Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Yesterday was painful. Groggy and unwashed, I dragged myself up the hill. The same hill I watched Alistair McGowan drag a suitcase up on Saturday night. I had felt that he should have taken a taxi. Perhaps he was nearly there.

I sat by my desk, struggling my way through the slow dribble of admin. My desk is positioned by the front door. Everything that I may or may not be doing on my literal and virtual desktop is perfectly visible to people of all angles. The management team sweep past at five minute intervals to engage in tribal smoking activities by the front door. Striking power poses with hips and tabs. Secret meetings held by the boot of the Ford people carrier that ferries most of them to work each morning. The management carrier. I approve of their lift-sharing/carbon-saving team spirit. It’s an inspiration to us all.

My partner in reunifying crime, Tweedledum, takes every suggested opportunity to smoke. Positioned directly next to the garden of tabs, the patio of fags, the graveyard of butts, he takes cue from the regular stream of red faced employees coming to sit next to him, rolling rollies or indeed breezing past with pre-formed cigarettes, for people too busy to roll. One can see who needs their particular cigarette. Perhaps they just missed five sales in a row and are becoming frustrated and quivering of voice. Perhaps their sales team are failing miserably and their team leading productivity bonus is slowly growing wings and flying away on the breeze.

I stand with my tea by the front door, proud with my recruitment agency mug and the delicious Yorkshire Tea I’m sipping at intervals. Like tea used to be. Brewed. Not conceived in a plastic cup by the sound of bleeps, the touch of a button and the whirlwind of congealed white and brown matter.

There’s a small silver trashcan (or large ashtray) by the front door. Each day, the new recruits miss their allotted resting point for their butts and receive harsh reprimand by those in authority. What’s the bloody trashcan for anyway?

I am doing my best to perfect the art of looking busy. As I write now, I appear engaged in some important business, whereas reader, we know the truth. My shifts are bi-polar. Either I wallow in a total lack of things to do, or I am bombarded by phone calls from worried owners. And what, you may be wondering, can I do to help? This is a pressing question indeed. Through various means of communication, I can cross reference the caller’s particulars and see if I don’t draw a blank. I have realised that ultimately I am a port of call. People are so surprised and happy to actually hear the voice of someone who at least sounds like they care about the fact that their particular specimen of black domestic cat has decided not to come home for the last three nights. Where could he be? Well, I offer, he could be trapped in a neighbour’s shed or outhouse. Have you checked? Have you tried calling him at night time, when the day’s noise has hopefully been reduced to a cat’s whisper? Have you tried leaving an old unwashed t-shirt outside so that the cat can trace your scent with his supersonic sense of smell? No? Well thank the good lord for me!

People tend to be incredibly grateful. Unless they’ve already paid for the service in which case they may be sceptical about what exactly I’m doing to get their cat home. In fact, I’m designing lost cat posters to send them with their Mittens on it. I’m putting a slightly different version of this poster in the first class mail to all the vets, rescue centres and council offices in the area to see if maybe they can help. And beyond that…umm…I can offer support and advice. Me! I’ve never even had a cat! Or a dog (it still hurts). Nachmi doesn’t count. Well he does, but it hardly qualifies me as an expert.

All for six pounds an hour, which, all things considered, pays less than a milk round.

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