29 October 2007

Working 5 to 9

This last fortnight I've been working like a dog.

Well, OK, not exactly like a dog: not rounding up sheep, sniffing out drugs, helping blind people cross the road or fetching dead birds in my mouth. Nope: for this dog it's mainly Powerpoint, for there's nothing like a change in management structure to raise the demand for slides.

I should write a book about it:

An introduction to Powerpoint in Business.
  1. Content: how to judge the quality of the MIS by the layout of the slide.
  2. Avoiding the complete sentence: how to write in bullets.
  3. Advanced Formatting: how to fit the Executive Summary on one page without reducing the font size)
  4. Powerpoint by Committee: the importance of versioning and the futility of style.

When one is working silly hours blogging sometimes feels like homework. Perhaps it would work better on a slide....

20 October 2007

Dumbing Down

An American reader tells me my blog is too complicated for her friends to understand, and that I need to dumb it down.

"Don't tell me!" said I, smugly, "it's the irony and the cultural allusions right? Too much irony and too many cultural allusions." She told me no one likes a smartass, and did I imagine that The Simpsons was made in America solely for the benefit of Brits? Sometimes I feel very Old Europe.

I asked her to explain

Well, for one thing, she told me, you should start a story at the beginning and then go on to the middle before getting to the end. And stick to the subject; quit wondering off. And don't mention Tesco so often. Or Blue Peter. And sort out those long sentences and what's the 'lower remove' did you make that up? And, omigod, would you please, please just finish things off properly and not leave them dangling: I mean, dude, did you get to see the semi-final or not?

Perhaps I should have explained: my friend is a New Yorker. They don't talk like that in Colorado. No siree, Bob mcDandy they don't.

Actually I like New York - it's just like London. Only with more weather; and 40watt lightbulbs, and it has never palled that one of the perks of my indescribable job is that I regularly get to visit London's twin city.

Mind you, trips to mirrror-world are less rewarding since old Forbes sold his Fabergé egg collection in 2004 - nine eggs he had along with toy soldiers, and old monopoly sets, in a tiny dark gallery on 5th avenue where sometimes I'd be the only visitor, marvelling over painstaking exquisitry.

However, while Manhattan may have lost its Forbes' eggs I can still recommend it, as it's the venue for some fine margaritas; indeed perhaps the perfect margarita can be found in Dos Caminos, where they have 120 brands of Tequila and a basement full of Mexican wetbacks hand-squeezing the limes. And don't miss the weirdly unpromising but surprisingly excellent blood orange margarita in the louche and low, chic and charming, bad and baleful, Morgans Bar.

"So do you think?", I asked my friend, absently, for one part of my mind was back in that dim-dark bar, struggling to double the tax in my tequilia-swimming head, "So, do you think that if I DID dumb down my blog, would I get more comments?"

16 October 2007

Education Special

On Friday evening Mrs Botogol and I had dinner with four teachers, all from the same school. Worryingly: three of them taught me when I was at the school myself, many years ago.

Frighteningly: the fourth is younger than I am but, just like the others, had taught at the school for more than twenty years.

With all of them so thoroughly steeped in the education system, and my mysterious incomprehensible job in the city, I had wondered if we would have anything in common but I needn't have worried: in an intriguing bout of role reversal, as the evening wore on I lectured the history teacher on the battle of Borodino and the economist on Idea Futures while they regaled me with stories about what it is like to own a racehorse. I guess we were all trying to impress.

Then on Saturday the Botogol family went en masse to the Cheltenham Literature festival. That's right: more school.

Well, that's what happens when you go and get educated: one moment you're throwing babyfood on the floor and tantrums in Tesco, the next you're in the third row of Cheltenham Town Hall listening carefully to Roy Hattersley's opinion of Stanley Baldwin and Britain in the interwar years. Or smuggling a sly syllepsis into an otherwise grammatically undistinguished blog. The first sign, I reckon, is watching Blue Peter: it's all down hill from there.

Anyway: the festival. In the end there wasn't any poetry at all, gay or otherwise: in the morning we all went together to DT and History; then after lunch (we were all hot dinners) we split up: while I'm not claiming that the education system is dumbed down or anything, let's just say that Mrs Botogol and I had Add. History followed by Comp. Lit, while the Lower Remove had a spare and went off early to watch to semi-final.

If truth be told I was a tiny bit jealous; but I quickly thought of a way to get my own back:

"Haven't you got any homework to do in half term?" I asked my youngest, "that you should be doing this afternoon?"
"No, Dad, I've just got one piece, I don't need to start today"
"Oh, what do you have to do?"
"I've got to write a play in two acts, about environmental issues"

Might as well leave it to next week, then.

12 October 2007

I'm with Wayne Barnes

U11s run a lot faster than U10s and this season sometimes referees - even super-fit triathletes - find it hard to keep up. So, at two tries each, with three minutes to go, when the super-fast left wing was caught by the full back in the far corner, well I was just very glad I had a touch judge, and when his flag shot up it was a simple matter to call a line out 5m back.

"Line-out??" said the TJ indignantly, "Line out????? He wasn't out! That was a try!"

Now, I might not have the prestige of Wayne Barnes, but on my side I have many more years of experience, and I knew what I was doing:

"But..", said I, "...but you put your flag up!"

"Yes of course I did! I was signalling a try!"

There was a short pause, punctuated only by very troubled 11 year olds

"Ummm, yes,.. sorry about that, ref", he said, (delightfully sheepish, now) "I was, um, excited ... but it was a try"

I don't suppose this situation comes up very often for it's not mentioned in the Continuum. So I pondered for a moment, surrounded by 11yr olds with points of view, and it didn't take me long.

"Sorry boys, silly mix-up. Try given"

The boys were fine about it, I relaxed, problem solved.

Except for ....except for.... over on far, touchline a small group of parents were incensed "Oi Ref! But he put his flag up! Oi Ref, what are you doing? It's a line out, surely"

There are a great many hand signals available to the rugby referee, but they don't include anything for "Sorry, everyone, but the touch judge is a prat"

So I had to make one up. I'm altogether not certain it worked, but touch judge understood which, after all, was the important thing.

07 October 2007

Simplifying My Life

I could kick myself.

Really: what's the point of having a World Cup Wall Chart if I don't read it? What an idiot.

In my defence: I never seriously thought England had a chance of making the semi-finals; but obviously I would have at least pencilled it in to the calendar, wouldn't I? You would think so, wouldn't you? A clue: 'no'.

So, at 8pm on Saturday England will play France in the semi-final of the World Cup..... and Mrs Botogol and I will be at a gay poetry reading.

Early this morning, thundering four abreast on our hardtails down the tow path at Ham, my friend announced he was simplifying his life. We were surprised, we said. On whole, we told him, he seemed pretty simple to us already. No, he said, by simplifying he meant he was jettisoning the unnecessary, the distracting, the inconsequential and the inessential in his life.

Well, we naturally assumed he was dumping us and we were a trifle miffed. "What, after all these years?", we asked, and I quickly mentioned the inner tube he still owes me.

But it turned out he didn't mean us at all. He meant... well.... So far as I could gather he meant he couldn't make the poker school at the Cabbage Patch of a Wednesday evening.

Simplify his life. And he's not even a Quaker (#41)

But maybe he has a point; maybe you CAN'T follow rugby AND go to gay poetry evenings.
Not in the long run.

04 October 2007

Abercrombie and Fitch

It's like Kid Nation, but crueller and I was there last night: Noisy, crowded, dark but flashing-bright: hell it is for the middle-aged or the autistic and for an autist of a certain age it is very torture.

Too loud to hear yourself think; too dark to tell the girls' clothes from the boys, the assistants from the shoppers, or toilets from the changing rooms: it's also a maze, with a secret cash desk and TWICE I heard people asking for help finding the exit. In fact there's only one thing you can imagine that's worse than browsing at A&F, and that's ... ooh . . say.....being after a certain *specific* thing that you have seen on the website, of which the staff are completely ignorant, and not, when it comes right, brutally down to it, not being quite sure what size your daughter is.

"Sir, I have been thinking about that t-shirt you're after: might it, in fact, be girls shirt? Because, if it is, I think you're looking in the wrong place!"
"Well, do you know: it just possibly might be"

Reader, I survived, and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, yes?
Daughter, mine, it was worth it :-)

And I didn't have any trouble with my credit card

01 October 2007


It's been a long time since I thought of Mr Motivator, but there he was, on Sunday, motivating. And a very good job he was doing as well: in front of him in Hampton Court Great Park stood 4,000 turquoise-clad idiots all pumping to the left, lunging to the right, and jumping on the spot.

Except me. Never one for dancing in public (except for the flamenco of course, and the rugby club dinner, naturally), I remained still and poised, cool and alert, coiled like a spring and ready to run.

Well, jog anyway. Ten kilometres is an awfully long way. And I got stuck in the maze.

Forty-Eight minutes Fifty-Two seconds, though :-)

I call that well and truly motivated.