Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spud Picking

The local farmer is finally picking last year's spuds. I took this photo from my bedroom window just now. He left them in the ground over the winter. Maybe it's easier to pull them up in the spring and he gets a better price for them at this time of year. As with most farming these days, it's mostly done by machine, though he's got a couple of farmhands riding on the back of the tractor. There's also a great big Alsatian dog sprinting up and down the rows of spuds, having the time of its life.
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Monday, March 16, 2009

Call Centre, week two

So I have finished my second week in the new job. I am working on a top secret 'campaign.' For security reasons I cannot tell you what this is. But I can give you some clues. I provide customer service for people enquiring about a very important travel document. It comes in a little burgundy book. It has a photograph in it, that you probably hate. This object begins with 'p' and ends with 't' and has an 'ass' in the middle. And a 'port.'

I only work a thirty hour week, spread over three weekdays and one day at the weekend. I had to work on Saturday, meaning that I thought I wouldn't be able to watch the Scotland - Ireland rugby game. I rang the Scottish Rugby Union to ask if they wouldn't mind moving the game to Sunday, but they said they couldn't do anything at such short notice. Luckily, my company has a contract with Setanta Sports, meaning that there are TVs on the call floor tuned to Setanta Sports News 24/7. But someone disloyally turned the channel over to BBC1 so we could watch the game, albeit at a distance of 40 foot away & with the sound turned down.

I have not had many difficult calls to deal with so far. Mostly I just book people in for interviews or help them fill out an application form. A Scotsman got very upset with me because he was flying the next day and had put his passport in the wash and ruined it. He seemed to think this was somehow my fault, and was unhappy that he would have to wait a week to get a new one.

Then I was helping a father complete an online application for his 15 year old daughter.

At the end of the call he says 'Will this passport enable her to travel abroad without her parents?'

'Oh aye' says I, thinking she's off on a youthful school trip

'Only she's going abroad with her 19 year old boyfriend and he's arranged it all' says Mr Dad.

Now, when I say it's a thirty hour week that's not quite true. I don't get paid for my lunch and teabreaks. That's a new experience for me - even when I worked for some big American companies in Australia I got paid for my breaks. Never lunchbreaks but always playbreaks. I didn't know that was legal. So I work a 34 hour week but get paid for 30.

Furthermore, the company times how often you go to the toilet, or just generally move away from your desk. You are only allowed 12 minutes per day. You have to be back at your seat right on time or your in trouble. We've already been ticked off about this. And all for less than £10,000 a year. One colleague got ticked off for eating a plum at her desk yesterday.

Reading this makes me wonder if there is any point being a Labour supporter. We've had 12 years of a 'left-wing' government for this? Apparently, union officials aren't even allowed on
site. I was told that the local rep got into a shouting match with an employee in the canteen and was barred. It wouldn't surprise me if this argument wasn't engineered by the company. I've been told that the union rep sometimes comes and stands at the front gate and hands out piss-taking leaflets. I'll have to look out for him and have a chat, maybe they'll put my name on a blacklist.

Anyway, people vote with their feet and rarely stay long in the job. There's a massive turnover of staff and I've even been offered a £200 bonus for every worker I can find for them who stays in the job a few weeks. It makes me wonder why they don't treat their workers better. I've read somewhere that staff retention, or lack of it, is one of the most expensive outlays for many businesses. What's the point of spending so much on neverending advertising, recruitment & training just to treat your staff like cretins?

They even draw up a productivity formula for each worker, based on electricity costs, heating costs, breaks we take, work we do, time idle, time at the toilet, time on holiday and calculate it to the nearest penny. My own productivity formula, like a big old battery hen.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Stenchbreath doing her party trick in a fancy headcscarf. She's quite the local celebrity. Sorry about the sound quality.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Trained by a fantasist

I have a job now. You'll be morbidly jealous when you find out what I'm doing. Get this - I'm working in a CALL CENTRE! For MINIMUM WAGE! And I even have to pay £30 to hire my own headset. I get the £30 back when I leave the job if I return the headset 'in good condition.' When I was told this, I felt a little self-pitying at how low I have debased myself. It's the 21st century equivalent of going down t' pit. With less death and blood and disease and hard work, obviously.

I have to wear a tie and smart shirt too. Why?

As my musings on this blog are fed directly on my Facebook page I have changed my security settings on the latter. Only friends and family can view me know. As I may write about my employment , I don't want Them reading about it. Maybe I should take my picture off this site too.

Anyway, I don't know if you are aware of the tall tale telling character 'Aldridge Prior the Hopeless Liar' from Viz magazine. It appears he is training me. I am stuck in a room for the week learning the job from a man who regularly, even continously, interrupts his work to make claims such as:

1.) His dad was a major in the British army. He trained Nato forces all over the world and thus ole dog's mess claims to have lived in just about every country on the planet.

He eats a croissant very day because he lived in the south of France when he was 11 and ate one every on the way to school every day. Fresh from the bakery.

'Where did you live in France?' asked one of my new colleagues.

He uhmmed and ahhhd and rapped his knuckles on the table pretending to remember.

'Somewhere in the south' he eventually offered. He can speak 'a bit of French' too. Surprisingly, he didn't show it off.

His dad's work also took him to the USA for a few months, so our boy was awarded an American passport. But the Americans took it off him when they discovered he had a British passport. This greatly annoys him.

Later, we were discussing the countries of the Commonwealth, as this is relevant to the job. He reeled off Canada, South Africa and New Zealand............and then mused that Burgundy in France was part of the Commonwealth too. 'That's where the Normans who invaded England came from,' he solemnly informed us.

Yeah, the Normans from Burgundy. The Normburgundians?

2.) He keeps going on about his various mystery illnesses, many of which involve his rectum. He couldn't follow his dad's army career because he strained a muscle in his back and had to retire to bed for several months.

Then he told us that the company frowned if you took more than 12 mins toilet break per day (FFS!) . He used to get told off for running to the toilet all time himself, but now he has special dispensation because he has Crohn's disease. It used to affect him very badly but if he cuts out wheat, sugar and acidic foods he can control it.

"Aye, that's why you're drinking a bottle of Coke!" interjected the young lady to my right.

And sure enough, while he'd been telling us this he's been swigging away from a 500ml bottle of Coca Cola.

He ignored her and informed us that if he keeps running out the door it's because of his Crohn's. Which isn't very bad. His friend's Crohn's is much worse.

He hasn't run out the door once. And he stuffs himself with croissants, fries and sugary drinks.

I used to work with a guy who had to take a daily cocktail of drugs and was frequently hospitalised by his awful Crohn's disease. Funny, that.

3.) He has a criminal record. He broke into a house 14 years before he was born. How's that you ask? Well, someone with exactly the same name as him lived in his parents' home before they bought it. This fella was 14 years older than our trainer. And because he had a record for breaking and entering it was transferred to our bloke and he just can't get rid of it. Doesn't matter how often he complains. He went to police headquarters and everything. But he just can't get rid. His reputation is forever sullied.

4.) His uncle was in the navy and he and his mates got two days leave on an island so they went mad and got blind drunk for two days and suddenly they realised they had to get back to the ship so they stole a 2CV but the clutch broke so they fixed it with a shoelace but that burnt so the uncle climbed on the bonnet and moved the clutch by hand while they drove at 60 mph, then they crashed the car and stole a boat and got back to the ship but - get this! - the leave was for 3 DAYS not 2 DAYS! They hadn't realised they had an extra day! And all the sirens were screaming on the island as the authorities looked for the phantom car and boat thieves. Ha!

Later, the uncle was shot by pirates in the Suez. Blew his shoulder off, they found it on board behind a pillar. Pity, the uncle spoke 4 languages, all self-taught, he could have been a navy translator.