Sunday, 3 December 2006

Resurrection of the blog


If you’ve been in London for the past six months you’ll probably be aware that the coming of the 2012 Olympics is being heralded by greedy property developers and over-optimistic government officials as an event akin to the second coming of Christ. The XXX Olympiad, so we are told, will lead to an unprecedented renaissance in east london, transforming the deprived boroughs of Hackney, Newham, Stratford and Tower Hamlets into an urban utophia of smart new flats, hard working yuppies and wholesome young familes. Of course anyone who had the misfortune to travel past Canning Town on the DLR will know that these areas barely qualify as habitable; the architect who designed most of this bleak concrete wilderness clearly took his inspiration from the surface of the Death Star. Both are despicably ugly, but East London’s sci-fi doppleganger has one overwhelming advantage, the lack of a breathable atmosphere which prevents crowds of happy-slapping, workshy youths from concregating and causing trouble. These areas of London would benefit more from a well delivered A-bomb than a glorified school sports day which lasts less than a month but costs 4 billion.

It appears that, much like Scott of the Antarctic, I have miserably failed to keep up a diary. Yet while Captain Scott had the excuse of having frozen to death in the middle of the Antarctic circle in a flimsy tent, my reasons for failing to write up the day to day discourses of my life are far more tenuous. So what was the cause of this long silence, did Nottingham City Council finally catch up with me and force me to eat my own words?. This is a terrifying prospect for me since my words are in digital format and therefore infinitely re-printable. Interestingly enough, there is a historical precedent for this. In the seventeenth century a Swedish author rashly decided to write a particularly scathing thesis on the subject of the Danish occupation. The authorities caught up with him and he was offered the choice between the death penalty and eating his own book. It’s a fate I would very much like to see meted out to Jeffrey Archer, Andy Mcnab and in particular Chris Ryan, author of such masterpieces as ‘Alpha Force One’, ‘Zero Force One’ and ‘The Ultimate Weapon’. In the old days war heroes manfully accepted their medals and settled into a quiet retirement; their deeds only coming to light many years later in the Obituary column. Now they get leapt on by publishers who sign them up to extensive book deals and have them produce volume after volume of literary crap for infantile young men with too much testosterone.

In fact there were numerous mitigating circumstances. Katie accidentally spilt gin and tonic over my keyboard causing my long-suffering machine to emit dada-esque rubbish every time I tried to type something. The struggle of attempting to live in two cities at the same time made contributing to my little corner of cyberspace tremendously difficult. But really the main reason for the demise of my blog has been sheer laziness; I still have plenty of things to moan about.

Life is full of what I like to term ‘delicious little ironies’. For example, on a daily basis I am continually bombarded by enviro-guilt literature informing me that I need to be conscious of my desecration of the environment and must religiously recycle every product I use. I am willing to do so, but where are the recycling bins?; at Brent Cross, conveniently located across a murderous mass of dual carriageways. So to be a good citizen of the earth and recycle I need to own a car, a vehicle which emits around 4.3 tonnes of CO2 a year. Not that this bothers me too much. This idea of every human being having some sort of ‘carbon footprint’ sounds spookily similar to the Calvinist idea that we are all born with original sin of which I am similarly sceptical. I must say it is good to see that the government is now tackling green issues with the stunningly original idea of putting more taxes on us. Unsurprising really since taxation has been the government’s response to every problem since the sixteenth century. I used to look back on the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as a bunch of self righteous tax dodging so and sos but in the light of the taxation fetish in this country they look remarkably far sighted.

In my business we talk about ‘life events’; those seminal moments in someone’s existence where major changes occur such as getting married, buying a house or having your first child. For me seeing how much tax comes out of your first meaningful payslip has to be up there with them. When the state first begins to whisk vast quantities of your income out of your bank account, a sea change occurs in your outlook. Suddenly the society at large becomes an endless source of annoyance. The country transforms itself into a vast caricature of dole scroungers, idle public sector bureaucrats and illegal immigrants and your political beliefs slide alarmingly from the left wing to somewhere to the right of General Pinochet.

Now as my eyes flit from article to article in the morning’s metro I find it hard to keep my anger hidden as I see the myriad of ways in which my tax money is being idly squandered; everything from Welsh devolution to bumper compensation payouts for prisoners who experience stress when their drugs are taken away from them in jail. I do miss the comfy leftie notions of student life but right wing irritation is somewhat invigorating.

Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Is it Art?

"Am I being a bit too cynical?", I puzzled to myself as I stared incredulously at the sculpture in front of me. The work of modern art insulting my gaze seemed comprehensively devoid of any merit whatsoever. And yet, I reflected, underapreciation of art has been an unhealthy characteristic of mankind for centuries. Perhaps if the rowdy regiments of The Holy Roman Emporer Charles V had taken a course in art history they might have been a little less eager to sack Rome in 1547. If the merciless hordes of Attila the Hun had held more of an interest in fine art and less of a facination with the contents of their trousers, the Dark Ages might well have been a little brighter. In view of this, one must always endevour to place the work of art within its proper context, to see things from the artists perspective and to shed ones stuffy traditional perspective. This proved decidedly difficult. The artist in question had apparently attempted to replicate Tracey Island from Thunderbirds, and yet its most commendable features such as the sliding swimming pool and the avenue of collapsing palm trees were conspiciously absent.
I decided to delve into the art gallery brochure to discover what the artist had intended; this is what I read.

'Sioban Hapaska's sculptures often hover between abstraction and hyper-real figuration. Her installation 'beach of the restless' presents all the clichés of paradise. However, the glow of sunshine on a white sandy beach, palm trees and the sound of waves gently breaking on the shore construct an Eden that is not as it seems. Her simulation of a tropical island is a synthetic anti paradise. In the centre a fibreglass monstrosity with an LCD screen for a face stands sentinel over a glass cube filled with sand and coconuts. The coconuts gaze warily at the screen, which depicts their kin being violently smashed open on an endless production line of destruction, like victims of state terror.’

In the Baroque period, works of art were enormous oil paintings depicting epic encounters between armour plated Trojan warriors and scantily clad, swooning maidens; all with a sinister Turk lurking in the background for good measure.

ART

Now one can simply throw together a bunch of dirty socks, a used condom and a collection of empty Pritt-sticks and claim this sordid collection "challenges the flawed but alluring tabula rasa of modernism and creates an atmosphere of pathos". Art has ceased to be about the work itself and more about the waffle that accompanies it. Take this rubbish by way of illustration

'Marcus Coates’s work documents his attempts to connect with - or even become- an animal. In 'Finfolk' he emerges out of the freezing north sea in ill fitting Adidas sportswear and clip on shades, his idea of what a seal would be like if it were human'

Surely becoming a seal involves substantially more effort than this, living off a diet of raw fish for example or balancing a toy ball on the end of your whiskered nose. In any case it is highly unwise to imitate seals as you are liable to be clubbed to death by a group of passing Norwegians. In this country clubbing involves donning a shirt, consuming large quantities of alcohol and stumbling around a poorly lit cellar full of scantily clad women for the duration of the evening. In Norway clubbing means sauntering down to the rocks with your buddies and chewing tobacco while you mercilessly whack seals over the head with a sturdy wooden bat. As the HSBC advert says ‘Local knowledge is important’; although in my experience, the only local knowledge HSBC actually possesses is 'Indians callcentres will work for peanuts'.

I couldn’t help reflecting as I paced this dreadful collection of exhibits that the majority of these artists would have failed GCSE art have they submitted them as their final piece. I got an ill deserved B grade in art but I struggled throughout my short-lived artistic career due to a chronic lack of talent. For a while I enrolled in an after school activity group and for long hours at weekends I would sit in pottery class churning out clay sculptures which were then placed all over the family home by my dutiful parents as mantelpiece ornaments. For some reason it is commonly seen as one of the responsibilities of parenthood to highlight the achievements of ones offspring, no matter how dreadful. As I discovered when I was packed off to boarding school, this mantra only goes so far.

The one ‘work’ of mine I remember the best was a clay model I sculpted of the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. Inspired by the class nativity play, I spent a good couple of hours marking out the bricks and then arranging them into a miniature dwelling complete with a flat middle eastern roof, tiny windows and rustic doorway. When I proudly brought this home my father dubbed it ‘Saddam Hussein’s Mud Hut’ and it was quietly relegated from the Annex Bedroom mantelpiece to the electricity cupboard when I wasn’t looking. Every time I returned for the holidays I would find that another of my clay sculptures had been accidentally ‘destroyed’ by my parents. Some were dropped when mother was dusting, some disappeared without a trace during spring-cleaning; Saddam Hussein’s mud-hut finally met its maker when it was stepped on during a power cut.

As I was leaving the gallery with Katie I pointed to an electrical powerpoint on the wall and jokily asked “Is this an exhibit”. To my horror one of the exhibition staff thought I was being serious and interjected saying ‘No sir, I’m afraid that isn’t an exhibit, the installations are all clearly labelled’. I failed to take this in and stammered something as my face went an unhealthy shade of pink. Instead of cheerily informing her that I was joking I had succeeded in making myself look completely stupid. I had mocked modern art and modern art had wreaked a terrible vengeance.

Saturday, 1 April 2006

History and Condom Machines


For centuries London has acted as the great corrupter. Agents of history, untainted by the risqué values of this great metropolis have arrived through its gates and left with a collection of moral vices and, no doubt, a corresponding quantity of venereal diseases. The young Benjamin Franklin left the shores of America in 1724 to buy a printing press in England; upon arriving in London he quickly realised that his backers had deserted him and that he would have to pay his own way. In his later biographies, Franklin wrote that he had indulged in many ‘foolish intrigues with low women’. By ‘low women’ he of course meant prostitutes, who were described by a contemporary chronicler as ‘lechery-layers of around a guinea purchase’. At the time prostitutes were to be mainly found sitting in hairdressers shops, which were ‘seldom to be found without a whore as a bookseller’s shop in St Paul’s churchyard without a parson’. Presumably the consumers of the time could get a ‘foolish intrigue’ thrown in with their short back and sides.
Upon taking his first job he became disgusted at the habits of his fellow workers who believed that hard work required strong beer. Workers of the time typically drank a pint of beer before breakfast, a pint with breakfast, a pint at midmorning, a pint with the midday meal, a pint in the afternoon and a pint at days end. When Franklin refused to contribute to the beer tab at his workplace he was ostracised by his colleagues who irritated him immensely by inserting errors into his work at every opportunity. When he confronted them about these activities they feigned innocence and claimed it was the fault of the company ghost.

As I write this, I recall a laughable debate about a year ago concerning the implementation of 24 hour licensing. This act by the government, hysterical authorities claimed, would bring about the fall of civilisation as we know it. Such assumptions fail to take account of the fact that throughout our glorious history some of our most important figures have been raging alcoholics. By way of illustration, Prime Minister William Pitt the younger was in the habit of drinking six bottles of port, two bottles of Madeira and a half bottle of claret everyday. He would often appear in the House of Commons drunk and would sometimes disappear behind the speakers chair in mid debate to throw up. Some attributed this to ‘nervousness’ but a quick analysis of his daily alcohol intake gives me cause for scepticism.

Those who moan about the worst excesses of bad taste television should take a look at what passed for entertainment back in the early eighteenth century. A handbill from the time which was displayed at Hockley in the Hole reads:

‘This is to give notice to all gentlemen, gamesters, and others, that on this present Monday is a match to be fought by two dogs, one from Newgate market, against one from Honylane market… Likewise a green bull to be baited which was never baited before; and a bull to be turned loose with fireworks all over him; also a mad ass to be baited, with a variety of bull baiting and bear baiting, and a dog to be drawn up with fireworks. Beginning exactly at three of the clock’

Venereal disease has been a problem throughout the centuries and casting my eye over the pages of the metro on my morning commute I discovered another historical gem. Correspondence released at the National Archives in Kew shows that "a good deal of trouble" was caused by the girls in the West End of London during the second world war. Officials wanted to bring the girls, aged 15 to 17 and from approved schools - a type of care home - under control. A total of 37 were arrested between May 1942 and April 1943 and a Home Office letter to police noted that many girls "frequented undesirable cafes” where they could strike up acquaintances with American soldiers who had plenty of money. These American soldiers passed the girls on to their friends and in a very short time, any one girl could be responsible for infecting a considerable number of people." The letters between the Ministry of Health, the Home Office, police and local authorities show there were 116 recorded cases of gonorrhoea and syphilis among the girls. It quickly became standard practice to check absconded girls for VD as soon as they arrived back at the care home.

Of course such matters remain a problem in this day and age and I can help but think that much of this is due to the impracticality of condom dispensing machines. These contraptions should, in a well-ordered universe, be designed to reflect the situation of purchase. I, as the consumer, merely wish to buy the confounded objects in as quickly and as secretive a manner as possible without incurring too much embarrassment. The other day I visited the pub with the sole intention of using one of these bloody things and was left staring at it for what seemed like an age because I found the instructions for use on the front of the machine to be utterly incomprehensible. The Byzantine set of directions stated that levers had to be pulled, coins inserted and buttons pushed in, all in the correct sequential order as if it were a nuclear detonation device. Having roughly worked out what I was supposed to do, I then reached into my pocket and discovered I did not have enough change to be able to make my purchase. I decided to get some change at the bar and ordered a half of Stowford Press, a most excellent cider. Since the cider was largely superfluous to the original purpose of my visit and I was anxious to get home, I downed the liquid and prepared to head back to the facilities. ‘You drank that quick’ said the barmaid with a air of reproach in her voice. She must now think I am some kind of alcoholic. ‘I’m in a hurry’ I said and left the room to revisit the machine. When I got there I realised with horror that the infernal contraption only took one pound coins and categorically refused to take any other form of remuneration. For a moment I toyed with the idea of asking the barmaid to exchange the two-pound coin she has given me for two one pound coins but eventually thought better of it. Like Alexander the Great, one must occasionally accept that destiny often stands in the way of personal ambition. To fight against it is foolish and one must accept the ruling of the fates.

Thursday, 2 February 2006

The Retreat from Moscow


About a fortnight ago I wandered into WH.Smiths in search of a suitable book to read on the tube. I headed straight for the history section and cast my eyes over the limited selection available. Two books grabbed my attention. The first was ‘1812, the story of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow’. The other was some tome about the First Crusade whose name for the moment escapes me. I weighed the two books in my head, trying to reach some conclusion as to which I should part with my hard earned cash for. In the end I decided on ‘1812, the story of Napoleons retreat from Moscow’ because, as I reflected, ‘more people get killed in this one’. I paused for a second. I had been confronted by one of those moments when a thought enters your head that are so morally reprehensible that it’s hard to understand where they have erupted from. It reminded me of that infamous occasion in 2003 when I completely lost my sense of empathy and supported the Iraq war because ‘there was nothing on T.V’.

I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as having a skewed system of ethics, and yet a cursory glance over my bookshelf would give you the impression I was some kind of a homicidal maniac. The books I own detail the deaths of millions of my fellow human beings; some froze to death in the icy wastes of Russia, some met a nasty end from the black death, others were sent off to war on the promise of glory and ended up decorating the barbed wire in front of the German trenches. These people weren’t the product of fiction, they lived real lives and died grisly deaths; and now the story of their untimely demise is my single source of entertainment during my commute to work. By chapter seven, Napoleon’s army had marched off into the Russian wilderness. Although winter had not yet begun its icy grip, the multinational army had already begun to drop like flies. In the present conflict our soldiers rightly complain when they have to pay for their own body amour. In Napoleon’s grand armee the soldiers were not issued enough rations to survive and the poor buggers in the cavalry had to routinely stick their hands inside their horse’s anal passage to remove blockages; in light of this, perhaps grappling with the photocopier isn’t so bad an occupation. By chapter ten, a few bloody battles had occurred and Napoleon had taken the questionable decision to sit tight in Moscow and dawdle while his army fell to pieces around him. The last third of the book was an almost pornographic orgy of death misery and violence as Napoleon marched his army through subzero temperatures back to Poland. Most of them had perished by the final chapters and, bravely, Napoleon buggers off back to Paris in a warm sled leaving the remnants of his depleted force to freeze to death.

It’s always comforting when a supposed military genius makes infantile errors of judgement such as this. Its also interesting that at the top of an organisation, one can make terrible mistakes that result in the deaths of literally hundreds of thousands of people and yet be hailed as one of the greatest leaders of all time. Contrast this with being an admin assistant where you become labelled as an incompetent moron for the entire course of your employment if you so much as book a meeting room at the wrong time. At the other end of the scale, you can go drastically over budget, waste vast quantities of taxpayers money on an online database system that doesn’t work properly and expend resources recruiting ‘learning champions’ to promote the value of education in Nottingham’s poorest areas, only to find subsequently that most of them are in fact illiterate. This you can do with no threat of retribution whatsoever, whereas those at the bottom with little or no power must live on a knife-edge between public sector drudgery and redundancy. This raises an interesting question, why did those of the Grand Armee who had suffered such torment and hardship at Napoloeon’s account hold him in such high esteem. The answer lies in the memoirs of his soldiers that are littered with anecdotes about the great man. He visited their campfires, he rode up and down their battle-lines, he even kept a candle burning in his window every night to show his troops that he was up and working on their behalf into the dead of night. In return they loved him and died in his service. It’s a lesson that those in positions of power now would do well to heed. The style of leadership in vogue nowadays seem to involve sealing yourself off in an office, treating those under you with distain, keeping them at an aloof distance and writing them patronising emails telling them they need to be ‘more diverse’ and ‘goal focused’.

I completed ‘1812’ in record time and I have now started on the new biography of Stalin by Robert Service. The book is full of fantastic phrases such as ‘As a little boy, Stalin would play with his childhood friend Vassily. In an ironic twist, Vassily was later to be mown down by Stalin’s death squads during the purges of the nineteen thirties. I’m sure Vassily appreciated the irony.

One of the greatest aspects of my new job is the effect my re-branding has had on the way people interact with me. As an Admin Assistant, people in senior positions rarely bothered to learn my name. Instead they referred to me and fellow sufferers collectively as ‘the admin’ as if we both belonged to some servile tribe that had been enslaved to perform routine and monotonous tasks. Now I am a ‘Business Development Manager’ people ask me for my business card and go out of their way to speak to me. I am the same individual I was back in December, but as with everything in the workplace, the over inflated job title you give yourself is the single thing people take notice of. I have gone from the bottom of an organisation to the top of an organisation and now I get to see the cut-throat nature of business in its entirety. It’s a fascinating Machiavellian universe and I have picked up quite a few interesting terms. One of the best is ‘second mortgage fodder’. These are the poor blighters that will buy anything and everything, plunging themselves into vast amounts of debt and taking on financial commitments they cannot possibly fulfil. If someone takes out a second mortgage and fail to tick the right box their details are passed on to any number of sales and marketing organisations who plug as many products to them as possible. It is more than a little alarming to see that modern society is structured around driving people into as much debt as possible though credit cards, crippling interest rates and aggressive marketing. Still, that’s the system we all signed up for and we are just going to have to live with it.

The best thing I can say about East London is that last areas of it are scheduled for demolition. At then end of this month I shall be moving to a flat in Hendon amongst the quiet suburbs of north London. I shall miss the Indian chap in the local Costcutter with whom I have had a good rapport. I shall also miss the gangs of bored teenagers who stalk the streets outside the George V tube stop and with whom I am involved in a constant game of cat and mouse. According to the lady who owns the local chippy, they are partial to the odd ‘happy slap’ and like to prey on unsuspecting yuppies.

I shall also miss the tube now that I will be taking the bus instead. A lot of people unfairly stereotype London as an unfriendly city because they based their impression on their experience of our third world transport system. It’s a place that brings out the worst in humanity. Take thousands of highly stressed commuters, stick them in the kind of cramped conditions you would commonly associate with the black hole of Calcutta, hit them with a barrage of delays and patronising service announcements and watch as people’s moral fibre disintegrates under the pressure. I’ve seen yuppies in expensive suits shoulder barge old women out of the way in their efforts to make it up the escalator. I’ve seen small children pushed aside by rampant commuters as they struggle to make it into the office for nine o clock. As the doors of the northern line service open at Bank open the over-optimistic announcement comes over the tannoy system; “Thank you for standing aside and letting people off the train before you embark”. It’s a fantastically naïve statement, as if pre-empting peoples natural desire to act selfishly can somehow avert the impeding chaos. It soon becomes clear that the single-minded people on the platform have no such intention. Over the next few minutes a violent struggle erupts between the people on the train trying to get out and the people on the platform trying to get in before the doors close. The tannoy bursts into life again; “THANKYOU FOR STANDING ASIDE AND LETTING PEOPLE OUT OF THE TRAIN BEFORE YOU BOARD”. The voice has become imperative, the tone is that of a familiar annoyance. Clearly expecting people to stand aside on the tube is about as realistic as expecting the last remaining passengers on the Titanic to form an orderly queue for the lifeboats.

The struggle to get on the trains has been well documented. Another lesser known skirmish on the tube system is the battle to acquire decent reading material. When people reach their stop they usually leave their copy of the Metro by their seat. For someone like me who usually forgets to bring a book with them, these moments are gold-dust. I sit there studying the commuter like a hunter observing his prey. When he puts his metro down on the seat and gets up to leave my body is already coiled like a serpent, ready to grab the newspaper before anyone else can get their hands on it. Copys of the metro are the lesser prizes of the tube, on a good journey I aim to grab today’s issues of the Times or the Independent, though these are much harder to acquire. Many is the time that I have been thwarted by another commuter who has swooped at the last moment to grab the Evening Standard I observed when boarding the carriage. On these occasions I content myself with swearing at them beneath my breath. Such are the pleasures of the rat race.

Monday, 9 January 2006

Greater London

As readers of this journal of mine may or may not have realised, I have headed south to join the rat race in the big city. Previously my commute to work took about 10 minutes on a Nottingham City Transport bus. Having handed over my £1.20 to the driver I was usually faced with the traditionally dismal choice of seat partner. On one of my final excursions to the council buildings, I had the option to either share my seat with an intimidating young whippersnapper decked out in a puffer jacket and baseball cap, presumably on his way to be sentenced in the juvenile court, or alternatively, a decrepit looking chap with a bright red nose. I chose the latter option, and upon taking my seat was met by the unmistakable stench of urine. The bright red nose was obviously not due to the festiveness of the season and was more likely the result of chronic alcohol abuse. In my opinion such people should not be allowed on public transport. On another occasion some old woman spent the whole journey lecturing me for standing at the entrance to the bus. The aforementioned bus was tightly packed with bodies and there was no earthly chance of me being able to make my way further down the vehicle without causing someone an injury, but of course it’s tricky to explain these things to the older generation. ‘It used to be, in my day’ she said, recalling some imaginary golden age, ‘people would move down the other end of the bus so people could get off’. Having marked me out as a ‘wrong un’ she fixed me with a disapproving stare. It on occasions like this that you realise why god invented death.

Now my commute takes me along the Docklands light railway and the London tube and I’m treated to the entertaining spectacle of hyper stressed commuters struggling to get on overcrowded tube trains. Veins bulge on the heads of these suited zombies as they stare ahead of them with a look of blank depression; they look as if they are crying out for a terrorist attack to put them out of their misery. The rules of the tube are simple, stare ahead of you for the entire duration of the journey, avoiding eye contact and trying to look miserable and dejected, as if you were on the way to Stalg-Luft III rather than Kings Cross. Occasionally someone breaks the monotony by turning the volume on their I-pod up full blast and inflicting their appalling musical tastes on the rest of the carriage. I enjoy these moments because they demonstrate how human beings can work together despite having no ties of kin or community. Gradually the tidal wave of disapproval builds. People begin to find common cause in hating the scurrilous I-pod owner and finally appoint a representative to tell him to turn the damn thing down. Peace restored, the newly bonded occupants of the carriage turn back to staring at the adverts.

The part of the docklands my friend lives in is a curious place; a semi apocalyptic landscape in which decaying concrete tower blocks sit uneasily alongside sterile yuppie developments. The surrounding area is interspersed with areas of barren wasteland, once imposing areas of wharves and warehouses, now dismal pastures of earth and rubble waiting for the next batch of starter homes. The whole neighbourhood around the George V railway stop stinks like Satan’s cesspit and resembles a set from Blade Runner with its dilapidated high-rise buildings, graffiti and boarded up buildings. The young professionals from the surrounding developments speed-walk uncomfortably through this area in the early hours of the morning, no doubt expecting to be on the receiving end of a vicious multi-ethnic mugging should they linger too long. This is the edge of the ‘regeneration’ zone, and by the looks of it, the wreaking ball can’t come soon enough.
The job itself is even better than I thought it was going to be. It’s hard not to get caught up in the energetic and frantic atmosphere of a dot-com that is finally beginning to close important deals and go places. From now on in I’ll be attending important meetings with potential clients, working directly with the CEOs and doing a diverse range of work within the organisation. The company operates a flat management structure and I’m encouraged to be outspoken when I think one of my bosses has come up with a shit idea. This could be problematic. I’m also treated with vastly more respect than I deserve. I half expect someone to come up to me any minute with a load of pointless photocopying to do, or for some unpleasant specimen of Nottingham’s inner city to ring my phone to ask what freebies they get for attending our pre-employment training courses. Being a public servant isn’t very fulfilling when you hate the public.