Ellouise Roccio: manager, The Bean

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“Lockdown was short and sweet: I was furloughed for two months before we could reopen and Alex (owner of The Bean and the city-centre Cartwheel) worked out how we could do it safely.

“Initially it was good: we’d just see people at the door and they’d keep their distance; it was quite nice that way. It’s been more difficult since we opened the inside.

“Everyone knows you leave track and trace, everyone knows the rules on hand sanitiser and masks, but not everyone seems to follow them. They’ll walk in, not wearing a mask and then say, “well, I’m in now, so no point in putting one on”, or they’ll think that sitting outside means they don’t have to fill in the track and trace forms.

“Trade has been good though – very good. The Bean’s really picked up, even before the Eat Out to Help Out scheme began.

“With people spending so much time at home I think it really helped to have somewhere to go”

“We were one of the first places in Beeston to open. With people spending so much time at home I think it really helped to have somewhere to go, to have somewhere open for them.

“We’ve got our Beeston trade back, and the university trade has begun to trickle back in, using our space upstairs to work from due to a lack of space on campus.

“I’m optimistic, but I’d not like another lockdown: I’ve ran out of things to do at home – I would probably just sit at home and cry” *laughs.*

MT

Flippin’ Cheeky!

The cheekiest street food cart that you might have seen out and about this summer is the cheery creation of George, who is also a little bit cheeky.

He doesn’t think he has ever met anyone who doesn’t like pancakes and decided that 2020 was the year he introduced mini Dutch pancakes to the Nottingham public, who like the rest of the UK at the moment, could do with something to make them smile.

Made with buckwheat, flour, yeast, milk and eggs poffertjes are perfect plain but can also be enhanced with the addition of appetising sweet or savoury cheese toppings. Served warm, with just a sprinkle of icing sugar and cinnamon they are a tasty and wholesome treat, but with strawberries and chocolate, they are divine. Gluten-free options are available now too, and with outdoor dining the easier option at the moment they are great snacks to catch while you are on the go.

When I cycled over to the Sunday market a couple of weeks ago, the sun was already overhead warming the happy chattering queues of people waiting eagerly at the selection of food carts.

My goal was a late breakfast snack, a deliciously filling and sweet Sunday treat, I had heard that a new stand called Cheeky Pancakes would be there so looked out for the sunny marquee with the happy pancake logo I had seen somewhere on Facebook.

It wasn’t hard to spot over in the corner, citrus orange with a honey yellow cart and the aroma of warm batter floating over the heads of the people in line. Intrigued I joined the back of the line and pondered my topping and sauce choices, my belly growling with anticipation as I got closer to the front.

I chose the chocolate and banana option and wasn’t disappointed. Fresh and filling, those ten little poffertjes might not look much, but they satisfied my hunger. For those with a bigger appetite, I can recommend getting yourself an extra portion, it can help with indecision too – so many delicious toppings!

You can grab your tray of Cheeky Pancakes from George’s ‘cheeky chariot’ at a variety of venues around Nottingham. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram or check out his website for dates and specific locations. Cheeky Pancakes are also available to hire for private functions and corporate events.

Visit Cheeky Pancakes website here or email: contactcheekypancakes@gmail.com

DU

“Survive and Thrive,” why community matters

Only now we are emerging out of full lockdown can we fully comprehend the extent that all our lives have been affected over the last six months. The aftershock for many has been as traumatic as the immediate impact of the pandemic.

As part of Beeston Rylands Community Association, we pulled together a fantastic band of volunteers who helped deliver food and friendship to the most in need within our community. We discovered the significance of continuity and consistency of twice-weekly food prep, activities, and letters and while at times monotonous, it was the only real source of certainty for us and the recipients. As a result, we made new connections and friendships with people we previously wouldn’t have crossed paths with and found that existing friendships were not only invaluable but strengthened as we navigated our way through difficult times.

One of those friendships has been our own. Thrown together through our work, we found courage and support in each other over the last few months. So as we emerged out of lockdown, we decided we needed to embark on a Thelma and Louise style adventure (without the bad bits). We ventured out of our beloved Beeston and drove up the M1 to do The North East Skinny Dip 2020 in aid of the mental health charity MIND.

For us and many other people mental health and its journey can sometimes be an uphill battle, it ebbs and flows and has an irritating ability to disarm us unexpectedly.

Jumping into the freezing cold sea was about letting go… of our clothes, yes, but most importantly of the past and all the things that can’t be undone. It was about connecting with a friend and pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones.

Before we ran into and out of the cold North sea together, we agreed now is the time to shake off the past, and focus on the ‘what next’. To use this experience of running into the unknown as a catalyst for evolution into new community projects, our “survive and thrive” plan.

“Survive and Thrive” is about investing in activities, connectivity, and opportunities for our community. This includes first-rate new social facilities, delivering new classes and courses, and developing a community transport scheme.

Our column is about optimism and moving forward as a collective whole. We’ll update you on community matters, whilst trying to uncover the unexpected, the quirky and the brave aspects of Beeston life. It won’t always be full of laughs, but it will use real-life case studies to demonstrate what’s possible. We recognize now more than ever that we can’t be sedentary when it comes to community and inclusion. The time is now.

JB & NR

Thinkin’ Inkin’: How one woman took a gamble on changing the tattoo industry

I opened Jurassic Tattoo Company on Wollaton Road in August as a safe, comfortable space to be tattooed. It’s not going to be like other tattoo studios and I’m striving to be very radically different in the way I treat artists and customers.

I was originally a psychology researcher who started my PhD and quit due to a huge mental health breakdown. After many suicide attempts and little clinical help, I worked my way into the tattoo industry to find that the mistreatment and hazing of newcomers was harmful to my recovery. I was shocked at the awful way customers were often treated. I made it my mission to create something different.

Being tattooed is an extremely personal and vulnerable experience. During the tattoo process, a customer fully trusts their artist with a permanent change to their body, as well as letting them physically handle them for a stretch of time. They are in pain and experience a rollercoaster of endorphins and neurotransmitters that can induce intense feelings. I believe that this neurochemical rush, mixed with the prolonged close contact and the fact that they may be getting the tattoo for a meaningful reason, means the tattoo process has the potential to be either psychologically therapeutic OR psychologically damaging to the person. Which one it is depends on the professionalism of the artist and the atmosphere in the studio.

Unfortunately, in the industry, there are often less than ideal atmospheres in studios which intimidate or shame clients, rather than make their tattoo a safe and positive experience. From subtle things like having intimidating decor (“do not enter unless you’re a goth”) vibes! to shaming a customer for only wanting a small tattoo… to the small handful of artists who use their position to sexually harass clients.

“After working in psychological support in both the NHS and private sectors, I can honestly say that more therapy can be done on the tattoo chair than can be done in 6 sessions of CBT.”

I want to change this industry, or at the very least, provide a homely safe space for all clients to come, have a lovely chat and feel valued. After working in psychological support in both the NHS and private sectors, I can honestly say that more therapy can be done on the tattoo chair than can be done in 6 sessions of CBT. People naturally open up as they are already vulnerable and emotional. I believe this should be handled with the most respect and care possible.

Like many others, my business and personal finances have taken a huge beating throughout lockdown. I have scraped through only due to the huge amount of support I’ve had from my customers who have been booking on to my waiting list, buying my artwork or taking part in my tattoo raffles. I am hugely grateful to all of them and have been really surprised and touched by the amount of interest I have received!

It has been going overwhelmingly well since we opened, with my books being full until January 2021, and we’re all working incredibly hard to try and prepare for the possibility of another lockdown. Knowing that I may not be able to work for months with zero financial support from the government is a huge pressure, but I hope I can weather the storm if it does happen.

Jurassic Tattoo can be found at 76b Wollaton Road: Insta: @jurassictattoo; FB: @jurassictattoocompany

SC

Autumnal Guide for Helping Hedgehogs

Over the summer, you may have seen hedgehogs scuttling about in your garden in the evening.

I have a wildlife camera set up in my garden, and I was delighted to see footage of hedgehogs munching on the food I’d left out for them, and huffing at each other! This was particularly great to see, as hedgehog numbers have declined by approximately 50% since the year 2000. As we transition into Autumn and the weather gets a little colder, hedgehogs are beginning to hibernate. Although this means you may not see hedgehogs in your garden anymore, this doesn’t mean they’re not there, and certainly doesn’t mean they don’t need your assistance! The points below are easy tips (and some more challenging projects) for helping hedgehogs in your garden at this time of year:

You may have collected a pile of materials for a bonfire. Hedgehogs will find this pile to be a very inviting hibernation site! The best way to ensure that there are no hedgehogs nesting in the pile is to move it before you light it. If you are unable to move it, make sure to lift up the base with a broom handle and inspect underneath using a torch.

“Look out for Autumnal juveniles. These are hedgehogs that are old enough to be independent from their mother, but are too small to hibernate.”

Make or buy a hedgehog house. This provides a safe place for hibernation. Hedgehog houses can be as simple as an upturned plastic box with a hole cut out for a door, or can be much more sophisticated. Check out: www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk for more information

Look out for Autumnal juveniles. These are hedgehogs that are old enough to be independent from their mother, but are too small to hibernate. Hedgehogs can hibernate at 450 grams, but will fair better at 600 grams. If the hedgehog regularly visits at night, happily eats and is active, it is probably best to leave it be and put out food and water for it (more on this topic later). If possible, weigh the hedgehog weekly to make sure it is putting on weight. If you see a hedgehog out during the day in Autumn (this can be OK in the Spring/Summer), having trouble moving around, spending long periods of time curled into a ball when under no threat, or any other behaviour that doesn’t seem quite right, it needs attention. Contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society as soon as possible on 01584 890801. If you’re not sure, it’s best to call the number above just to make sure.

In addition to these Autumn-specific tips, below are some tips for helping out hedgehogs all year round:

Make a 13x13cm hole in your garden fence to allow hedgehogs to roam between gardens. Go one step further and ask your neighbours to do the same.

Put a shallow dish of water in your garden for hedgehogs to drink; this is especially important in hot weather. Go one step further and put out a dish of meaty pet food (make sure it’s dairy-free). Caution – don’t offer milk! Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant.

Written by the Hedgehog Friendly Campus group at The University of Nottingham.

Contact hannah.constantin@nottingham.ac.uk for more information.

HC

Talking loud and clear

Despite the ongoing problems caused by the global lurgy, one Beeston lad has been determined to continue with his dream of interviewing people for his podcast company: ‘The Backboard Podcast’.

So the tables were turned when I sent Jamie Martin a list of questions about himself and his podcast idea. Firstly I asked Jamie a bit about himself and his background.

“I’m 15 and have lived in Beeston all of my life. I’ve always had an interest in helping others and gaining knowledge from them. Also seeing their perspectives on life, and opinions on certain subjects. I’ve been quite lucky to have a family so supportive, as I’m sure they are sick of me asking questions and rambling on about things. I have siblings, but they don’t have an interest in podcasting – my younger brother is definitely a football man. So am I actually, but just not as passionate as him. My mum is the MD of the Victoria Hotel in Beeston and my dad is a painter and decorator.

“This year I was meant to be going to Cambodia to help build a school, but sadly it was cancelled due to the pandemic. So for me, setting goals and achieving them is one of my main characteristics, and going to Cambodia was one of them, and next year I will achieve that goal. Talking of goals, I enjoy playing as a defender for my football team, The Attenborough Colts on a Saturday. I’ve been there since 2012.

“I started the podcasts because I was feeling a bit anxious about lockdown and realised that so many millions of others felt the same, and so I wanted to bring them some positivity and try to share my opinions and knowledge”.

Jamie’s first podcast was done on the 27th March and featured Beeston’s own Kingdom Rapper, aka Benjamin Whiteman. In the 25 minute interview, Benjamin talks about his life, music and religious beliefs.

“I see Kingdom Rapper as a great influence for the young in Beeston, as he has had bad experiences with drugs etc during his younger years, and he now spreads awareness through music. He is also a great friend and is definitely a local celebrity with an inspiring story”.

“He was doubted and criticised by his heroes, but he produced positives out of the negatives and is going to change our planet”.

I wanted to find out about Jamie’s interest in business and whether he has any business heroes, despite his young age.

“I’ve always had an interest in business. My late grandad was Neil Kelso, who was the owner of the Victoria Hotel. He introduced me into the business world and seeing him work as hard as he could and be rewarded for his hard work motivated me to do the same. As for me, it would be Elon Musk of Tesla cars fame. He was the child of divorced parents in South Africa and started coding. He sold his first game for $500 and went on to create PayPal and sell it for $1bn.

“He was criticised for his failure in the early years of SpaceX of which many of his first launches failed, but after many tries, he succeeded. This taught me the valuable lesson that I should never give up and that I should always stay humble, but ambitious. He was doubted and criticised by his heroes, but he produced positives out of the negatives and is going to change our planet”.

Being an interviewer, I wondered if Jamie had an interviewer that he admired or followed.

Well, for sure, it would be Louis Theroux. He’s an extremely intelligent man, who is always asking questions and developing his knowledge on subjects further and further and sharing what he has seen and questioned with the public. So he might not be necessarily a radio interviewer, but he asks many questions and interviews interesting people”.

Finally, I wondered if there was anyone in Beeston that Jamie would love to interview.

“Basically, everyone. For me, Beeston can’t be put into a specific person that I’d like to interview. The community is so inviting and the businesses in the heart of Beeston, are mostly family-run. They all hold their own unique touch. Hence that’s why I love Beeston. So the short answer is no because simply, I want to interview everyone!”.

Recently Jamie invested in some new recording equipment and has created his own studio, rather than using his bedroom. It’s in an old office formerly used by Castle Rock at the Victoria Hotel. 

“It’s been unused for over a decade, and I’ve completely renovated it.”

Being a web-based platform, I asked about viewing figures, and whether Jamie knew how many the broadcasts get.

“I do. We are close to 700 people to have listened to our podcasts. 27% of them live abroad, from New Guinea to Bangladesh and the USA to Peru. We have viewers in every continent except Africa for some reason, but I’m sure we will the more episodes I make. I’ve just created a tee-shirt, just to see if anyone would be interested in one. Not necessarily to make a profit, just to test the waters. So far I’ve sold 15”.

If you want to listen to the podcasts that Jamie has produced then visit his Facebook page or through the Internet platform anchor.fm.

CDF

Unearthing a treasure with Jo Norcup

The Detectorists, that excellent slice of telly that bought a gentle, thoughtful and very funny slice of bucolic rambling to our screens from 2014 to 2019, was a surprise hit. On paper, you can see why: the story of two shy men who spend their free time wandering around fields digging up ring pulls and old nails doesn’t exactly scream glamour and intrigue. As for humour – well, what com’ can be squeezed from such a sit’?

As anyone wise enough to tune in, gallons. Mackenzie Crook’s writing was light touch and observant in the way the best comedy is: letting the comedy realise itself by shining a light on those idiosyncrasies that make us human: male friendships, obsession, commitment and growing up. Watching would bring laughter, often accompanied with a lump in one’s throat. It is, like much of our country, a bubbling lake of weird and feeling beneath a seemingly trivial soil.

Great. But what has this got to with Beeston? Since it was set in rural Essex, and rarely strayed far from the small village it was set around, it seems not much. So step forward Jo Norcup, and her co-edited new book, Landscapes of the Detectorists (Uniform Books, ISBN 978 1 910010 24)

Jo has been a regular at The Beestonian, writing thoughtful and revelatory pieces on local trees and how they form part of our emotional as well as physical landscape. In this series of essays, she works with her collaborator Innes M Keighren to explore how the show embodied some deeper issues. Jo and her team sweep the ground to dig these up and give them a close examination.

If you’ve read Jo’s pieces in this magazine, you’ll be wanting this. Her essay on gender, expertise and knowledge is fascinating, whetting the appetite for a rewatching of the series, and once again getting lost in the mechanisms of Danbury Metal Detecting Club. Add in a heartfelt foreword by Mackenzie Crook himself, and an afterword by producer Adam Tandy and you have a real treasure. If you’re a fan of the show, buy this book. If you’ve yet to discover the show, buy this book, and you’ll soon be rushing out to find out what the fuss is all about.

MT

Beeston FC look forward to an exciting future as work begins on new clubhouse

It’s been a long road, but Beeston FC have finally reached the total needed to build a new clubhouse and renovate the old Plessey sports ground at Trent Vale.

We’ve been covering the Bees for several years now, during which time they’ve been trying to raise money to receive a grant from the Football Association and the Premier League.

The near £500,000 grant will cover a large amount of the £600,000 cost of the project which will benefit both the club and the local community.

A statement from the club’s development officer Sarah Green, read: “it’s fantastic seeing work begin on our clubhouse. The years of planning and fundraising by our hard-working volunteers have finally paid off.

“You can see a real transformation of the old building and the rooms are taking shape. We aim to maintain the history of the building by reinstalling the iconic Plessey Sports Club clock outside and displaying old photographs and articles inside when the work is completed in spring 2021.

“The community room is huge and will be such an asset to local sports, social and community groups in this area – especially now that social distancing demands larger rooms.

“There’s still work to do, and we are greatly helped by our community partnership with the Beeston based company Reckitt Benckiser who are working hard to continue our general site tidy up, replanting and internal painting of the clubhouse in the new year.”

Long term Beeston residents will know that the site has plenty of history to it, none more so than Ray Walker who used to feature for the old Plessey football team whilst his daughter went on to play netball at the same location.

With the site having been abandoned for decades, Ray is delighted to see that work is beginning to hopefully bring the ground back to its former glory.

“I’m glad that somebody picked it up. I would love to see it help to build a strong Beeston team,” he said.

“I think Jack Charlton said it best, ‘the one thing I couldn’t do was play, but I could stop other people playing.’ That was me.”

Football runs in Ray’s family with his father and grandfather making appearances for Notts County and Nottingham Forest respectively. Although Ray himself never played at the same level as them, he believes that his athletic abilities made him a match for anyone.

“I was never a great footballer. I think Jack Charlton said it best, ‘the one thing I couldn’t do was play, but I could stop other people playing.’ That was me,” recalls Ray.

“Being six-foot-three, I was a very physical player. My school always wanted me to play Rugby, the headteacher even tried to get my father to convince me, but it was because of my Dad that I wanted to play football.

“Looking back, I now realise that Rugby may have been the better way to go,” he admits.

It’s easy to see why Ray thinks that. After initially giving up on his dream of becoming a professional footballer when he was 21, Ray returned to the game in his late twenties to play for a club in Long Eaton, however, his playing days were cut short after suffering a serious leg injury.

“I went into a tackle which I now realise was a bit silly,” Ray says.

“It smashed my leg up. I was in hospital and they operated on it, screwed it all together again and said no more football for you!”

It wasn’t all bad news for Ray though.

“The sick pay from the government wasn’t taxable, so I was better off financially from it. I got two or three quid a week more than what I was earning at the factory. I also got a pay rise shortly after because I’d just turned 30,” he chuckled.

Characters like Ray have special memories of Trent Vale. Now it’s Beeston FC who have the chance to create even more.

IS

How a pair of Beeston creatives joined forces to keep the flame flickering

We are, as this and every previous issue will attest to, a wildly creative town. Artists, musicians, crafters, writers et al keep kicking out staggeringly super work which we happily try and inform you of.

A global pandemic and fundamental shift in how the world works isn’t a reason for despair, it’s a chance to innovate. Say hello to Nottingham Stories: Separation and Serenade.

When she realised that the third annual Nottingham Chamber Music Festival was not going to be going ahead due to lockdown, the festival’s director Beestonian violist Carmen Flores didn’t just retire her instrument and bow while it went on. She instead picked up the phone and rang a local professional filmmaker, Tim Bassford of Turbine Creative. Together, they cooked up a brilliant idea.

Like the best ideas, it’s startlingly simple. They would visit a well-known Nottingham building, closed due to lockdown, and film Carmen performing Bach within. As Carmen rings out beautiful music to fill the empty spaces, Tim’s camera provides an accompaniment, highlighting the locations beauty. It’s not a film about music, It’s not music with film. It’s a synthesis. Carmen may be performing solo, but the overall feeling is a duet of eye and ear. Nottingham Council House, Delilahs, The Royal Concert Hall, St Mary’s In The Lace Market, Nottingham Contemporary and the High School all feature, each familiar, each filmed in ways that make you see them anew.

During the film’s individual premieres, donations to the Help Musicians charity (https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/support-our-work/make-a-donation) were encouraged, to support musicians who have struggled to earn a living while the COVID crisis grinds on.

The videos were shot in July and released on a thrice-weekly basis during September. They proved to be, as the best music does, able to bring out emotions you weren’t previously aware existed. Personally, I felt initial melancholy – I missed these places – hope. While the empty buildings still wait to fill and surge with life again, a flame of creativity burns, and it burns bright.

The films are available to watch for free here.

MT

Working nine till five (in your dressing gown)

One of the consequences of Coronavirus is that many of us have had to start working from home. As a stand-up comedian, this hasn’t been easy, you can’t just start doing an impromptu gig at the dinner table, treating your kids like drunken hecklers. You can’t do “your mum” style put-downs when you’re married to her.

If you ever wanted an insight into what it’s like to be married to a comedian, my wife Jemma once came to a gig with me. Afterwards, I overheard her talking to an audience member who said, “was that your husband on stage earlier?” “Yes,” Jemma said. They then said, “oh it must be great living with him, I bet you never stop laughing!” Jemma sighed wearily and replied, “oh yes, it’s hilarious…”

Over the last six months, social media has been flooded with pictures of people’s home office setups, which range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some people have a set up like the HQ of Google. Two monitors, a perfectly positioned desk, expertly lit so they can slay all those crucial Zoom meetings.

Others are perched on the toilet, naked from the waist down, with their laptops balanced on an Alibaba laundry basket, trying to stop the cat from flashing its bumhole on the webcam.

When I worked in an office I kept the fact that I did stand up comedy a bit of a secret. The two worlds don’t really mix, an office isn’t a comedy club: “Give is a cheer if you know how the photocopier works!”

“Right, are you ready for your next meeting? let’s start the applause…..build it up, stamp your feet, go wild and crazy and welcome to the Projector a very good friend of mine, Kevin and his monthly sales figures!”

The government have tried to encourage people back into the office, but it hasn’t been easy. They assumed that people would relish the chance to get back to normal, pick up where they left off all those months ago. But they forgot one small point. Most people really hate their jobs.

We’ve all had a taste of a different life and now we don’t want to go back.

In this month’s article, I take a look at some of the things many of us wouldn’t miss about working in an office.

Wasted time

There used to be the mindset that working from home meant that you were skiving. Rolling over in bed to hit send on an email before going back to sleep. This pandemic has shown that to be nonsense. Studies have shown that people are more productive when they are at home, because they feel like they’re on their own time. Forget promotions and pay rises, nothing is more motivating than your own inflatable hot tub, a box set and an ice-cold beer.

It was all about trust. There wasn’t any. The manager wanted you at a desk where they could see you, like a toddler in a tie. At their disposal, so they could drag you into pointless meetings that went on for hours, where the only outcome was “I think we need another meeting”

The commute

Nothing starts your day like a two-hour journey nestled nose deep into a strangers armpit. Or perhaps you’re pinned against the glass of a train window, as the person next to you unfolds their morning paper like they are trying to change a duvet. Only a psychopath could miss the morning commute. Even in your own car, it’s miserable. Sitting there in that little metal coffin, staring at the exhaust in front, listening to Heart FM and wondering what happened to your dreams.
The rush hour just seemed to get earlier every day, with Friday afternoon seemingly the exact point in the week where everyone would synchronize their car accidents, causing hours of tailbacks all across the country.

Lunch

Why sit in your own garden eating home-cooked food you’ve lovingly prepared, when you can spend a tenner on a floppy cheese sandwich, which has been thrown together by someone in a factory who has just recently tested positive for COVID?

The amount of money we wasted on Coffee and lunches was staggering. Of course, there are the smug people with a fresh pasta salad they made the night before. But the rest of us have woken up fifteen minutes before we have to leave and we’ve had to brush our teeth in the car park.

You have to have a think about what lunch you bring in to the office. A tuna salad may seem like a fairly innocuous, but not when it’s in a poorly sealed Tupperware. Tuna juice is one of the most potent substances known to man and it’s got a longer half-life than Novichok. Even a small leak makes your rucksack smell like a fishing trawler. It gets into your skin, on your clothes, everywhere you go you’re followed by hundreds of stray cats.

Smelly food, in general, should be banned from an office. Anyone who brings in a curry to reheat in a communal microwave needs to get in the bin. That’s not lunch, that’s social terrorism.

I stopped taking a yoghurt to work. I had too many accidents. Is there anything more stressful than opening a yoghurt when you’re wearing a black suit? They are so highly pressurized, peeling back that film lid is like trying to defuse a bomb. No matter how gentle you are, it just fires itself at you, spitting the stuff everywhere like an angry cobra.

Making tea

When you’re working from home and you get up to make a brew, it doesn’t condemn you to an hour at the kettle, working your way through more orders than a barista in Starbucks. There is always that one person in an office, who waits until someone gets up before asking for a drink, never offering to make one themselves. I feel for them when working from home, just staring at an empty cup, gasping for a drink but not having the skills to make it happen.

Some of the orders are ridiculous too, “Make sure you leave the T-Bag in for thirty seconds, stir three times, sweetener and no sugar. Make sure you use soya milk for Susan as normal milk will kill her!”

Hot Desking

I’ve never been keen on the idea of hot desking. Why do I have to share custody of a mouse with Bryan? It’s not the school hamster? We’ve all seen him idly scratching his testicles near the water cooler. Is it called a hot desk because after he’s been on it I’d like to set fire to it?

Banter

“Office Banter” or as it’s now more commonly known “harassment” is another thing I think we’d all like to see the back of. There is nothing wrong with having a laugh with your colleagues, but the phrase, “Is just banter mate!” has been used as a defence by so many bellends over the years.

There is a place for humour in the workplace, but it has to be well-timed and well balanced. A witty remark or an inside joke always goes down well. Saying, “It’s nearly Friday!” at 9.30 am on a Monday morning, quite rightly makes the rest of the office want to strangle you with a printer cable.

Cakes

An unwritten rule in any office is that when it’s your birthday, you bring in cakes. This is part of your contract. I was once working in an office when someone decided to buck this trend and bring in a fruit platter. People looked at her like she’d left a dog turd on the desk. There was genuine anger. I swear I saw people taking their money back out of her card.

Team building days

Team building events, for when eight hours a day five days a week just isn’t enough for some people. If you don’t like these people now, standing in a cagoule in a forest in the pouring rain, trying to make a den out of twigs certainly won’t improve matters.

Boring people

The worst thing to have in an office is that painfully boring person, who sucks the life out of everyone. If you’re thinking that you haven’t got one in your organisation then it’s probably you.

As soon as they start talking, you’re just thinking of ways to get out of the conversation. You wonder if you could fake a heart attack? Or secretly text a family member to ring you with an emergency?

There was a guy I used to work called Alan Koch, it was a German name I think, ironic really because people called him that anyway.

He’d box you in in the corridor. He knew you wanted to leave, so he never stopped talking. I think he could probably play the didgeridoo because he was doing circular breathing. Getting away from him was like trying to pull out into traffic at a busy junction. You can be polite and wait for a gap, but at some point, you have to just got to put your head down and go for it, otherwise, you’ll be there all day.

Wherever he went people would dive into meeting rooms to avoid him, it was like watching a tornado sweeping across a plain.

My boss once got trapped by him near the door, he had nowhere to go and Alan had him in the tractor beam of one of his long anecdotes. With a look of despair on his face, my boss spotted me over Alan’s shoulder and, with tears almost welling in his eyes, mouthed the words, “help me.”

So that concludes the meeting for today folks. Please don’t forget to read the minutes when I send them through. It’ll be tomorrow though, I’m off back to bed now until the school run.

SB