Many of you may have a view of the Russians as a glum, gloomy lot. If you are one of those people then I only wish you could have met Olga, who would have firmly reinforced that belief. She was forthright, abrupt, grumpy and outspoken. Her favourite word was “sheet”. Our company was sheet, the projects she worked on were sheet, the work produced on those projects by her colleagues was sheet.  

This was all a facade. Like a babushka doll, there are many layers beneath the outer shell. Olga is a fabulous, darkly funny, fiercely compassionate girl, and we are all really fond of her.

My main memory of her goes back to January of last year. It was about a year after I got my pacemaker. We were at a meeting, it was very hot in the office, I mentioned that I felt a bit dizzy, and the workmates who had watched me black-out far too often in the past promptly rang for an ambulance. My friend GoldenEyes, who was going to accompany me to the hospital, went downstairs to watch for it, leaving a slim blonde girl to watch over me.

Olga bustled over. “Who vill help you down ze stairs?”, she asked. I indicated my friend. “She vill be useless if you faint,” snapped Olga, “she is too veak”.

She marched off and returned with one of the tall guys in the office. “Go vith these two,” she ordered him, in a way that was quite impressive considering he was her direct boss. “Do not let Tinman fall.”

Her boss looked henpeckedly at me and the girl with me. “Is that Ok?” he asked us.

“Fine,” I said, “but if I need the kiss of life I want it from the blonde.”

Olga gave me a look of vithering (sorry, withering) scorn. She was probably thinking that Dostoevsky, in similar circumstances, could have written an entire novel about the futility and bleakness of the human condition, whereas all I could do was make jokes.

Anyway, all went well, and a couple of days later I returned to work. I went over to Olga’s desk.

“I just wanted to say thanks for looking out for me,” I said. “I was touched to see you were so concerned.”

“I vas not concerned”, she snapped.

“Yes, you were, Olga,” I grinned gleefully, “you actually showed that you have a heart.”

“Go avay, Tinman, you are talking sheet”.

We’re all going to miss her. She’s great.

Dreaming Outside The Box

Sorry I’ve been away, but as usual the first week of the month at work has consisted of thirteen-hour days and very little time for writing wonderful posts, or even my usual rubbish.

Yesterday one of the guys, rushing out the door, told Goldeneyes and I that he would not have a report that we needed, because he was “back to back”. After he’d gone she and I debated what he might have meant by this (I suggested that it was the opposite of him being back-to-front).

We are surrounded by the sales department. Thus our two desks are a remote desert island in a sea of  jargon, much of which we find very amusing. They all say “going forward”, of course, so often in fact that occasionally, to my horror, I find I’ve just said it myself.  When they are “in the zone” they all “think outside the box”.

One of them refers to “getting all our ducks in a row”. What does this mean?

My favourite, in the loosest possible meaning of that word (i.e., the worst thing I’ve ever heard), is when one of them was talking about a potental new client, and said “they’ve an office here, but the mothership is in the UK”. Sometimes the word “aaargghhhh!!!!!” is just not strong enough…..

Perhaps all this is the reason for the dream I had last night. In it a bloke was running a radio show. He had two women in the studio with him, while another one stood out in the street somewhere holding a microphone, like your woman you see standing outside the Four Courts on RTE whenever there’s a big trial on (yes, I know it was radio, but somehow she was in a little window in the top corner of the dream). Anyway, the two women in the studio were having a great time, chatting, slagging and laughing, and every now and again the other one would say “well…” and be totally ignored. Eventually the presenter noticed this and said “I’d say you’re feeling a bit left out of things out there, Elaine”.

And slowly and coldly she said “honestly, it’s like trying to talk to the inside of your spare foot”.

This was so startling that I actually burst awake, saying What?”.

I can’t wait to drop it into a conversation with the sales team.  


It’s Not All Bad

GoldenEyes and I met BlondieBird for a drink on Thursday night.

She’s got a new job, starting next week.

Actually, it’s a better job than the one she had with us – more senior, and better paid.

And it’s not just her – we know that at least two others of the 21 let go from our place have jobs, that two of the others are at final interviews, and that one more is back doing occasional work for us.

It’s good to know that there are some jobs out there. It’s just, as BB says, that far more people are applying for each one of them.

I’m just so pleased for her.

The Goodbye Girl

D-Day was yesterday.

Twenty-one terrific people lost their jobs. Their individual stories would break your heart. Fiona has a gorgeous one year old who looks exactly like her. Tony’s partner is pregnant, as is Marcos’s wife. Eoin has been with the company for years, whereas Brendan gave up another job to come here just eight weeks ago. Luka is Croatian, and won’t be able to stay here if he doesn’t have another job by May.

Dear, sweet Mary (TallNeuroticGirl to readers of this blog) left in the same blaze of energy with which she does everything. The only person on earth to be able to get sound out of a ‘silent’ keyboard (she’s had it less than a year, and half the letters are worn away) rushed about, tidying this and forwarding that, all the time keeping up a stream of chatter, asking me to make sure that this person was OK or that person was looked after. The office is a lot quieter today, though that would have been the case even if she were the only one to go.

And my great friend BlondieBird is going as well.

We all expected it, her section was the one most likely to be gutted, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

I’ll miss her lovely, and genuine, smile when she’d say hello in the morning. I’ll miss the amazing sandwiches that she’d construct for herself at lunchtime, using tomatoes, cucumber, ham slices, cheese, sometimes rashers or sausages left over from her breakfast, all brought in from home individually wrapped in cling film. I’ll miss her astonishing mutliple sneezes – five, six, maybe ten little explosions with a “chooscuseme” at the end, which was how you knew she was finished & could say “bless you”.

Most of all, though, I’ll just miss her. She became a really close friend of mine, even though she’s twenty-four years younger (I accused her once of fancying me, and she snorted and said “maybe if you were twenty years younger”. “You’d think the ‘twenty years younger’ would be the most hurtful part of that sentence,” I told her in reply, “but actually it’s the ‘maybe’.”). When I was suffering the blackouts she’d make me text her every evening to let her know I’d got home safely.

She and GoldenEyes became really great friends, to the extent that they socialise together outside work as well, and GE was even more devastated than I was.

And today BB’s gone off to sign on the dole. She says she’s planning to turn up there in a hoodie and pyjama bottoms.

One last story about her. As I’ve said before, at Christmas she got her blonde hair dyed a sort of plum colour. Recently I heard her on the phone talking to someone about their website. “It says ‘clink on the link’ to move to the next section, but there’s no link,” she said. Then I heard her say “oh, that link there, I see. Thank you.” She hung up the phone and I heard her sigh and then mutter “I’m still blonde”.

That’s my friend. That’s Jenny.


Back when I was self-employed, if things got really bad, if I felt I’d messed something up for a client, or if I was worried about how I was going to make enough money to feed my family, I’d often wake up really early, and throw up.

That hasn’t happened since I came to work where I do now. Until this morning.

Tomorrow is the day when about twenty people here are going to be let go. But in order that this can take place properly their final pay,P45s, etc will have to be ready for them, which means that the person who does all that stuff will have to be given the list this afternoon.

And that person is me.

So for all of this afternoon and the first couple of hours tomorrow morning I’m going to find myself in the kitchen with, in the loo with, or sitting near people who I know are leaving, though they don’t.

As I said, I’ve already thrown up this morning. But I still feel sick.

Gallows Humour

It’s mid-morning on Friday, and an office full of people who may only have one-an-a-half working days left is hushed, filled only with the sounds of typing as these people carry on doing their jobs with a professionalism that would make you well-up with pride, and with affection,  and with sadness.

I’d love  Mark Fielding and the ISME gobshites who called us all malingerers to come in here and see what the employees of this country, of all nationalities,  are really like.

Meanwhile, everyone is putting on as brave a face as possible, and gallows humour is creeping in. We’ve discussed a sit-in, a la Waterford Crystal. There is a group of eight of us who are acting as go-betweens between staff and management, forwarding suggestions & concerns to the bosses & vetting communications that they are sending back, and, although the eight have no actual role in the selection process and are as liable to be made redundant as anyone else in the company we are referred to as the Firing Squad. One area of the office, where everyone in it reckons they’re going, now call their section The Departure Lounge.

And this morning BlondieBird sent me this:

Actual Answers Given by “Family Fortunes” Contestants:

Name something a blind person might use… A sword

Name a song with moon in the title…Blue suede moon

Name a bird with a long neck… Naomi Campbell

Name an occupation where you need a torch…A burglar

Name a famous brother & sister…Bonnie & Clyde

Name a dangerous race…The Arabs

Name an item of clothing worn by the 3 musketeers…A horse

Name something that floats in the bath…Water

Name something you wear on the beach…A deckchair

Name something Red…My cardigan

Name a famous cowboy…Buck Rogers

Name a famous royal…Mail

A number you have to memorize…7

Something you do before going to bed…Sleep

Something you put on walls…Roofs

Something in the garden that’s green…Shed

Something that flies that doesn’t have an engine…A bicycle with wings

Something you might be allergic to…Skiing

Name a famous bridge…The bridge over troubled waters

Something a cat does…Goes to the bathroom

Something you do in the bathroom…Decorate

Name an animal you might see at the zoo…A dog

Something associated with the police…Pigs

A sign of the zodiac…April

Something slippery…A conman

A kind of ache…Fillet ‘O’ Fish

A food that can be brown or white…Potato

A jacket potato topping… Jam

A famous Scotsman…Jock

Another famous Scotsman…Vinnie Jones

Something with a hole in it… Window

A non living object with legs…Plant

A domestic animal…Leopard

A part of the body beginning with ‘N’…Knee

A way of cooking fish…Cod

Something you open other than a door…Your Bowels

It’s the first time I’ve really laughed in a week.

Fear for My Friends

The R word has arrived in our office.

With staggering speed the amount of work we had on hand has plummeted as clients cancelled contracts or asked us could we delay them, and now we’re undergoing cost-cutting.

Some of the staff are going to be made redundant next week. At the moment the bosses are deciding who and how many, and Tuesday next is Judgement Day.

I won’t be one of them, not because I’m brilliant or irreplaceable, but because some of the work I do in the office can’t be done by anyone else on the current staff. This is obviously a relief, but also a source of guilt. I look at the rest of the staff, see the panic in their eyes (one poor girl’s husband lost his job on Christmas Eve), and can’t share their fears.

At least not for myself. Some of the wonderful people I’ve worked with for the last three years are going to lose their jobs. Some of them may be people who’ve appeared in stories here, the warm, fun-loving, generous young people who’ve welcomed the older guy with the health problems into their midst, and who’ve become my really good friends. These people are hard-working and professional in everything they do, and a number of them will be out of work in six days time. I don’t blame our boss for this, though I look at the greyness in his face these days and see that he does. I don’t blame our clients, desperately trying to cut their costs by stopping any expenditure they consider non-crucial. We are now doing the same, which may have an impact on the staff of some company that sells to us. Everyone is doing what they can to keep going in a country where all expenditure has virtually stopped.

The evening news has just ended as I write this. Last September Irish Life & Permanent put €4 billion on deposit in Anglo Irish on the last day of its financial year, just to make it look healthier, & took it back 10 days later. The truly awful Financial Regulator at the time, who was finally forced to resign when people could take his cosy incompetence no longer, is getting a payoff of €630,000 and an annual pension of €142,670, while my friends will be getting €202 per week at the dole office.

Tonight Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan is putting €7 billion of our money into two other banks, AIB and Bank of Ireland. We all know that eventually we’ll have to take over their “toxic debt” as well, to keep them and their staff afloat. These banks lent money to anyone when things were going well and now won’t lend to anyone when they aren’t, thus causing most of our problems and then making them worse. This Minister today admitted that the Irish Life & Permanent deposit was mentioned in a report he was given last October, but he “didn’t read it all”. He is, of course, still Minister for Finance, though he’s doing his job far more badly than any of my workmates have done theirs.

And our big blustering Taoiseach? He’s so useless that the fact that he made an interesting speech last week was regarded as headline news.

These fools have cost my friends their jobs.

I Will in My …

I have always been a person who talks to himself while working.

swearingThis habit developed during the many years that I worked on my own, and I have been unable to curb it now that I’m surrounded by others. I am a hard taskmaster on myself, so my comments are seldom encouraging. Rarely will my workmates hear me murmur “oh, well done, Tinman!” after I’ve gotten something complicated to work, but will frequently hear me exclaim “ah, gobshite!” after I haven’t. (On such occasions Blondiebird’s voice will then be heard over the cubicle asking sweetly “did we make a mistake?”).

LoudEnglishGuy, who used to sit beside me before the company moved office, used to say that it was quite worrying when a bloke in Finance would spend all day saying “What?”, “No way“, “Fuck’s sake”, “Ah, that’s bollocks” and my own phrase “Cad an fuck?”. I explained to him that I trained at the Tourette’s School of Business Studies.

swearing-geekThe utterances are at their most frequent and virulent during the first week of the month, which is my busiest time, so on Friday evening I muttered one last expletive after one last thing had gone wrong, and BB’s head appeared over the top of the cubicle.

“Tinman, we’ll have to get you a swearbox,” she said.

My first thought was that this might be a good idea. If I’d to put ten cent into a box each time I swore, it might quieten me down.But then GoldenEyes joined in.

“Great idea,” she said, ” a euro every time you swear”.

“A euro? Fuck that,” I said.

If we go ahead with this by the end of the month I’ll have enough to buy a car.