I'm a wee bit grumpy today. I am bristling, giving out my grumpy signs. The ones that say "fuck off", only without using words. It's a bad day to wind me up.
Maeve wanders over. "Did any of you take forever to log on this morning?" Yes. We all did. There was a major upgrade over the weekend. There were e-mails about it last week. But you didn't read them. I'm talking to someone so I can't tell her this, though. She goes back to her desk and reboots her computer. It crashes, and she has to use someone else's until lunchtime.
Nuala calls me over. "There's something about the way you express things that I find hard to understand," she says. She then proceeds to read something out to me that I've written. She inserts words in to it. I ask her why she's doing that. "Because that's how I'd do it," she says. But it's not what's written. I let it slip. She's off on holiday tomorrow. "Why do you want everything related back to Sterling?" she asks. I don't. I just gave an exchange rate so she could exchange things from Sterling to Euro. But no, she's misread that too. Then she comes out with a complete howler. She really has failed to understand a word I've written. She's just decided what she wants to do and made me write something that she can then change and tell me I was wrong all along.
Maeve calls me over. "I can't get this computer system to work right." I tell her who she needs to get in touch with. She gets in touch with them. They cock up. This is probably because Maeve has the communication skills of a potato and the personal charm of Nosferatu. She sends me a one-line e-mail asking if something is right. I send one back saying "no". She tries to call me. She sits two desks away. I put her on to voicemail. If it's not important enough for her to get off her arse and waddle over to my desk, it's not important enough for me to reach a few inches away and pick up the telephone.
My evil cat Mr Twinky calls. The bathroom looks fabulous. Just not fit for human habitation. Could we possibly spend another two nights in our rented suite.
I take this completely in my stride.
While the entire population of Lithuania occupy our apartment, ripping out our bathroom and replacing it with a smaller one, and taking our bookcases away, we are staying in a "suite" which has exactly as many rooms as our home. It's handier for work, too. It's incredibly weird to be here.
It's definitely better than being stuck in a hotel or a guest house, though. In a hotel, if you want something to eat, then you have to call room service, pay a fortune, and give a tip on top of that. We've got a fridge here. In a guest house, you're a guest in someone's house. You're polite to them. You turn up for breakfast at the right time, you try not to drip your undercooked egg on to their tatty tablecloth. You have to eat out in the evening. We've got a hob here.
In a hotel in the price range we're playing in, if you've got a chair then it's next to your bed and it's where you're forced to put stuff due to a lack of storage space. Here, we've got two rooms. They're cleaned daily, and the cleaners even make the bed and re-do all my washing up for me.
But. It's too close to work. I can leave here and be in the office in five minutes, which is not good. And it's just too spartan. The sofas are just not comfortable enough, the floor is just too hard, the kitchen is just a little too small.
We're just here a little longer, though.
We're moving out tomorrow morning.
For a week we'll be in a holiday apartment. It's handy for work. I'm leaving for work early tomorrow, and as soon as I've gone, half a dozen workmen move in to our apartment. They're going to rip out our bathroom and put in a new one. This is basically a big thing. It's been big for weeks.
We've had quotes and estimates, we've had comings and goings, we've got paint samples, we've had removal men in to take half of our stuff away, we've got people coming in to look at some of our furniture and maybe take some of it away. We've thrown out eight hundred bags of our stuff. We've sold some. We've given away some. We've filed and trimmed and we're exhausted and the place is basically Empty. Capital E.
They say that moving house is traumatic. We're not even moving house yet. We're just thinking about putting it on the market, and in the mean time we have to live in it. They say that moving house is traumatic.
We're moving out tomorrow, and when we move back in, we should have a new bathroom. That's a thing.
It seems so easy, doesn't it. You log on to a web site, you find a flight for a pound, and by the time you've added on taxes, paid extra for your bags, paid extra for insurance, and paid extra for credit card handling on a site that only accepts credit card payment you're tired, stressed, tired, and the price of your ticket has increased by a factor of forty. And then you realise you've not booked a return flight and you find that not only are there no return flights when you want, the original flight you tried to book has gone up in price to Â£170. And that's before you're anywhere near an airport.
This is one of those airlines. The ones where you're expected to print off your own boarding pass - or pay an extra fee. The ones where you're not allocated a seat, but expected to squeeze through the boarding gate as quickly as possible to try to get a seat next to your other half. This is one where you're expected to pay a fortune for a cup of tea that tastes like grit, where you're not allowed to complain if the plane's late because "we're a budget airline and you get what you pay for". This is one of those airlines where they keep the costs down by making the staff pay for their own training and uniforms, where they're demotivated before they're even faced with a disgruntled customer.
But this sort of airline has made air travel accessible. They've made it feel like anyone can travel as long as they leave their dignity behind at the airport doors. They've stripped away the glamour of travel and left it bare bones, no frills and pimped it to the masses. This is a gateway airline. Oh yes, they'll try to get you hooked on airline travel and once you're racking up seven or eight flights a year, and nobody's ever mentioned the words "frequent flyer points" to you, they'll show you the special stuff. The planes where the price of the flight includes a cheap sandwich and putting your luggage in the hold. The planes where you get a little bit more leg room, where the gate that you land at is that little bit closer to the terminal. They'll show you a bright glossy future where planes are cleaned between flights, where - sure, you pay a little more, but that price includes the tax and the handling charges and the fuel surcharges. They'll push you something new and shiny and say "try this mate."
Remember that, next time you are squeezing yourself into a 24 inch seat, paying two hundred quid for a seat that the guy behind you paid forty quid for, with the people behind you asking you not to put your seat back "because they have a baby". It's a gateway airline. You're hooked.
Mike Atkinson, he of Troubled Diva, is one of those rare things in this life - a true gent. He's the sort of person who can not write to you for ages, when he does, he's begging, and you just want to go out of your way to help. About a week ago I got an e-mail from him.
"I've got this idea," it began, probably. I'm paraphrasing. "It's a bit mad and I don't know if it'll work." A collection of blog-writing? In a week? Of course it was going to work. I immediately offered all of the good bits of my blog, but he said no. He said he needed a book that had more than three pages in it. I said that was mean of him, but he then numbed me in to submission with a witty anecdote about Anoushka Hempel. I trotted out lunch with Yoko Ono, he replied with Emma Chambers and Emma Kennedy. I trotted out my Alistair Appleton story and the football stadium in Vietnam, he countered with Which Decade is Tops for Pops. I pulled seniority of my blog, he pulled a return-from-hiatus-stunt and The Shirt off His Back project.
I knew that if there was a man who could pull this off, it was Mike.
A large part of this sort of thing is not so much about having the idea, it's about having the charm to get people to volunteer their time, effort, and work. It's a mean achievement to pull a book together for Comic Relief in just a week.
Shaggy Blog Stories. It's funny. It's for charity.
Here's the stuff that's in my head that I might have written about recently. But didn't.