Saturday, 29 October 2011

smile, and the world smiles with you...

Somehow, in the midst of all the stress, hassle and chaos that has been work this week it's actually been a very enjoyable experience.

Something, I think to do with the banter, fun and entertainment provided a good antidote to the burdens of the week. It's been very busy. Energy companies are pretty much the spawn of Satan in the eyes of some in the media. Despite my guys finding somethings tough, with us operating on a reduced number of bums on seats, they are being cheerful and playful about the whole experience.

When I think back to what the team was like, when it was first formed back in November 2010, things were very different. There was a lot more drama, a lot more pouting, shouting and stropping about. The amount of time I would have to spend with certain people, the fact that some people were pretty much escalating to me on a daily basis because they were creating problems being so argumentative with customers. God. How that all seems like such a distant, but painful memory. At the time my boss asked me 'how the fuck do you manage to make yourself come into work every day ?'. I guess maybe because as much as my stubbornness can be a problem, it can also be a strength.

At some point in the next month or so, I will be getting some new team members. These will be fresh newbies that have recently joined and completed their training. I know that this will alter the team dynamic somewhat, but I hope that we don't lose the really intimate and friendly banter we have.

You can really tell if people like each other by how much they take the piss out of one another. And that we all certainly do. A lot.

Friday, 28 October 2011


Let's just see how long I can tolerate making a blog entry from the comfort of my own Kindle. Because dear reader, and I avoid the plural quite rightly, that is indeed what I am trying to do. The first thing I notice is that my blog actually doesn't look too bad in e-nk monochrome. The next thing I pick up on is how annoying it is that the editting window on blogspot doesn't fit on the kindle screen.

Aside from that it is actually a shock at how dependant upon spell checking I am. I am using what is now called 'Kindle with keyboard' and as lomg as I don't try to enter nanowrimo on it, It is a fine little keyboard. The temptation is to use thumbs as if the kindle is some sort of distant relative of the blackberry. Ah I miss my blackberry.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Slap myself around the face

It's becoming quite common, this saying that the week's going rather badly. Well it is. Okay. It's going rather badly. The fallout from the work last week still drags on. The end of the month is nigh, so the inevitable end of month admin work looms like a particularly uninteresting relative that you don't really want to spend time with.

My life is no more remarkable, no less amazing than any other.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Find me somebody to love, find me somebody to love..... somebody... anybody....

The rest of the week hasn't worked out significantly better, but it wasn't any worse. I was about an hour late getting out of the office today (Saturday) because I was helping someone on a call, and that was proving difficult to do.

Sometimes it's really hard, because you know you just want to do your best for someone, and really want to help them out, but they aren't perhaps in a place where they find themselves able to accept your help or your advice.

I guess it's part and parcel of dealing with the public that some people will make a seemingly simple thing that's rather easy to fix very difficult to resolve because they just don't get it. Some people however are determined to never get it. Determined that you are the big evil nasty faceless company that the press have told them you are.

Being told that I sound posh on the phone and that perhaps I should consider going back to school in order to get a more worthwhile job is always a way to make me feel really in tune with someone's emotional state.

To say everyone, would be wrong, but some people feel that their issue, their problem is the worst thing to ever happen to anyone in the existence of the industry. From a logical standpoint, this obviously can't be true, we just don't set new records for shitness on a daily basis. What I find hard to deal with, because it wouldn't be right to actually tell them, is that sadly some people bring this on themselves. We are far from perfect, and are quite ready to hold our hands up and admit when we get things wrong, but if someone is determined to not read the information we send them, warning that we haven't been able to get a true assessment done due to lack of access, or that reducing their payments below the average cost of what they are using then they play a part in digging that hole for themselves.

Unfortunately, those sort of people take a lot of time and effort to convince that they, at the very least had a part to play in why they have a large balance to pay now, and will be adamant that we should have done more. It does mean that there's less time and resources to help those that are in more fundamental need, that have done all they could to try and prepare, and yet just can't make ends meet.

Ironically it's the ones that get offended on the phone on behalf of the 'needy' that you can't please. 'You should do more to help them' they say. 'You should spend time with them, helping them save money' they opine. Well I would, if you'd get off the phone and let me go do that. 

With the help of the beloved media, the 'Great' British public sometimes get themselves in a right tiz by proxy. Not seeing that actually taking up our time to explain to them all the things we do to help people stops us from spending time, er... helping people that they want to 'save'.

You don't go into Tesco and fill the trolley with £80 of shopping, get to the till and then say that you think it should be worth £20, or more accurately, having taken it home, eaten all the food call back a year and a half later and try to say you didn't eat it, and will only now pay a quarter of its value.

I want to cry sometimes at the more elderly customers who are apologetic, think that they should say sorry to us because they can't afford to pay their bills, that no one in their community or in their family (god forbid) has advised that they can get their heating replaced, insulation fitted all at government subsidy, or are entitled to extra benefits.

Sadly it is sometimes the case, that those with the money, are actually the ones most effective at finding ways to not hand it over to anyone else. They are after all the ones with the education, resources and savvy to wriggle their way out of things. I'm not a socialist, but this pisses me off. It's just not right, or fair.

If I could get a pound every time someone said to me 'oh, I don't read my bills, no one does do they ?' (you read this one okay, or you wouldn't be speaking to me now) I could set up a fund to help those that did read their bills, that sit there shivering, unable to sleep in fear that they'll be cut off or have someone knocking at their door. Some people think we have a button under our desk to just cut people off at will. Others seem to think that we have a bath filled with crisp £50 notes at the end of ever desk and go bathe in it at lunch time.

I just want to help people. Is that too much to ask ?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Tell Me Why (I Don't Like Mondays)

Annoyingly my day off this week is Tuesday. This means that the rest of the week is longer than the start of it. so I have a long climb down to the weekend arrives, and 5 precious hours of it will be spent at work. Dammit.

Monday was a complete shit of a day. We were very, very busy and somehow this idea of half the managers doing coaching, and the other half dealing with manager calls seemed to work out that I ended up taking 6 escalations myself. Two of which I solved before the day was out, but nonetheless I was sodding well knackered and ready to escape come the end of the day. Had it not been 4 days before payday I would have gladly nipped into the pub for a pint or two.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sundays are such interesting things. I got an invite late last night to have roast dinner at my mum's this evening. If there's one thing I can't turn down, it's the opportunity of a roast dinner I don't have to prepare.

So, after dispatching Chloe (well, I took her home) and bouncing some ideas around with Alec to help with the current series of The 9th Man, I went round my Mum & Dad's.

Really good to see them again, haven't seen them in a week or so (if you don't count me waving out the window to my dad when he is having a smoke in the garden).

Also good to see my Sister, and my nephews. Bless them. When they're not trying to kill each other.

I also received a reply from Helen, to agree to arrange a meet up. We need to meet face to face to sort out our issues. All this sending messages back and forth just isn't working.We need to have 'the talk'.

A good old family weekend, with some creativity mixed in, and the cleaning too. Am I good, or am I good ? No Tardis, no screwdriver, three minutes to spare. Who da Man ? Oh, ok, I'm never saying that again.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Sunny Saturday... ooooh loook. Grass !

After the roller-coaster experiences of the week, I'd been determined to make the most of the weekend and get up really early today. Unfortunately things didn't really work out that way. I'd been not so much fighting, as ignoring the alarm from 7am onwards, to the point that they (the alarms) both gave up, and left me to it. The cats even, were ever hopeful that I would rise and give them some breakfast.

Eventually I got up, but by this point it was 9 o'clock and gone. So after a slow start, I got to cleaning the flat, removing the covering of fur from the carpets, while two innocent looking kittens look on. You'd think they would be afraid of the vacuum cleaner, but they aren't.

The work in the area that used to be the Taylor Wimpey sales office car park has continued this week, and only today, did I see that they have started laying the lawn in that park area. This is great news. Nice bit of greenery right outside the flat. Right inside my wifi range. Guess where I'll be sitting doing some writing on sunny days ?

After cleaning the flat, I got myself cleaned up, and then headed off to collect Chloe. My rush to catch the
bus was such that when I sprinted on-board, and took my seat, turning quickly to sit down, my laptop bag swung round and nearly took the face off the person in the seat behind. Oooops.

So unintended assaulting of bus passengers aside, was actually on time to collect Chloe. In fact, early enough to pop into Palmerston Road and get some cash out. Yay.

Her phone's been incapable of accessing the internet and the Android Marketplace (the app store for Android phones) for a little while, and although this may be a good thing for the rest of us, it's been really annoying and inconvenient for her. Clever Dad, has now fixed this. I am sure thought that at some point in the future I will come to regret this.

My Mum's called me this evening, and invited me to a roast dinner at hers tomorrow. Yum. Roast dinner I don't have to cook. I'm rather liking this weekend. The other thing that's been great about today, is that whilst doing the cleaning, I've got some ideas formed in my head to use for the looming Nanowrimo. Yes, that's right, I'll be spending the month of November writing a 50,000 word novel, and this year I'm determined to have a better go at it than last year.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Out of the depths of despair...

.... you come across some successes, and grab them, as seldom as they may be, with both hands and hang on like hell for dear life.

It's been another tough week, in so many ways. Within an hour of my shift finishing today, I felt pretty much invincible. Not only had I managed to resolve two particularly tricky customer complaints, but I also manage to 'negotiate' the tricky situation that had been brewing all week with Chloe wanting to spend some more money on yet another gadget from ebay.

12 year old ebay addict ? Maybe.

Taking those in reverse order, I'd spoke to Chloe's mother in the week about how we were both worried that she'd yet again wanted to buy something new (a radio controlled hover car). Having sold her old netbook a couple of weeks ago, the proceeds are burning a hole in her pocket. Not unexpectedly, her Mum is urging caution, and saying that she can't spend that money, and needs to set it aside. Chloe, reacting like an apprentice teenager saying that it was 'unfair' and that her mum was being 'out of order' not letting her spend her own money.

Apparently she'd even said that she thought that if she took her mum to court she would win, as it was her own money. Bless her, she is her Father's daughter. Her poor Mother.

In the end, a deflected suggestion that I go halves with her, and let her have the damn thing as an early Christmas present, we eventually stood our ground and agreed that if she really wanted it, should could have it for Christmas, but would not have it early. More decries of 'unfair' and 'out of order' followed, but eventually she succumbed to the reasoning that getting it in two months time is still better than never having it at all.

Happy daughter. Happy ex-wife. Good bit of parenting and standard setting. Joint operation. Job done. (until, of course the next crisis comes up). There had been some drama and crisis at the weekend about how things were going between Chloe and her Grandparents, who live next door to her. She had been rude to them, and used some colourful language. A bit of peacemaking, listening, understanding and then talking with her Mum seems to at least not made things any worse. For my part the explanation that treating her Grandparents, or parents like that isn't acceptable, no matter what she feels they did, and even so, if she wants to get them to change their minds and treat her differently, is shouting and swearing at them the way to do it? She's clever enough to see that it's not.

As shameful, cringeworthy it may be hearing that these things have happened, I'm pretty sure I said some choice things to my relatives over the years, and although I feel like I had more respect for them, I knew where the boundaries were but was resolutely determined to push them, not just a little, but with a full sized jump kick to the head.

Hopefully, whilst maintaining that this behaviour is unacceptable, getting Chloe to see that there are much more effective ways of getting what she wants will be a better way of getting her to chose the right way to be, and to treat people.

As for work. The things that are difficult don't get any easier. After all, I really do think that I would be in the wrong job if I actually enjoyed the things I'm talking about. I am being necessarily vague about some things that I have to do, as this is entirely proper. Some times it is hard to do the right thing. Doing the wrong thing is really, really, easy.

Now, to resolve that broken friendship.....

Monday, 10 October 2011

too tired to write..

A long and arduous week deserves a weekend with excitement, enchantment... and some other stuff that begins with 'E'.

As it happened, it was pretty darn good.

A great day with Chloe, got off to a shaky start, with her mother telling me about how she's been behaving during the week. If she's been that bad, I'm surprised this is the first that I get to hear about it.

I've also been up to Steve's in Locks Heath to do some filming for The Adventures Of Stephen Brown. This was something unexpected (he only asked me on Friday) and rather a good night. Filming from about 6:30 pm until about half ten. Good script, good characters, great times.

I'm back home, and far too knackered to completely blog the events of the day and weekend. So I won't. I'll do it tomorrow instead.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Thank that day's over

I don't know where to start about just how difficult my day has been. I've been close to tears I think for pretty much the whole day, feeling quite overwhelmed.

Sometimes its hard to do right for doing wrong. My day pretty much got off to a crap start when i was told within an hour of getting in that I had a meeting with the site manager about some of my team.

I felt rather taken to task for not seemingly doing enough to make sure people are at work, or that they are able to answer phones. It seemed to be that even though I'd done all the things that I had been advised to do, that wasn't enough. Sometimes I wonder what I would need to do to get a 'well done, that's a good job' reaction from these people. It's like being in a rose bush, manure dropped on me from above, and thorns to the side.

The brown smelly stuff just kept falling. Reports of complaints to investigate, end of month reports to complete. The day couldn't end soon enough. Tomorrow will be better. it WILL be better.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Here's something I wrote earlier...

This is the review I wrote for Beacon of The Adventures Of Stephen Brown, the story was called Inversions...

This month is my first review of the eagerly awaited Specials of 2011 (or were they 2010, I get confused ?). With a reduction in output, greater care has been put into all of the technical aspects of the production, do we prove that less definitely is more ?

The previous season (whichever year it was) ended with a rather confused Lizzy (Sarah Miatt) discovering a gender confused Stephen Brown in the female form of Marie Ridley. This in itself is something that would have been very easy to go down the pantomime route and play to all the obvious jokes about the physical differences, and really construct a farce out of the situation. Thankfully this is not what Simon Doidge had included in his script. There was obviously the odd reference to the er.... chest differences, but the narrative focused on the other issues of the day.

Marie does a great job being thrown into a role that really would be quite tough to know how to play. This is made all the easier by Sarah's presentation of Lizzie's interpretation of events, and some very well set out camera work exploring the tension and confusion between the two.

Really, as I said earlier, this story does very well on the technical front, I can't see a boom in sight, and there's only one place where I think the transition cut in the edit was fluffed up a little (Marie's reference to chocolate milkshake), and where perhaps the sound needed to be better (John's audio matching image & lack of sound effect when Glenda & John disappeared from the antechamber).

Otherwise we can easily believe that buildings on other planets look like 1970s concrete high rises. We can certainly believe the use of sets (Vo's ship, the space fighters), and the CGI space battle scenes really have borrowed somewhat from Battlestar Galactica, but is a choice that works well. It's more than just watchable, it's believable.

The only area I would have to 'mark down' the story is in the story element itself. There's a lot of different things going on in these three episodes, and I struggled to follow at times what they all were, how they were interlinked and why they were important. I can't follow how or why we get Ryan back as Stephen. In previous Beacon work this would have been coupled with an assortment of technical issues that perhaps an audience would not be so forgiving of.

On this story, I think the enjoyability of the 'theatre' and drama of the images we are treated to, and the novelty of seeing Ryan in an RAF uniform (sorry mate, but John Barrowman still does it better) override or at least compensate for the confusions. For me it's the acting performances of Ridley & Miatt with the sets used and the CGI that saves this story. Knowing what happens in the next story doesn't stop me being interested in how this all pans out.... and if you're intrigued too then I suggest you fire up your web browser this minute and find out.... 

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

It's October, Damit !

As I last blogged, we've had a couple of days of unseasonably hot, sunny weather. Not that I've had much of a chance to enjoy it, today, being at work. We were due to finish at 6, but with one thing and another, I actually got out of the call centre at 7. What surprised me was that outside it was very dark, like the middle of the night.

It was still rather comfortably warm. Wouldn't have expected that on October 3rd I'd be able to go to work and come home again in T-Shirt and shorts, and not at all be cold.

Really must shift my arse in gear about cleaning the flat. It's a shit tip and I've been a lazy arse.

I've also tried to get people interested in a drama session on Wednesday, but so far only seem to have a couple of people coming. Literally 2.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Here comes the sun...

I write this, sitting outside (on my camping chair) basking in the gorgeous sunshine we are inexplicably blessed with. These things seem all the more special when you consider that it's October 1st today. Yes that's right kids, October 1st. Bloody hell, after all this furore about global warming, and how bad for us it is (going to be), no one stopped to tell us that it might mean I can write outside on a sunny day, in my shorts, IN OCTOBER. OCTOBER !

Did I mention it was October ?

I've gotten up reasonably early today (well, a shave before 9am) grabbed a coffee, after feeding the cats, and taken netbook with me to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine whilst catching up on some script editing and some reviewing for Beacon.

I even decided to risk letting the cats outside. It's so quiet, and there's probably no better time to let them have a sniff around than today.

Too often I lazily trap myself in my flat, in front of the television, or more often, in front of my Mac. Living on my own (sorry Midnight & Twilight, you don't count as people) that leads to a rather insular existence. Lots of moping and self reflection may be good for you, or at least required if you're a teenager, but at my age it's just a bit on the sad side. I don't feel a burning need to be with other people because I can't manage or survive on my own. But I do recognise that I learn the most from other people (usually all the ones I disagree with) and do enjoy the company of others, as long as they are the right people.

The group I work with (my team) at work the 'right kind of people'. Which I don't think is something that neither I or they would have said six months ago. It's been quite the roller coaster this year. I do feel good about the difficult times I've been through, because we (as a team) have all come through them together and that gives us a better understanding of one-another. I'm a great believer in whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. It's as true for immunity to virus and germs as it is to resilience to emotional distress and conflict. Having said that, there is still work to be done. There is more for me to learn (from them) and about how to get along with people better, and achieve more.

Times gone by I think I have been so eager to get a result that I've knocked everyone and everything out of my way in my determination to get there. Unfortunately this always involved knocking over the very people I needed to help me get there.

By far the greatest pride I feel about this year is that one person in my team managed to be successful in getting a job in another area of the business they were really interested in, when they've been overlooked a lot before, two others have been headhunted by other managers to stand in as their deputies, and another has shined so well that I'm convinced pretty soon the same will happen to her.

I'm sure that if you asked any of these four people, six months ago, that they thought they would be in that situation, and how well we'd be getting along, they would have all told you it was impossible and not to be so fucking funny or stupid.

I would have probably said pretty much the same. I've changed, they've changed. We've all grown. I'm sorry this all probably sounds rather mush and twee or terrible Americanised corporate bollocks. But it's true.

Someone who my relationship with has moved in the opposite direction is my friend of nearly 20 years. The person that I've written 4 plays with, countless sketches and created improvised videos for the world to enjoy (or avoid). We've always had diametrically opposing political views, and it's been something we have always been able to work with, ignore and manage. It's actually contributed to some of the balance in our writing. Now we can't seem to see eye to eye on anything. I don't think it's down to the politics. I think it's much more deeply routed than that.

You may recall that we fell out during the production of the last show. It really does seem to have been the death of our friendship. How she was feeling and reacting at the time was due I guess to the severe strain that she was feeling at home. She's had domestic issues for quite some time, in that one of her sons has unfortunately been caught up in the drugs world, and this has also made worse (or been made worse by) his problems interacting with people. He is afflicted sadlywith not being where you would expect a man of his age to be, in terms of social mental development. I am sure there's a medical or psychological name for such a condition, but I'm sorry, it escapes me. She also has, from time to time, problems where her other son gets involved in what could possibly be discribed as the darker element of society, or seems to want to declare war on the drug dealers as a whole for what he perceives as their decision to ruin his brother's life.

All of these pressures take a place in amongst all the others of money and time that an awful lot of people feel at the moment. She also has to deal with suffering from a debilitating condition herself called fibromyalgia. She works from home, as is sadly no longer well for long enough to be in the mainstream workplace. (this wasn't always the case).

We fell out because we disagreed about how to organise some things, or how to make things work within the show. Increasingly her ability to invest productive time and energy to the show became an issue. She became steadily frustrated that I (as she saw it) had taken over and was running things less as a partnership and more as a one man show, with an assistant director / producer. This situation was not due to a lack of effort on her part, merely that she couldn't seem to focus on the things that needed doing.

I steadily began to recognise the symptoms of stress in her, and what certainly looked like her heading toward a breakdown. I could see this, because I have been in that situation before myself, and have been able to move on with my own mental well being (if you like) because I can recognise these traits and take action to deal with things before they get worse. Unfortunately, she wasn't able or willing to agree that this was what was happening, and pretty much saw that I was being mean spirited and making her feel worse.

In the end, I had to manage to juggle not only my day job, and my own outside work pressures (they were nowhere near the sort of thing she was going through of course),  protect her from the harsher elements of what I had been told or observed from members of the cast, and the some of the workload AND protect the show from the more destructive behaviors she was exhibiting. I do think I did a good job of this under the circumstances, because we managed to get to the end of the production with a show that was watchable, and enjoyable (although it could have been 1000 times better had we planned and organised better) and without our friendship exploding right infront of everyone involved.

I don't feel good about having to make decisions to do things without telling or asking her. I didn't like it, but didn't see an alternative at the time that didn't pose a greater threat to the show.

Somewhere along the line we have stopped communicating by telephone. I think this may be attributed to me getting cross with her after repeatedly being unhappy that she'd be on the phone to me for hours on end, when I've just come in from work and hadn't even had a chance to eat and was due back into work in 8 hours. These conversations would always be bad ones, that would make me feel shit, and would ruin my evening, or they would be ones that didn't actually achieve anything other than to moan about how much work there was to do, and how little time we had to do it. My observation at the time that we could achieve more by doing things than by sitting on the phone talking about them seemed to fall on deaf ears.

The paralysis of negativity is something I can see in people that are depressed, and also understand is hard to see past. I also know that the only way to feel good about achieving things is to get them done. You won't get the reward from finishing something if you never even start it.

She has now sent me several either lengthy (2000 word plus) emails or similarly long facebook messages, including one which she sent out to her nearest and dearest friends to 'brief' them on what's been happening in her life. In addition to this, she has now mentioned twice in different messages that she was offended because I haven't commented on her status at all. That I had 'hidden' her.

What's the netiquette about how often you should comment on your friends' status updates ? What if you don't want to, or feel the need to comment ? What if you don't because you're pretty much certain that what you say is going to start an argument ? Her updates are normally very political in nature, and mixed with rather lame personal attacks against those in power, that are usually all in capital letters. She also has the unfortunate habit of copy and pasting just about every pointless internet hoax or chain message that's doing the rounds.

I don't comment, because I think such things are either just rude or stupid, and say lots of things about how gullible and crazy the person repeating them is.

One of her longer messages that was sent out to a 'select' bulk of about 20 friends listed all the things that's been happening to her lately. Truly horrible things. Lots of our mutual friends made impassioned comments in reply to it. Was I wrong not to comment ?

I'm now left with the troubling problem of what to do. I'm not happy to be painted as the villain, but I'm also not happy to be expected to say things that someone likes just because they want to hear it, even if saying it will mean me lying, or being false.