Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The A1, Nickolas Nickleby and Accountants

After three days of early morning forays 100 miles up the A1, queues around Newcastle's Western Bypass both morning and evening, days spent studying accounting and payroll programmes, free coffee and food on demand, and a hell of a traffic jam on the Tyne Bridge one night, I can finally put my feet up tonight happy in the knowledge that tomorrow is a day off especially assigned to Christmas shopping, oh joy of joys.

Three days of 7am drives up the A1 has actually been very enjoyable, reminding me of the times 30 years ago when life was much simpler, my job was much simpler, my mode of transport was much simpler, and I had to make the same journey up the A1 to Newcastle every Monday morning for eight years until my company finally realised that they were still paying for my hotel bills and perhaps now might be a good time to buy a permanent residence in the North East before the head office accountant started asking too many questions.

In 1977 even the A1 was a much simpler road, intersections with other major roads used roundabouts instead of the proper motorway junctions that we have now and so the two hour journey could be broken down into four or five mile segments between roundabouts and I knew to the exact minute what time it should be if I was (for instance) at Catterick roundabout or Dishforth roundabout, now its one long 100 mile straight road with no stoppages and no landmarks for timing your journey...

Apart from the shed.

The shed is a tin shed that stands in an old overgrown field next to the motorway near Darlington. In 1977 when I started my journeying the shed in the field was old and rusty and leaning slightly to the left at an angle of five degrees or so - it became a landmark, a checkpoint on my journey, it was at 1 hour 15 minute marker from home heading North and it served me well as a marker post all of those years.

The shed is still there, completely rusty now, almost hidden behind a row of conifer trees that weren't even saplings when I started making the journeys, it now almost lays flat to the ground as 30 years of wind rain and snow have conspired to kill it off completely but still it stubbornly refuses to lie down and you could, if pushed, probably still crawl into it now, every time we pass the shed on the way to the North East we look to see if its gone, its a family game now, I checked again on Monday, its still there, and despite the car I drive being light years ahead of the old van that I used to drive in 1977, the shed is still at the 1 hour 15 minute marker, vehicle technology is star wars stuff compared to what it used to be but we still can't drive for any distance any faster than we used to.

Having said that I did two round trips (400+ miles) and still didn't empty a tank of diesel whereas in 1977 the Ford Escort van would not do one return trip on a tankfull of petrol, in fact it wouldn't do one return trip without the oil being refilled either, for it was a knackered van.

The Nickolas Nickleby audio book has kept me entertained on the night return trips these past three days, its bloody good, one of (not the best) Charles Dickens masterpieces and the characterisation by the out of work actor who reads it is just excellent, Dickens had a way of creating unbelievable characters who were believable and as always the names of these characters are just sublime, Wackford Squeers being the evil headmaster of Dotheboys Hall, a private school in Yorkshire, and Smike the pupil in his care who was abandoned there by his parents because he was, in Squeers own words (whilst tapping his temple), "He's not all up there, no matter how hard you knock sir", was surely the inspiration for JK Rowlings "Dobby" the elf. Full synopsis here.

My task for this next week is to stream (and perhaps snaffle) THE book for christmas, Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", click that link and you can stream it online for free, the task after christmas will be to obtain Dicken's finest work (in my very 'umble opinion Master Copperfield spaketh Uriah Heep), David Copperfield.

And finally the accountants, having been crammed full of Sage Accounts and Sage payroll these past three days I now have to take the online exams to become an Accredited Business Partner, yes, well, we'll see, at £50 for each resit I may need a posse of advisors to shout out the answers for the timed exam with its 80% pass mark.

If anyone ever asks the question "what is it that makes British people British" then I had the perfect answer to the question on Monday - I arrived at the Sage Training facility at 9am Monday and was shown to a waiting room where coffee and danish pastries awaited on the table together with six other people who were also on the course.

We all sat there in silence for 30 minutes until the tutor was ready, no-one spoke and no-one ventured near the coffee or the Danish's, we sat in silence and twiddled our thumbs or fiddled with our shoelaces and tried not to look anyone else in the eye.

We hadn't been introduced you see, and one simply cannot be so forward as to introduce oneself to a room full of people, its just not done, for that is a job for your host and our host had left us in the room alone, a bad show by our host if you ask - so we sat in silence and the coffee went cold.


Zoe's Dad said...

That's just wrong! Coffee should never go cold.

Gary said...

No-one touched the Danish Pastries either :)

grannymar said...

Bet they were all men.

We ladies would not let the Coffee and Danish Pastries go to waste... and the men would then use the coffee as an excuse to chat us up!

Welcome home and good shopping.

But Why? said...

Damn you - your title had me hooked.

I was listening to Radio 4 the other day (as, I'm afraid, is my habit), and they had a piece on about developing a set of defining "British" values. The closest thing they came up with as the over-riding British value is, of course, "mustn't grumble..."

Gary said...

There were women in the room and yes its true, they were the first ones to break the silence eventually, I had my fair share of Danish Pastries too.

"Musn't Grumble" is a fair assessment, accompanied by "Get on with it", centuries of serfdom has drilled that into us, centuries of serfdom and being subjects not citizens means that we make excellent butlers and ladies-in-waiting, we produce world class humble servants.