Friday, 5 September 2014

A Guy I Kind Of Knew Died.

His name was Chris and he passed away earlier this week. I didn't know him very well. I only found out this morning - and only because it popped up on my facebook feed. Someone who knew him better than me had liked a comment made by someone who knew him better than her on a post that someone who knew him better than her had made. So I'm pretty far down the line as far as personal connections go. But I met him and spoke with him and knew him briefly at university. And now he's dead.

I'm not sure what to do with that information.

On my second week at university I joined the snowsports team and went out with them on their first social of the year. I didn't know anyone else on the team at the time, but it was the beginning of the year and one of the points of the night was to get to know everyone else. The other point was to get drunk. I probably met Chris in the club at some point during the evening, but I mostly just remember getting a taxi back at the end of the night. Everyone was leaving and splitting up in to various groups at the taxi stand, and he said his house was close to my halls so I went with him and another guy. We chatted on the way back and he mentioned that he and his housemate had a case of beer and asked if we'd like to carry on drinking back at his. So of course we both did and we went back to his house and sat in his living room playing stupid drinking games and making daft jokes. Everyone was really relaxed and friendly the whole night and it turned out to be a lot of fun. The sun was up when I finally left.

That was really the only time I spent with the guy. I saw him a couple of other times at team things or in the pub, and we'd say "Hi", but never really spoke much past that.

Other people knew him a lot better than I did, and I'm sure he meant much more to them than to me. To me he's really just someone I spent a night drinking with a few years ago. But he invited me round, and he was really friendly, really funny and really nice and it makes me very sad to think that he doesn't exist any more.

Monday, 30 June 2014


A conversation I semi-regularly have with people I don't know that well:

Person: "How long have you and your girlfriend been together Nick?"
Me: "About 6 years."
"Ooh. Any plans to get married?"
"Ha. No, we're not planning on it."
"I bet she wants to though."
"Oh, of course you think she doesn't, but she really does. You'd better hurry up, she's not going to wait around forever you know."
"No, she really doesn't want to get married right now. Neither of us do."
"Of course she does! Trust me."

So you think that:
(A) You know my girlfriend, who I've been with for six years, better than I do - even though you've never met her - because;
(B) as a man, I am too dumb to understand that;
(C) all women want to get married as soon as possible, but just won't admit it.

And (A) means that you have to inform me of this, otherwise she will leave me because of (C) and I won't understand why, due to (B).

Well it's a good job you know your stereotypes better than I know my girlfriend.

Monday, 23 June 2014


An average day at 14.

Arrive at school for 9 am. 

You will begin the day by reading Shakespeare for an hour, and discussing his use of language, ensuring you take detailed notes on everything that is said. After a short break you will go in to a different room where you will spend an hour speaking and writing in French. Then you will be given a series of increasingly complex equations to solve until lunchtime. 
After lunch you will look at diagrams of World War One trenches, and précis a chapter of a text book in to a short essay on soldiers' conditions. Then you will create spreadsheets full of fictional information, which you will present as a range of different graphs and charts. Finally you will get changed and play a quick game of rugby before the day is over.

Finish at 3:45 pm.

You will be given extra work on each topic of the day to be completed in your own time. You are encouraged to take part in any of a range of extra-curricular activities available in your spare time.

Tomorrow will involve:
An hour spent speaking and writing in German. An exploration of the origins of Judaism. A continuation of a term-long project to design and build a small wooden toy. A collection of poems to be read and analysed, line by line, with a full written description of what each one "means". More equations to be solved. 

An average day at 24.

Arrive at work for 9 am.

You will read and respond to a few emails regarding the sale of bedsheets. You will print off some labels, stick them to parcels of bedsheets and then move the parcels from the warehouse to reception for collection. You will check that listings for all bedsheets being sold online are up to date, and fix any issues you encounter. 

You may be required to print a few other things, or move some other boxes. 

Anything you are asked to do will revolve around the sale of bedsheets.

Finish at 5 pm.

Tomorrow will involve:
The same. 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Introducing The Marikar Scale

As humans we are storytellers. From going home and telling your partner/parents about your day; to thrilling your friends in the pub with the tale of that time you fought off fifteen ninjas while handcuffed to a pipe, we love to tell stories. Unfortunately we're not all good at it. We've all been there when a friend or acquaintance has been carefully explaining the finer details of a story we're just not interested in. Or a story that starts well but goes nowhere.

A few years ago my friend Preston and I were told one these terrible anecdotes by a pale faced, lanky friend of ours named Matthew Fear. Inspired by this exercise in insipidness, we developed the Marikar scale - a way to rate the banality of your friends stories and anecdotes.

We named the scale after our old Biology teacher Mr Marikar: the subject of Fear's story who, at the time, was due to leave for a school in Manchester - the same city Fear would be moving to the following year. As I write this I'm suddenly struck by the unfairness of attributing the scale to Mr Marikar - who, as merely the subject of the tale, probably doesn't deserve to have his name immortalised as a measurement of dull anecdotes.

The Marikar scale goes from 1 to 10. 1 would be an engaging, enjoyable anecdote that you would happily hear again. Fear's story, still the most pointless story I've ever heard, is a full 10. The complete, unabridged tale goes like this:

"I saw Mr Marikar the other day. He said to me 'I'll see you in Manchester.' 
And I said 'OK.'"

Anything that is more interesting, entertaining or informative than that story gets a lower mark. Anything less interesting, entertaining or informative than that story doesn't actually exist.

Use the Marikar scale next time someone tells you a story. And consider it the next time you start one. Remember, anything above a 5 isn't worth telling. Your friends will thank you.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Riddle of my Employment

In September 2013 I had two interviews for a 3 month job with a textile wholesale company in Manchester. For purposes of this story let's call the company "Manchester Textiles*". I was interviewed by a lady called Valerie, who was to be my manager if I got the role. The interview went well and I had a positive feeling about my chances of getting the job. I then went three months without hearing anything.

In December I was told that the company had gone in to administration and been significantly downsized to a staff of just 7 people. They'd also moved to smaller offices in the town of Haslingden. Nevertheless they still wanted me and asked me to start in January, on a permanent basis.

When I started I learned that the company had been bought back from the administrators by the original directors, but had been renamed "Haslingden Bedding". After rebranding, the company sold off the last of its old product ranges and I was to focus solely on the new 2014 collection of duvet covers and pillowcases.

Two days after I started Valerie moved to Australia. She told me she'd still be involved in the company and would still work closely with me through emails and skype. I received two emails from her in the couple of weeks following this, and then nothing.

In April I was called in to the boardroom and told that Haslingden Bedding had been sold to another company that operated out of the same building. Though the Haslingden Bedding brand was to continue, it would now be a subsidiary of Mill Textiles. The existing directors would become silent partners with no input in to the day-to-day running of the company.

So that's (A) a permanent role in (B) a different town, for (C) a different brand with (D) a smaller staff, owned by (E) a different company, where I work with (F) a different product range, and have nothing to do with (G) the original directors or (H) the person who conducted the interview and hired me.

So my question is:

At which point did I start a job that I didn't interview for?

*All names of people and companies have been changed in the interest of not pissing off my employers (whoever the hell they are).