Thoughts from a (Lanzarote) Sun Lounger

Travel.

This year’s  flight to Lanzarote wasn’t too bad at all. It was a pretty busy flight, busier than I had expected, but there seemed to me to be slightly more leg room on my flight. It was certainly better than on my previous trip, a few years back, so much so that I was actually almost comfortable. I’ve flown in January with Jet 2 in recent years and the flights have always been under subscribed which has been good, because as you know, budget airlines always try to cram as many passengers as possible into the limited confines of their aircraft and it’s nice to have a vacant seat next to you so you can stretch out a little. Happily on this rather busy aeroplane in the seat next to me was not a big non speaking, rather tubby fellow -like the guy I was stuck with a few years ago- but a pleasant, slim and quite small lady who was nice to talk to and gave me a little extra much-needed room.

Man Bag.

When I am off to European climes I tend to take my ‘man bag’ with me to carry my bits and pieces about. Much more sensible than trying to cram your wallet, phone, keys, reading specs and all sorts into your trouser pockets like we Brits do. There was some consternation at the airport when the bag went though the x-ray machine. That was due to a bullet key ring I had picked up some years ago and left in the bag. It was made using a world war one bullet, decommissioned of course but I was called to security, reprimanded and the bullet confiscated. Good job they didn’t find the Colt 45 cigarette lighter I was carrying! Seriously, airport security can be a bit of a pain but at least we are sure that we are flying safely.

Taxi.

The weather forecast for Lanzarote had predicted rain on our arrival but actually it was a lovely warm day although a little windy. We had arranged a lift from the airport to our accommodation by a Canarian fellow called James we had met some years earlier. He had claimed before we met that he spoke perfect English although the truth is actually slightly different. He actually speaks something that sounds like English, in the way a drunken Glaswegian or a speech impaired drunken Scouser speaks English. There are some familiar sounds there, even some complete English words, but most of what he says is completely unintelligible.

Numerous texts had passed forth between us detailing our time of arrival, our flight numbers and so on. James had texted back, ‘look for a Renault Kangoo van in white outside the exit’. Great, I thought, clearly his written English is better than his verbal variety. On arrival in Lanzarote we looked and waited quite a while but the van was not to be seen so I called him and he answered with a stream of unintelligible sounds, none of which were recognisable as words currently in use in the UK. One phrase did stand out, the repeated use of ‘no problem’. This of course is a new spin on that familiar phrase because there was a problem, that of getting to our villa down in Playa Blanca. Never mind, I said, we’ll get a taxi. No problem came the reply. Well, might as well delete that contact from my phone.

Lanzarote

Anyway, within a few hours we were sitting by our pool in Lanzarote, sipping wine and deliberating whether to plunge into the heated pool. A few minutes later I was regretting that decision as the pool was cold. Very cold! The villa company sent their man out to take a look and he saw that the pool had not been heated for a while and reckoned it could take a few days to get up to temperature so he cranked the heat up and by the next day the pool felt much warmer. So much so that I could actually just get straight in without having to gingerly slip in an inch at a time while I acclimatised!

Anyway, I think I think its time to throw in a picture guaranteed to make all my fellow Brits back home in the freezing cold UK totally envious. Here it is:

Yes, that’s our dining area with the pool in the background.

Spectacles.

Not long ago I got myself some new specs. They are what I call the Clark Kent type, you know black and fairly square, square in more ways than one although they are actually rather fashionable these days. Anyway, I don’t like them and much prefer my old ones which have photochromic lenses which go darker when the sun gets brighter. I love those lenses and as I am rather sensitive to bright light they are perfect for me. For reasons directly linked to my reluctance to open my wallet I didn’t add them to my new prescription and I didn’t bring the old specs but I did bring instead a pair of clip on dark shades that are so worn I can hardly see through them!

Employment.

On this holiday I’ve decided to start looking and see what jobs are out there for an ancient four O’ level former comprehensive school boy like me. Looking for jobs in this digital age is a tad different from what I’m used to. No need to buy lots of newspapers and troll through the situations vacant columns, yes now you can subscribe to special job seeking websites which search available jobs for you. You can upload your CV and the site will pass any likely looking situations on to you via your inbox. Here are some recommended jobs that were sent to me recently

Strategic Insights Executive

Quality Control Executive

Care Home Deputy Manager

PHP Developer (What’s that about?)

Here’s a great one from an e-mail titled:  26 jobs available in Lytham St Annes, (1)  Driving Instructor, Liverpool (!)

Yes, perhaps I might have to put up with my current job for a while longer.

Laptop.

My Toshiba laptop is not one of the best. Perhaps it’s time to put my hand in my pocket and get myself a top of the range one and make my writing and video editing life a little easier. Just in time for this holiday I took my laptop in to be repaired as a lot of the keys, particularly the ‘o’ were sticking. A new keyboard is what is needed, the guy in the shop told me. They sent off for the part and the day before departing the UK I got my laptop back. Everything seemed in order, the culprit keys were all working and I was fully prepared to bang out my new book and churn out numerous blog posts. Now I find, a week into my holiday, the r and y keys are not working! A writer’s life is not easy . . .


Floating in Space is a novel by Steve Higgins set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page for more information!

The Worst Job in The World!

quotescover-jpg-20I wrote a post some time ago about the Hurricane Namer. It was actually about looking for my best ever job and I wondered about those whose job it is to name hurricanes. The thing is, once you start to think about the best job in the world, you automatically go to the other end of the scale and think about the worst job, the absolute worst.

My day job is a pretty good job. My employers are decent enough, working conditions are good and my fellow employees are a pretty good bunch to work with. When I’m working with new staff members I always like to boost the positive aspects of my work. I remember starting a new job years ago and all everyone could say was why did I want to work there? They complained about the conditions, about managers about pay and believe me, they really put me off the job.

Everyone has their gripes about work but it’s important to be positive. A positive mental attitude helps enormously and the worse thing about moaning about your job is that it just gets you into a negative mental aspect which is not good. I went through a phase some time ago when I was determined to get myself out of a dead end job and into something worthwhile. One of the things I did was use some confidence boosting tapes by Paul McKenna and using some of his simple ideas helped enormously.

One thing was language. Instead of saying ‘I hate this job!’ Say something like ‘I’m not happy with this job at present but it is paying my wages and soon I will be getting a much better job!’ Positive language will completely change your outlook.

If you cannot remember a name, for example, then saying something like ‘I can’t remember that fellow’s name’ is only sending a message to your subconscious not to remember the name. Its like a self fulfilling prophecy. A better idea is to say to yourself; ‘I can’t recollect that name at the moment but I’ll have a think and then I’ll remember it!’ That way you are sending yourself a different message, one with a positive outcome.

Anyway, I’m going off target here, I’m supposed to be writing about the worst job in the world and the thing that made me think about it is this. The other day I had a letter from the NHS inviting me to take part in a bowel screening which can help in detecting bowel cancer early. I read on thinking where do I have to go? Do I need an appointment at the doctors’ or at the hospital and hoping that the doctor would not be from the same school of doctoring as my physiotherapist! Anyway, it turned out that no appointment was necessary. All I have to do is produce a small specimen, place it in a plastic bag and send it off to somewhere for testing.

I remember that on my first day at work at an insurance company I was sent down to the mail room to open the mail, then I graduated to making the tea. I can just imagine the young man or woman who has endured years of training, exams, and university. Then comes their first day at the medical laboratory only to find they have been nominated as  . . the turd tester!

I think I’d prefer opening the mail!

the worst job


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Questions, Answers, and the Wild One

quotescover-JPG-88I don’t know if you ever used to watch that classic TV show The Prisoner. Number 6 played by Patrick McGoohan was trapped in a mysterious village and those who ran the place wanted to know the answer to one question: why did number 6 resign?
Prisoner_smThey had a saying in the village-‘Questions are a burden to others, answers a prison to one’s self’. The village was a surreal place and number 6 became increasingly paranoid in that sinister, almost sci-fi world and although he came close to answering the resignation question a few times, ultimately, he never did.
The thing is, as we go innocently about our business, there are plenty of people wanting to upset us by asking questions.

There was a time, just after I left school when I thought great; exams over, won’t be answering any more questions like that again. The thing is though, exams of one form or another are sent to try us throughout our life. Trying for a new job is a form of examination, there’s the application form to fill in which is always pretty hard work and if you get through that then there’s the interview to contend with.

Just recently I applied for a job as a team manager and while I wasn’t totally successful I did end up with a temporary promotion, filling in as team manager for two months. Sounded great at first but then there was a whole lot of people management and paperwork that I didn’t realise would be so hard, or so time consuming. No more quiet moments in which to churn out my blogs!

Still, this recent promotion got me thinking about interviews in the past and where I’d gone wrong. One was an Inspector’s job when I worked for GM Buses. The job I wanted was a post at Hyde road depot which was only ten minutes away from my home. I didn’t have a car but there was a great bus service so it would have been perfect. There were two Inspector posts available, one at Hyde road and another at our Tameside depot in Rochdale.
During the interview in which I thought I’d done pretty well, the three interviewers asked me to step outside. I returned a few minutes later and they asked me, “Steve, what would you say if we offered you the Rochdale Inspectors job?”
Well, that was the job I didn’t want. I wanted the other one, the one that was only ten minutes away and another thing, at the time I didn’t have a car so how could I get to Rochdale? So what did I do? Well, I’m sure you can guess. As usual I took the worst possible option: I turned them down!
Even as I walked away I knew I’d done the wrong thing and every time I have an interview I think of that moment. Still, in a way that’s a good thing. Remember the mistakes you’ve made and move on. Do the right thing next time. Be positive.

Another time I applied for a job at Manchester Airport. It wasn’t a great job but it looked interesting and I hoped I might have passed the interview but it floundered when the interview veered off into an odd direction.
“How will you get to work?” asked the interviewer.
“By car.”
“But what if your car breaks down?”
“Well, I could always use the wife’s car.”
“But what if she needs it for work?”
“Well, I could get the bus.”
“But you might have to start work at 5 in the morning.”
“Well the first bus from Stockport is 04:15 in the morning.”
“The buses don’t run that early.”
“Yes they do, I know as I currently work in bus timetable enquiries.”
“Well suppose they are on strike?”
“Well I’d have to go on my bicycle.”
“What would happen if you had a flat tyre?”
I paused for a moment then asked: “Are you joking?”
Needless to say, I didn’t get that job either. I didn’t understand the interviewer’s line of questioning at all and a little frustration had crept in to my answers.

Now, in the 21st century questions are a part of life. They come at you when you are least expecting them. This morning, I was trying to get ready for work and the phone started ringing so I ran through to the lounge to pick it up. The caller said, “Good morning? Is that Mr Higgins?”
“Yes, speaking.”
“Mr Higgins, do you own your own home?”
“Excuse me?” I ask.
“Do you own your own home?”
“None of your business” I answered as I put the phone down, rather offended at this intrusion into my private life and not only that, I’d put my toast back in the toaster as it wasn’t quite done enough and when I legged it back to the kitchen it popped up black and burnt! Not happy!

When I was younger and working in city centre Manchester I used to spend my lunchtimes either in a pub somewhere down Oxford road or sometimes I’d sit in St Peter’s Square if it was nice and sunny and eat my sandwiches there. The annoying thing was I’d usually have to run a gauntlet of canvassers asking me questions.
“Excuse me, if I told you of a new bank account that would save you money would you change accounts?”
“No, I wouldn’t.”
“You wouldn’t? Why not?”
Nowadays I’d just say ‘none of your business’ but back then when I was young and polite I’d tend to try and justify myself and say why I was happy with my bank and why I didn’t want to change and so on. If I had been number 6 I’d have probably said ‘I will not be pushed, filed, briefed, debriefed or numbered!’
As it was, by the time I’d got rid of the interviewer that would be half of my dinner break gone!

marlon-brando-392902_640Perhaps my old school friend Clive Hornchurch (once again, names have been changed to protect the innocent!) felt a certain amount of frustration too. He was by far the brainiest lad in the school and was constantly upheld as an example to other pupils. I remember once Miss Tyass, our history teacher telling me how hard I would have to work to pass the History O-level and perhaps I should use Clive’s notebook to revise from because he himself wouldn’t need it!
Yes Clive was the man; every teacher knew he would pass with flying colours and perhaps be off to university, if such a thing was possible from our urban jungle roughhouse comprehensive school.
On the day of our O -level examinations Clive added his name to the top of his paper, and then put down his pen. His blank test paper was passed in and naturally he failed. I often wonder what became of him and why he did what he did. Perhaps he was frustrated; perhaps he was tired of being held up as a shining example of all that is brilliant in a school boy. I sometimes wonder if I had asked him what he was rebelling against would he have answered, like Marlon Brando in The Wild One; “What have you got?”


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Job Seekers and Naming That Hurricane!

The job search is a completely different thing today in the 21st century. I remember once back in the 90s when I was unemployed for a short while I was sent to join the ‘job club’. There was one compelling reason to go, attend or we’ll stop your unemployment benefit! OK, fair enough I said, I’m on my way. The very first day at the job club in Levenshulme, Manchester, the club was that packed we couldn’t all get in. It was just give your name, register and get off!

The next week there were slightly fewer people and by week four our numbers had reduced to just a small group. We checked the job cards in the unemployment office, checked the newspaper job advertisements and worked on our CV’s. The staff gave advice on interviews, letter writing and so on, and in between we supped plenty of tea, ate a considerable amount of  biscuits and generally had quite a friendly, sociable morning. Why people didn’t want to attend I really didn’t know. I kind of liked it. When I actually got a job I used to find myself thinking, ‘wonder what the guys are doing down at the job club?’

Hurricane_AnitaJob hunting nowadays is pretty much internet browsing. OK, you’ll still see jobs advertised in newspapers but the internet is where the job action is. I’ve even had a video interview with the BBC. I’m glad to say I passed the interview but as so many people applied there wasn’t a job available for me. Pity as I really did fancy working for the BBC!

There are plenty of dream jobs that I fancy doing, professional writer or blogger or film director, but there is one I job I have never seen advertised, and let’s face it, someone has to do it. Yes, I’m talking about that fabled job as a Hurricane Namer! One day I’ll search just that little bit further, go that extra mile and maybe, just maybe I’ll land that job.

It’s one of those home working jobs I imagine, perhaps one where you have to be on call, after all a hurricane could erupt out of the weather front at any time, night or day. Maybe there’s a control room or central office where you are based but I’d guess that every few weeks or so you’d have to work from home and perhaps be on call at the weekend.

I can just imagine the scene, it’s the middle of the night, I’m tucked up in bed at home and my work’s ‘Hurricane Naming’ mobile rings . .

STEVE: Hello, Hurricane Naming Officer.

CALLER: (AMERICAN ACCENT.)Hey, this is the pacific weather station and we’ve spotted a new hurricane forming over the south west. We need a name straight away.

STEVE: OK, give me a minute here, bear with me.

CALLER: OK but look, we need that name.

STEVE: OK I’m on it. (If my work’s ‘hurricane’ laptop is anything like my own laptop it does take a heck of a long time to boot up!) Let me see, which letter are we up to? Oh yes, J. So it’s going to be . . Joan. Yes, Hurricane Joan.

CALLER: Joan? Hurricane Joan? Look, this hurricane looks like be a real ‘kick ass’ hurricane and I’m not sure Joan is up to it as regards a name.

STEVE: Well sorry you don’t care for it but as of 02:35 hours I’m officially naming this hurricane; Hurricane Joan.

CALLER. Holy smoke. Joan? You gotta be kidding?

STEVE: No. Joan it is.

CALLER: The thing is, my Old Mom was kinda looking forward to having a hurricane named after her. She’s 86 this year and not in the best of health. In fact, (fights back the tears) I wonder if she’s going to make 87.

STEVE. Well, what’s her name?

CALLER: Betsy. Hurricane Betsy would be just great, a real gutsy hurricane name!

STEVE. Yes but we’re up to the J’s. We did the B’s a while back, last year actually.

CALLER. Well what about Juliet, my wife’s name is Juliet.

STEVE: Juliet? But what about your old Mum?

CALLER Well, this way we kind of keep it in the family and well, when it comes down to it, that’s my frikkin’ hurricane. I found it and I can’t believe some God damn limey is going to choose a name like Joan!

STEVE: Well what sort of a name is Juliet? Joan has got an old world feeling about it and here in Hurricane Naming we like to keep old traditions going.

CALLER: Juliet is the name of the woman married to the guy who found the hurricane!

STEVE: Well it just so happens that I am the duty Hurricane Namer and as I said earlier, I’m naming that hurricane Joan!

CALLER: You Limey b-

LINE GOES DEAD. STEVE SIGHS, IT IS ALL IN A DAYS WORK FOR A HURRICANE NAMER!


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