Friday, 22 June 2012

At 3:45 am. the birds were singing this morning.  The light has been so bright the last two nights, hardly what you would call night at all.  The sky flushed with that blue-grey of early summer, late spring.  This time next week we will be in the thick of summer, all the lawns are taking off with growth, at the front of the house it's a jungle for the neighbourhood cats to hide in.

Speaking of the 'wages round' earlier this week reminded me of a funny story.  Our wages office at work housed two elderly ladies of twin-set and pearls, tightly permed hair and sober disposition.  In their brightly lit office they would drink endless cups of tea, not coffee and constantly there was a sound of the scrunch-crunch and rolling ratchet-rattle of old fashioned comptometers or adding-machines, which was how calculations were done in the modern world of 1967.
How did we ever get things done before calculators and computers?  Yet, even then a few miles further on into Manchester, the boffins were improving and tinkering with the humongous invention that has transformed the lives of humanity...the computer.
Mrs T and Mrs K bumbled plumply into each of the surrounding office departments on a Friday around lunch-time, handing out wage packets much like the Queen Mother did the Maundy money on Maundy-Thursday.  Munificently, as though it was money from their own coffers they were doling-out gracefully.  Mrs T was the senior employee, way past retiring age or so she appeared to me as I was then, a slim unwritten upon maiden of seventeen.  She did seem to get distracted and kerfuffled,  disarmingly she'd drift off somewhere never finishing a sentence she started.   This particular day she put her comptometer to sleep at 5:30 as was her routine.  Routines were to be adhered to especially in the most important office of the company, everything had a place or a moment for doing it otherwise the whole creation might collapse about our ears.  Therefore the wages department was put to bed for the night and Mrs T having said her farewells to colleagues made her way outside to the bus-stop.  Some moments later our manager deciding an important letter needed to catch the evening post and therefore needing a postage-stamp used his pass-key to open up the wages office door and then the safe where all the stamps were placed overnight, only to find Mrs T's handbag cosily bunged inside the safe, squashed in 'fatly' with the stamp-book and other safe-keep-ables.
"What the.....??" he must have thought to himself.
Quick as a rat up a drainpipe he was out of the office door, down the steps outside the building and sprinting to the local bus-stop where stood Mrs T with the cash box tucked into her shopping bag apparently, blithely unaware anything was amiss.
The story goes she had been on automatic-pilot and absent-mindedly put the bag instead of the cash box into the safe.  Well that's the way the rest of us had it explained to us, but I can't help thinking if after forty years she'd finally 'had enough' and decided to go AWOL for a final fling somewhere in Acapulco!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Does anyone remember what it was like on Friday's when the wages staff came around where you worked and you were handed a small buff coloured envelope with your name and works number on it?  Not only was Friday the best day of the week being the one before two days off, it was also 'pay day'. How great did it feel when you had that small brown envelope in your hands?  I can remember the sheer anticipation of prising open the very sticky glue and with two fingers reaching inside to slide out the crisp notes.  Not so long after I started work everyone went over to bank-transfers to receive their salaries and they phased out the wages round, I suppose it was safer to have the money always in the bank instead of having security firms delivering tons of money here and there and everywhere all over our towns.  I've never forgotten though that feeling of holding the real money you had just earned that week by your toil for the engines of industry, it was exciting.  Sometimes there wasn't as much inside the packet as you had reckoned you would receive, fluctuating tax deductions or pay-docked for lateness etcetera.  The best pay-days were when you were taking your annual leave the next week and then your pay-packet would be thick and bulging with an extra fortnights money for your holiday.  How brilliant it was to have your wad of cash and the excitement of a whole two weeks ahead of you with no work!

Friday, 15 June 2012


....."The time has come," the Walrus said
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes..and ships..and sealing wax..
Of cabbages and kings..
And why the sea is boiling hot..
And whether pigs have wings."

-The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll-

Look at those long thin hands.  You can just imagine shaking hands with this weird creepy little man can't you?  His real name was Richard Engländer, he was writer born in Vienna in 1859, Peter Altenberg was his pseudonym.  Apparently he was described as being a true Bohemian and was know for his eccentric wild way of dressing and his outrageous opinions.  He was inspired by the prose poems of Baudelaire and also by postcards because they necessitated a condensed style of writing.  Speaking of his prose-pearls he said,  "They're extracts!  Extracts from life!"  His own life was fractured by more than one internment in the local asylum and his writing was an amalgam of fiction and fact.  He had his letters delivered to Cafe Central his favourite coffee-house in Vienna where he used to like to write, and where there is now a statue of him permanently seated at a table near the entrance.  Apparently he wrote the phrase,  "Are we not all only Karikatures from the truly and ideal wishes, which God and nature made with our souls and our bodies." (with the spellings and punctuation as original) in English beneath Jagerspacher's portrait of him.

He would most definitely have been delighted with the invention of blogs.  I feel a certain sympathy with him, if only for the fact that sometimes he wrote his short prose-pearls whilst propped up in bed and like me his writings were liberally peppered with wild fireworks of exclamation marks!!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

'Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on.'  
                                  Johnathan Safran Foer