Friday, March 12, 2004

The Earl Grey Missile Test

Too lazy to read this? Then cut and paste the text into this fan-dabby-triple-dozy text-to-speech wossname and have a nice person at AT&T read Scary bedtime stories for you.
Tea, anyone?
The civil service! Career of choice for dopes and under-achievers, and at the age of twenty, I was both. Ideal that I should end up in a smart little side office on the tenth floor of a Ministry of Agriculture building in Reading. With town centre office space at a premium, and the Common Agricultural Policy running out of control, they had to jam us in any which way to get all the work done.

They managed to get eight of us in an office the size of a broom cupboard, and more fool the Ministry for making sure that at least four of us were straight out of college, gaseous as festering skunks. They should have known.

Out of the glare of our evil leader (who once tore a strip off me for reading a newspaper during my lunch break whilst still *gasp* sitting at my desk), our work-rate slumped from "very little" to "bugger all". Even on the day Ian Paisley paid a visit to shout at Miss Scary Boss, we were leaning out of the window trying to loogie on his bodyguards in the car park ten floors below.

Bored stupid by the lack of stimulation, and the bookie's phone number getting blocked by the switchboard, we had to make our own entertainment. We raided the stock cupboard - no mean feat, as it meant distracting the evil-faced old harridan who stood guard over it, make a copy of the key from blu-tack and some bent-up staples and break in, disguised as French farmers, after hours. We marvelled at our spoils. There was going to be hell.

We created dozens of elaborate elastic-powered missiles containing tightly rolled paper, drawing pins and paper clips. They grew weaponry, which, when fired from launchers cobbled together out of rulers, bulldog clips and triple-strength elastic bands, could easily break a) the sound barrier and b) any human skin it came into contact with. 007's Q-branch would have had orgasms.

We soon dreaded coming to work, and the pair of old biddies forced to share the office with the juvenile delinquents improvised defences out of filing cabinets and steel plates stolen from a nearby building site. My precious Joy Division poster ("Joy Davison? Who's she?" asked the philistine Geoff, who regularly went to Shakin Stevens concerts) was virtually shredded by the barrage.

Soon, our desks were fortresses with huge piles of files for protection (not to mention giving passing managers the illusion that actual work may have actually been taking place), with cunningly designed slits to fire our weapons onto the unsuspecting enemy. It was siege warfare, 1980s style, with a regular fax to the Ministry containing gross beef tonnage and battle injuries.

It would only be a matter of time...

Three shots caused our downfall. Call them lucky. Call them irresponsible. We called them downright funny, and we laughed all the way to the personnel office.

Shot 1: "You want dried leaves, in boiled water, with refined sap and liquid squirted from a cow?" I asked.

"Wha'?" replied Geoff.

"Tea, ya nimnod."

Your hero primes his weapon, loads his best missile - an arrangement with protrouding drawing pins called "Al's Skull Modifier", carefully aims and lets rip with the shot to end them all. And what a shot. It hit the spoon in Geoff's freshly made mug of Earl Grey, causing the contents to spill over Geoff, our so-called supervisor Mark (who was, as I fired, carefully lining up a shot at Andy's exposed arse as he fished something out of a filing cabinet), and a pile of files marked "In Confidence"

Shot 2: Laughing fit to burst, I stood up from behind my fortress so as to taunt Geoff further. Twack! Geoff's number one weapon "The Thug" caught me square in the bollocks. Enraged, we slugged it out on the carpet between the desks, teapots flying.

Shot 3: In stormed our department head, determined to put an end to this childish behaviour. Twock! Mark's "Disaster Area". Right in the flange. Doom.

She'd seen enough, and as soon as her eyes stopped watering, we were marched over the road to be dressed down by some senior personnel manager like a bunch of naughty schoolboys. Luck shined on us though. Dirty, rotten stinking luck. They wouldn't sack us, as low quality administrative staff was hard enough to come by as it was. We were split up, myself to the hell of accounts, Geoff got a cushy number editing the staff magazine while Mark got Export Document Registry, the civil service equivalent of Siberia, ruled with a rod of iron by a former school mistress who insisted on absolute silence and her permission for toilet breaks.

My first action in accounts was to get a pineapple, stick a stupid face on it and fire elastic band powered weapons at him until he turned to mush. The fruit wars had begun.

Note for people who don't get the title: The Old Grey Whistle Test was a late-night music programme on BBC Television, showcasing the best of new and established music acts. The pun, alas, is my own evil-doing.

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