Saturday, February 27, 2010

Job No. 89 - Zoo Performer

I began the day hankering for adventure; which is why the position of Space Planning Manager was so very appealing to me. After all, since I've already applied to be a Country Director and a Global Team Leader, it was only natural that I should want to aim a little higher - and you can get much higher than outer space...

I've felt that Space is rather badly planned - I mean, big fat clusters of stars all stuck in one place while there's acres (or should that be light acres?) of space in between in which very little is going on at all. Not only that but, I'm sure you'll agree, this whole elliptical orbit thing gets rather tedious after a while - perhaps, therefore, it would be more fun to throw in a couple of triangular orbits here and there just to spice things up a bit? Gravity tends to be a little bit too predictable for my liking and my first action as Space Planning Manager would be to do something about this and make the Universe a far more entertaining place. You see (to paraphrase Mr. Brent), I like to think of myself not just as a Space Planning Manager but as a chilled out entertainer...

However, upon reading the job description more fully, it appeared that the job was less focused on Universe scale problems than it was on furniture, which dampened my ardour faster than a liquid nitrogen shower.

But, no sooner had my hopes been cruelly dashed, then I stumbled upon a job that left my interest so piqued that I had to check it for bruising - I mean, who could possibly pass up the opportunity to be a Performer within the Animals on Safari show at Columbus Zoo?

Now this was surely the adventure I had been hankering for - a chance to perform with wild and exotic animals and an opportunity to demonstrate the daredevil lion taming routines I had played through in my head a million times. Of course, I must confess to feeling a little nervous at the prospect of chancing death on a daily basis - with only my razor sharp reflexes saving me from the attentions of razor sharp teeth...

Therefore, I was slightly relieved to find that the Animals on Safari show features "cats, dogs and even rats and pigs" - which I am certain are altogether less fearsome denizens of the jungle. Taming a pig, for example, is likely to be a tad more forgiving than staring down a quarter of a ton of slobbering lion...

The application asked for a cover letter, a resume and a photo - so I decided that I needed to impress them with the photo. I needed a photo that clearly showed off that I could handle myself in the rough-and-tumble world of animal handling. Without a big cat of any kind to hand, I decided that I needed to call upon the services of Lulu, my Pekingese, to help me show off my considerable taming abilities...

With my nerves in tatters after my dangerous shoot, and with my photographic evidence safely taken care of, I decided all that was needed was for me to fashion an application letter that I was certain would capture my enthusiasm:

Dear Andrea

I would like to apply for the position of 'Performer' as advertised on the Association of Zoos and Aquariums website.

I am confident that I fulfil all the physical requirements of the role and - while I have previously considered animal performance with more exotic, and dangerous, animals I have done my utmost to prepare for a role in the Animals on Safari show by spending extensive time taming a white Pekingese (please see attached photographic evidence).

I very much have my heart set on the world of animal performance, and I am hoping you will see that - despite my slight lack of experience - I am the perfect candidate for this position.

I look forward to a positive response from you in the near future.



Now I just have sit back and wait for the call of the wild...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A job update...

Having applied for a few jobs recently, I thought it only prudent to give you an update on some of the - very encouraging - feedback I've been receiving of late from my applications. Although I've not yet managed to snare that, as yet, elusive unsuitable job I think you will see - based upon their feedback - that I am coming very close each time...

My application to be a designer of Men's Bottoms came perilously close to success but, after some deliberation, they said: "Upon review of your resume, we have determined that your qualifications do not identify you as the most eligible candidate for this position."

Meanwhile, it appears I won't get a chance to stretch my sea legs (for the time being); I think perhaps they were worried that I was a little overqualified: "Unfortunately at this time, I do not have a suitable vacancy meeting your experience and expertise."

While my efforts to join the magic circle were halted, like a Balrog on a bridge, at the first attempt despite how much I obviously impressed them: "Although you have excellent experience, unfortunately it does not match the critera set by my client."

But, I received considerably more success in my application to be a chair...

The initial feedback was extremely positive - while there wasn't, currently, a centre in my area to be chair of they made it clear that they saw my potential "we would be very interested in rectifying this if the right individual was to volunteer to set something up. Would this be something that you might be interested in?"

However, I was a little perturbed by their failure to appreciate my concerns about the strains of supporting a couple at the same time "Regarding your question about supporting couples, I am not a practitioner and so am not really qualified to answer. However I don’t think it’s about being ‘safe’..."

Obviously, I was still interested, so I followed up my initial enquiry:

Hi Mary

Thank you for your response. The idea of establishing a new centre, for which I could be the chair, is obviously appealing - but there is always the concern that it would be a great deal to support on my own.

With regard, to my question of safety - I suppose I am just concerned about the pressure of two couples at once. I believe there may be upcoming Health and Safety legislation that will address this area.



Their response disturbed me, not only were they "not aware of upcoming H&S legislation" but they obviously expected that - during the course of my employment - I would need to bulk up to ensure I had the physical strength to be up to the task: "our counsellors are obviously trained to deal with couples."

I'm currently weighing up whether I'm prepared to undergo such a radical regime...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A snippet from my novel in progress...

Chapter 1

Wednesday, 18th June, 1873

I awoke, for the second time, on Wednesday morning with a sore toe.

I raised my head a fraction from the pillow and squinted in the direction of the window, where the pale grey light of a London morning was nervously creeping into the room and a distinctive pitter-patter of rain was spattering against the glass pane.

My toe throbbed painfully and so, gingerly, I poked my foot out from beneath the layered blankets in order to examine the extent of the injury. My initial impression was that my big toe looked altogether too big for my liking; this was an impression reinforced by the way in which it throbbed painfully when I made even the most tentative attempts at flexing it.

The end of a piece of white string was looped loosely around my toe and led out of the bed, across the dusty floorboards and, from there, up to the handle of my bedroom door where the opposing end of the afore mentioned string was similarly attached. I must admit, I was toying with the notion that tying my big toe to the bedroom door had not, on the face of it, been one of my better ideas.

I lay back on the pillow and blinked tiredly up at the ceiling; mulling that, if it weren’t for the fact that I had tied my big toe to the door this would be the first time I woke on Wednesday morning. Although, equally, if it weren’t for the fact that I had tied my big toe to the door I would have likely awoken to find that the scant few possessions I could still count as my own had mysteriously disappeared in much the same way as had my pocket watch, my silver comb, my best pair of shoes, two good white shirts, a pair of black socks and my only pair of cufflinks.

Ever since I had taken up lodgings with the, quite frankly fearsome, Mrs Avery it appeared that my belongings had developed a life of their own. In my previous occupancy, if I were to leave a shirt in a drawer then I could be quite confident that it would still be there waiting for me when I got back. Now, however, it seemed that my belongings had developed the desire to wander.

“Forgetfulness,” scowled Mrs Avery, when I nervously broached the idea of installing a lock on my bedroom door the day before. “I think you’ll find that you are just forgetful, Mr. Beckworth.”

Since Mrs Avery stood at least four inches taller than me and had the build of a navvy (with an armful of tattoos to match) I simply bobbed my head in agreement and assured her that I had certainly not even given consideration to the idea that one of my fellow lodgers could have been responsible for my missing items.

At this Mrs Avery had scowled even more harshly, her huge face reddening and her already large eyes almost popping from her head, and I was forced to quickly revise my statement in order to convince her that I fully accepted her explanation that the other three gentlemen in the house were not lodgers, but were merely occasional guests.

Indeed, I had swallowed Mrs Avery’s lie about this with little hesitation when I came to view the property at 312 Chandler Street ten days earlier; my writing work with the newspapers had been increasingly short in supply since the Travers Incident and I desperately needed to find somewhere cheaper to live than my current flat. Mrs Avery had explained that I was to be her only lodger, although I must be prepared for the fact that Mr Douglas, a close family friend (who kept himself to himself), sometimes had need of a room while Mr. Murphy, a banker no less, would sometimes stay when he was in town to conduct his business.

I communicated that this seemed certainly to be agreeable; after all I surely would not wish to stand in the way of either guests or the occasional professional visitor. Mrs Avery had beamed a crooked smile at me and then, as if the fact had completely failed to cross her mind beforehand, belatedly remembered that Mr. Winters, a legal gentleman, also had an agreement to use a room, usually no more than one night in a fortnight.

This all seemed perfectly acceptable to me; a friend, a banker and a legal gentlemen who, in total, seemed to spend no more than a few nights per month in the property surely would not be a problem and the price for lodgings was far lower than anything else I had been able to find in the City.

On my first night in my new lodgings it transpired that, as luck would have it, Mr. Douglas was also going to be staying; and while I cannot vouch for the fact that he is a close family friend, I can vouch for the fact that he is an extremely poor singer when drunk, although what he lacks in musicality he attempts to make up for with both stamina and volume.

Suitably exhausted the next morning I laboured down to the kitchen and prepared myself a plate of morning vittles from the meagre supplies on offer; it was there that I encountered a thick set man with a flat nose, cauliflower ears and a crop of short grey hair entering the property through the back door.

I, of course, introduced myself as the lodger of the property and was a little surprised to find in return that I was meeting Mr. Murphy, the gentleman that Mrs Avery had described as a banker. Now, while I would not, by any means, consider myself an expert in the clothing styles of banking professionals, I must confess that I had never before encountered a banker who wears moleskin trousers, scuffed hobnail boots and a shirt with sleeves rolled up to the elbow, exposing forearms like slabs of meat. Nor had I ever before met a banker who carried a, clearly well used, black leather sap with him to work.

Mr Murphy indicated that he was returning from a hard night’s work and proceeded to sit down in the place I had set myself at the kitchen table and began to eat the food which I had just spent time preparing for myself. Perhaps it was the presence of the leather sap dangling from his belt, perhaps it was his beady black eyes that held all the emotion of a dead fish, but there was something about Mr. Murphy that persuaded me to allow him to tuck into my breakfast without registering a single complaint.

Our conversation that morning was brief, and mainly one sided, but I was able to determine that that Mr. Murphy had what would be considered a tenuous connection to the banking profession; namely that he collected outstanding debts for a local money lender by the name of O’Riley.

More than a little appalled by the motley crew who were currently sharing a house with me (and indeed who seemed to be far more consistent visitors than I had been initially informed) I was lucky enough to be out of the house for the first four days of my stay and, despite the garbled singing of Mr. Douglas at night and the propensity of Mr. Murphy to eat my food at his convenience, I began to think that, perhaps, I could manage to adjust to my housemates. Unfortunately, that was before the arrival of Mr. Winters.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Job No. 88 - Organizational Wizard

I like to think that the design skills I have (lovingly) nurtured within the game industry over the years are perfectly capable of translating into other industries (hence my forays into the world of Men's Bottoms, Socks and Lingerie). Thus, for a few brief moments, I was tempted to spread my design wings and take flight for the job offered by M.C. Dean who were looking for a Fire Alarm Designer...

But, the more that I thought about it, the more I became troubled as to whether the job would offer me enough challenge. After all, from what I can tell, fire alarms are pretty much the same the world over - a button (or buttons) that when pressed causes an alarm to ring. This, therefore, seems to limit the amount of creativity offered by the position - and, while I did consider transplanting successful video game elements into fire alarms (for example, you need to do a double-tap to make it work or perhaps a four button system in which you have to hit the right combo to activate the alarm) I just wasn't sure that the world of fire alarms was quite ready for such a radical paradigm shift.

Perhaps, in time, people will look back at this blog and see it as the catalyst for a wholesale change in the methodology of fire alarms; fire alarms that are more challenging (thus creating a far greater use of the risk/reward mechanism) and altogether more entertaining (albeit with a slightly higher casualty rate). At this time, it's likely that I will be given the due credit I deserve as a lone prophetic voice in an age of hideously dull fire alarm systems...

Fortunately, the feeling of disappointment did not last long as I stumbled across an advert on the Guardian Jobs site for an Organizational Wizard.

I felt eminently qualified for this position; I have managed a wide range of projects (thus demonstrating my organisational qualities) and have also (in order to satisfy their wizardry related demands) watched all four episodes of Breaking the Magician's Code, reread the first chapter of Harry Potter as well as having a good listen to some Paul Dukas...

At first, I wasn't quite whether I needed to be a wizard who organised things, or an organised wizard (damn you semantics!) but a quick read through of the job description left me in no doubt that they needed magical assistance in the areas of organisation; after all, the job required that, amongst other duties, I would be "managing diaries, producing reports...organising meetings and generally providing a first class support service".

Managing diaries and producing reports are tasks that, in normal circumstances, can tax mere mortals but obviously would be a cinch to an organizational wizard with an auto-answer quill, while a broad range of organisational issues could be quickly and easily solved with a Time Turner or something similar. Feeling confident that (despite my current lack of magical training) I could manage to bluff my way through my employment through the purchasing of various enchanted objects (and swot up on Latin in my spare time), I quickly typed out a cover letter:

Dear Kara

I wish to apply for the position of Organizational Wizard, as advertised on the Guardian Jobs website (ref. GDKG040989).

While not directly experienced in this area, I have carried out considerable research and believe that I could satisfy your organisational demands. I have a good knowledge of Latin, am a quick learner and am amenable to any and all dress codes that may be required for the position.

If you have any questions or queries, please don't hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.



Having sent the letter I did have a momentary pang of doubt as to whether the use of email (as opposed to owl) would have been something of a giveaway but figured it's too late to worry about that. Now I just have to find Diagon Alley on Google maps...

Monday, February 01, 2010

Grandma's Cheese Pudding (aka when cookery goes bad)

In a change to our scheduled service, today I need to share with you my experience of attempting to cook a meal for my wife's birthday. By the end of my (sorry) tale, I am certain that you will be in agreement that any job involving food preparation is about as unsuitable as it gets for me...

Our story begins when, having been asked by my wife what we were going to be eating on her birthday, I foolishly blurted out something along the lines of 'I'll cook something special for you...'

Now, I'm not entirely sure where those words came from (my current working theory is that, for the briefest of moments, I was possessed by the spirit of Keith Floyd) but I regretted them as soon as they came out of my mouth. You see, I just knew that my traditional speciality of beans on toast just wasn't going to cut it for birthday celebrations.

And thus, on the day of the afore mentioned birthday, while my wife was at work I threw myself into the task of scouring the internet for good recipes - with my only guidance being a request for a 'cheese based dish'.

So, when I stumbled upon the recipe for Grandma's Cheese Pudding, I figured I was onto a winner. Not only was it cheese based (check!) but it was also (in my opinion) well within the scope of even my, hopelessly limited, culinary capabilities. It said you needed a 2.8 litre dish to make it but, since I didn't have one this big, I made the executive decision to simply halve all the ingredients.

A quick dash to the shops later and I had got all of the ingredients save for breadcrumbs. My supermarket doesn't sell breadcrumbs - and, apparently, just breaking up some pieces of bread (in a similar method used to feed ducks) doesn't count. So I sought advice and, after some crust slicing, oven baking and grating, I had a plate full of breadcrumbs. Of course, not having any scales I had to estimate how many I had but I figured there must surely be enough and moved onto grating cheese (which also went, I must say, swimmingly).

Perhaps I wasn't so bad at this cookery thing as I thought. Which was obviously the point at which the spirit of Keith Floyd decided he was no longer needed and drifted back to whence he came, leaving me in charge of bringing the milk to the boil and mixing it in with my ingredients.

One litre of boiling milk later, I pour it over my breadcrumbs and stir in my cheese, only to find that I have a very watery (well, actually milky) gloopy mess. Even to my untrained eyes, this looks very wrong indeed. I recheck the recipe. Bugger. I have halved all the ingredients except milk. There is now twice as much milk as I need mixed in with my breadcrumbs and cheese.

At this point - with only an hour or so until my wife got home (expecting Grandma's Cheese Pudding - I'd made the rookie mistake of telling her what I was cooking) panic set in. I tried to pour milk out through a strainer but I'd made it in such a big bowl that I was losing as much of the breadcrumbs and cheese as milk. So, after using a ladle to rid myself of some of the excess milk, I decided that time was pressing too much and that I needed to get it in the oven pronto.

Grandma's Cheese Pudding is in the oven. Twenty minutes tick by. Wife arrives home. It smells nice (check!). We sit down and I position myself in a chair so that I can surreptitiously keep an eye on the dish in the oven; only to see that it is growing at a not inconsiderable rate. The mixture is rising like a cumulus nimbus cloud. I'm not sure it's meant to do this. I keep my wife's attention focused in the opposite direction. It's really starting to get big now. I begin to worry it will grow too big for the oven at its current rate of growth. The story of the magic porridge pot stirred uncomfortably at the back of my mind...

But then, with a ping, it was ready. I breathed a small sigh of relief and went to get it out.

Only for the cumulus nimbus to slowly deflate, leaving behind a yellowish mixture that I discovered wobbled like a jelly. Feeling fairly certain this was not meant to be the case, I made my excuses and slipped it back in the oven for another ten minutes. At which point it was browning quite a bit at the edges but still wobbling like a jelly in the middle. Well, it's as near as dammit, I thought and prepared to serve it up for dinner.

Which was the point that I discovered that, instead of cooking Grandma's Cheese Pudding (which sounds impressive, you must admit) I had actually spent all afternoon - and nearly an hour of cooking time - creating an oven omelette.

Too much milk, too little breadcrumbs = an oven cheese omelette, and not a particularly good omelette at that (although I'd never before considered the possibility of cooking an omelette in the oven). So, after all my slaving and panicking, I served my wife two slices of birthday omelette and swore that I would never, ever, be so foolish as to think I can cook again...