Sunday, September 19, 2004

Mental Cruelty - Week 17

So, once again, I’m working on a Sunday (hope to get paid for this one, don’t talk to me about bloody agencies) and I arrive and fight with the deadlocks on the front doors again (you have to unlock both locks then lock them again, turn around three times, unlock the doors again, curse, wiggle the keys and they eventually open - go figure) and then I forget to switch off the alarm. Fortunately, it doesn’t go off, but this doesn’t even occur to me for some time. The building’s kinda spooky when it’s empty, because the lights come on when you walk under them (cool) and the doors close so slowly that you’ve normally been sat down for a couple of minutes before they shut completely with a thud, so it’s like there’s someone else in the building. Imagine how I jumped when it transpired somebody was. Unexpectedly, the cleaners were upstairs, because they hadn’t been in on Friday. Of course, they came in through the back door, which is why I still had to negotiate the locks; but on the upside they’d switched off the alarms, which is why I didn’t get arrested.

Rather distressingly, the coffee machine is only dispensing hot water, which strikes me as a good case for a prosecution under mental cruelty. Mental cruelty kinda summarises my whole experience over here: they don’t mark drawings up, they just scribble on them, and then they change their minds and scribble something else, but it’s not clear which was first and which was last, and since the changes are mutually exclusive one must be right and one must be wrong; and a 7 looks like a 1, and 9 and 4 and g look EXACTLY the same (Neder handwriting is not the world’s clearest) and when I go to modify a wire it transpires that it’s not one line but 8 lines placed end to end (imagine picking up a picture and finding it’s a jigsaw puzzle coming apart in your hands). Not to mention notes in Nederish that I can’t find a translation for in my dictionary or on the AltaVista Babel Fish site, and like, they know I’m English and they know it’s going to be me working on the drawings and I swear they’re making up new words just to entertain themselves (try to find diazed or meszel anywhere, I’m not making this up) and obviously I’m in here on my own, it being Sunday (day of rest, no rest for the wicked – draw your own conclusions) and therefore there’s no-one to ask, so in the end I asked one of the cleaners and, of course, he doesn’t speak English and I can only really speak Nederese in pubs, but we manage to establish that it means fuse or something, so I figure it’s just a note from the designer to himself and ignore it and stick a post-it note on the page so I can confirm on Monday. And then there’s the stuff which is just obviously missing, unless having a live wire carrying 240V dangling loose is normal. On Friday they were laughing at me for holding my cigarette lighter under the paper, until I explained to them that I was trying to see the part of the circuitry that they’d drawn in lemon juice. I mean damn. It’s just lucky that I’m quite a cool, calm sort of person; anybody else might get wound up about this sort of stuff. Or paranoid.

Wednesday gave me an interesting insight into the work ethic again. The project manager for the level crossings contract bought cakes to celebrate clawing back two weeks of the overrun on the job in the last month. No small feat, I’ll grant you: but given that all that’s been achieved is to progress from being eleven weeks behind to being nine weeks behind, and that at this rate of restitution it’s still going to take another four and a half months to get back on target, which is the end of January (bear in mind this job needs to be out the door by December 1st), I feel that standing around eating cake and patting each other on the back for half an hour might perhaps not be the most profitable use of time. But what do I know?

Anyway, I understand now why everyone’s encouraged to cycle – people here really shouldn’t be allowed to drive because I swear there’s no highway code or anything, and there simply cannot be a test. There are relatively few cars out here, and everybody seems to be going in much the same direction, which is lucky, because when they drive around corners they cut the corner and actually CROSS THE ROAD. Steering: it’s not that complex. And people don’t indicate when they’re going to turn, like it’s no-one else’s business where they’re going – I mean, where did these people learn to drive? North London? [HM Government, you want to make public transport more attractive? Scrap the Highway Code. It’ll be so dangerous to drive, everyone will take the train.] Yet, strangely, everyone’s really casual about the whole imminent death thing – not just the drivers, but pedestrians and cyclists too: they’ll just walk or cycle right in front of an oncoming vehicle like: “it’ll stop”, and I’m like: “you should give way to anything that’s heavier than you”; which I just think is sensible. Honestly, you’d think cyclists were immortal; so lackadaisical is there regard for personal safety, it’s like they laugh in the face of death. Back to bloody vampires again.

I made a discovery about my local pub, bar, whatever, last week. It’s a small pub called T’Kroegje, and there’s a picture of a mermaid on the door, so obviously (and quite reasonably, I thought), I assumed T’Kroegje translated as ‘The Mermaid’. Anyway, I asked the landlady last Saturday, and oh no, T’Kroegje, it transpires, means ‘small pub’. Of course it does. What was I thinking?

Unexpectedly, news of my sporting prowess seems to have reached the office, and I have been asked to join the company volleyball team for a tournament on October 2nd. Well, as long as they didn’t want to win or anything. I mean, I’ve warned them. They’ll learn. Still, I have at least managed to join a gym that hasn’t been burnt down, and I’ve got almost two weeks to get in shape. Equally foolish, I’ve been invited to a whisky sampling evening next Tuesday, so any plans after Wednesday may be purely academic anyway.

If you live on microwaved food and pizzas, even supplemented with vitamin tablets and fresh fruit (okay, Mum?) then eventually your body will rebel
If you eat in a restaurant on your own, you will always look and feel like a total loser
If you’re speaking English, you can’t be seen, heard or even acknowledged until no Nederian is talking anywhere around you
A crate of 24 300ml bottles of beer (7.2 litres in total) costs €7.99 in a supermarket. Let’s put that in perspective: €7.99 is equivalent to ₤5.60, that’s 23p a bottle, or 77p a litre; put another way, 1.58 gallons for ₤5.60 is ₤3.54 per gallon, or 44p a pint – that’s cheaper than meths! No wonder everything’s closed on a Sunday.
Nobody clears up after their dogs. Originally this disgusted me (I don’t know what they feed their dogs, but I think they must be vegetarians), but, given the abundant fertility of the land, I’m inclined to the view that this is how they built the country in the first place, and given rising sea levels, therefore, it may be a smart move.

Anyway, best try to finish these drawing modifications. Till next time.

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