Meanwhile, I am still working up the council. I was supposed to have left four weeks ago, but my replacement didn’t show up and has subsequently vanished. My predecessor lasted three weeks before being allowed to work permanently from home. So here I am between these two giants of the public sector, getting through the working day by retiring to a vacant meeting room each afternoon and watching The Baby Club on my phone to remind me that there is niceness in the world. Still, working in an office is the quintessential late 20th/early 21st century employment experience, and I have always regarded with disdain people who say things like ‘I could never work in an office, me, a living death, that. Ironing a shirt is something I don’t do and wearing a tie would feel like a noose’. ‘Scruffy fuckers might want to sort themselves out then,’ said ‘Anton’ – a man who once sold zoot suits from a transit van outside the Lacy Lady in Ilford – when I relayed this to him yesterday during Runton tent washing duty. I think he has a point.
It isn’t the environment that troubles me, of course, so much as my staff. 30% refuse to work hard because of the 70% who barely work at all, and I have some sympathy with this. All of them could only exist in the public sector, where they are unsackable, as private capital would never touch them. Bone idleness does not, however, prevent them from indulging in the ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ mentality which, the last time I worked in an office, was both a restaurant chain and, with slightly altered wording, an advertising tagline for Crunchy bars. Fuck knows what they look forward to at the weekend because, unless it’s a medically induced coma, it can’t be any more relaxing than what they fancifully refer to as the working week. Still, there they are with their mugs with cats on and their ‘When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade’ fridge magnets, although if this actually happened they would be too busy complaining about being alive in the first place to worry about carbonating citrus fruit. On the wall above them is a faded sheet of photocopied paper with ‘Life Isn’t About Waiting For The Storm To Pass – It’s About Learning To Dance In The Rain’ on it. In a rare light-hearted moment, I recently pointed to this while talking to one of the piles of calories who sits underneath it and said ‘You know who said that? Jesus. And he was having a shocker’. After a slight pause she replied ‘I never go out in the rain,’ and wandered off to eat things in the kitchen.
Apart from anything else, they are just so weird. One of them – let’s call her Jan, as pretty much everyone else there is called fucking Jan – is recovering from hip replacement surgery. Last Wednesday, I asked if there was a card we could sign or whatever, to be told that they ‘don’t do cards because it gets confusing’. I may not have worked in an office for some time, but Jan has been working there since, by the look of her, the Industrial Revolution. Surely correct procedure is to get down to fucking Morrisons, find a card with a teddy on it, probably holding a balloon and wearing a bandage to denote a recent injury of some sort, write ‘Break a leg, Jan!’, or ‘Hands off the junior doctors!’ in it, and give it to the lazy old bitch with a box of fucking Quality Street. Surely this is the done thing. That said, in any ordered workplace, the done thing would be to take most of my team out into the car park and shoot them. They are too lazy to walk to the car park, though, so they would have to be shot at their desks, and even then they would be too stupid to die. I do have a shotgun licence, though, and as it’s appraisal week next week, I might bring it along.
Actually, there are stupider things in my office than my permanent staff, but they are kept in earthenware pots and watered twice a week. One of them honestly considers an unloseable well paid light administrative job to be ‘Hell’. Continuing the vaguely Biblical theme, I suppose I could submerge her in boiling pitch and force her to eat burning coals while skewering her with a pitchfork for eternity, in line with the vision of Hell painted by Dante in the early sixteenth century, and see how she gets on with that. Might bring that up in appraisal week, too.
Main: not Runton Hall, but lovely old Felbrigg Hall, about thirty miles away built by the same bloke I believe. A nice place which forms the model for what we want Runton to be, albeit on a smaller scale. Blickling’s a good one too. They have the kitchen done out like it’s the nineteen-tens or, if you’re in Norfolk, at the cutting edge of culinary style.
Top: Nid being King of the Bridge in some woods Felbrigg. If this was at Runton, Graham’s kids would charge people a toll to cross and, if they failed to pay, beat them up.
Middle: War memorial at St Mary the Virgin, Northrepps. Had an SAS man and everything. It seems to have given somewhat over-generously for such a tiny place.
Lower: A compost heap at Runton. This is what country folk use instead of a bin, and explains why the place is so untidy.