As I unenthusiastically turned the pages of budget number 14560039, I found myself wondering whether I was meant for greater things than inspecting invoices for biros. This is the nature of modern life. Unsatisfied with our dull and uninteresting existence, we construct more exciting destinies for ourselves. 16th century French peasants had few ambitions beyond owning a small plot of dirt and a rusty pitchfork; we in these enlightened times refuse to accept the fact we are condemned to mediocrity and accordingly, plunge ourselves into vast amounts of debt in order to achieve that impossible dream.
‘50 biros –large, engraved with project logo’ read the almost comically unexciting piece of paper, and yet in the bureaucratic nightmare that is working for the council such documents are often clamoured for by over zealous auditors, eager to expose the slightest modicum of corruption.
Of course, all they have to do is look at the story behind the invoices to expose the wastage that goes on in this department. For example, most of these logoed biros are now completely useless as publicity material because some bright spark decided to change the name of the entire project to ‘Ideal Opportunities’ after the branded stationary had been ordered. The council is surprisingly frugal in some areas, refusing to buy us plastic cups for the water cooler, but squandering vast sums of money on a glossy council magazine that most people simply chuck in the bin as soon as it arrives through their letterbox. Rightly so, because these magazines are carefully honed instruments of propaganda and about as truthful as an ‘end of year update’ letter from the Goebbels family.
Then there is the ironically titled ‘celebration event’ at the end of this week where we are wasting a grand of tax payers money on a party for those students who have successfully completed our courses. Our project has a noble aim, to give people the skills they need to get back into the job market, and yet simply offering to pay all the course fees, childcare and travel expenses isn’t enough to get people to enrol and better their lot. In addition, we have to offer £100 vouchers to our student when they successfully complete 80% of the course; these are to be handed over at the ‘Celebrating Achievement’ event. The result is that many people simply turn up for most of the course and then drop out when they are entitled to their voucher. This, of course, is hardly the Socialist dream; in fact my political views are rapidly becoming more Victorian as the weeks go on. I used to believe in a generous welfare system, now I find myself subscribing to Malthusian notions of letting the excess population of the United Kingdom simply starve itself out of existence.
My colleagues in the office have a demeanour that, I imagine, is strongly reminiscent of the inhabitants of old Muscovy, when informed that a large horde of bloodthirsty Mongols were approaching from the eastern horizon. Apparently the - rather too idealistic- ‘ideal opportunities’ program is being shut down come March because it is a complete waste of money. Hence my comrades are displaying very little of the protestant work ethic and mostly seem to sit around playing solitaire and browsing the Internet looking for other jobs. Our management have reacted to this crisis by bravely going on holiday; with such inspiring leadership its hard not to reach new heights of cynicism.
In reaction to this climate of poor motivation, I have set about making myself useful by designing motivational posters that will inspire me and my admin team-mate Amanda into Herculean feats of office administration. The first poster I made bore the inspiring logo ‘TEAM ADMIN’, resplendent in front of a flaming background. After struggling to think of a suitable motto, I decided to write ‘No problem too big, no task too futile’. Then, deciding the poster was looking a little drab, I included a picture of Lord Kitchener, who declares through a speech bubble that we are ‘mail merging for a better tomorrow’. This was received fairly well in the office, and, emboldened, I decided to work on something a little more controversial. An email had earlier been circulated that displayed a photograph of the fattest cat I had ever seen. This, I thought, was the ideal mascot for the City Council. After a swift, and rather amateurish, foray in photo-shop, I scattered bundles of money at the cats feet and gave him some bling to wear. Having added the Rottingham-on-Trent city council logo, my inspirational poster was complete. ‘Wasting public money for a better future’ I added at the bottom. Having shown this to my colleagues they expressed their approval, but told me in no uncertain terms that it would be prudent to banish this creation to the darkest reaches of my desk drawer. The Admin logo has been a success however, and I have taken to adding it to the phone messages I have to write down for people; now the header reads ‘Team Admin – Because we can’t afford an answering machine’.
There are many things that I have an opinion on, but a cucumber isn’t one of them. If you asked me to discuss the tactical flaws in ‘Operation Barbarossa’, then perhaps I would be able to hold my own in a discussion, however, vegetables inspire no strong emotions in me whatsoever. I find that this makes shopping with Katie a tad problematic because I am often asked to venture an opinion on supermarket produce; my failure to do so is usually met by a tidal wave of resentment. One thing I do have a very strong opinion is this new fad whereby some person –usually a big brother contestant declares something along the following lines
‘I don’t bitch behind people’s backs, If I don’t like someone then I tell it to their face’
This is often said with a certain degree of pride, as though it is somehow an admirable quality. Well, if you subscribe to this dogma then let me enlighten you, telling people straight out that you don’t like them is just being extremely rude. It’s as simple as that. In contrast, bitching behind peoples back is both a noble and a necessary part of belonging to the human race because it allows us to harmlessly expunge the negative views that pop into our heads on a regular basis. If this process did not occur then we would live our lives as seething cauldrons of hatred, ready to explode at the slightest pretext. As an illustration, if you applied this moronic ‘telling it like it is’ principle into the world of diplomacy then we would be bathed in nuclear Armageddon within seconds, and deservedly so.