Wednesday, 8 December 2010

In which there is a problem

There is always a problem, isn't there? For instance, my puny campaign to "monetise" (bleurgh) this weblog has run aground on Google Adsense's insistence that it is "under construction". Well, yes, I suppose a weblog might arguably always be under construction, but do not play semantics with me, Google. Give me your delicious Californian monies in denominations as huge as 20 centimes at a time. My stash of Cadbury's Caramels has vanished, my children lose gloves at a rate of one every twenty minutes and Electrabastards own my ass.


I will not give up, however. I have started sending pleading emails to the advertising wings of as many corporate zombies as I can find, asking them to please advertise their various self-hating, planet-flaying, kitten-kicking products and services on my weblog.

"We are souless", said M, whose sterling work on getting breast augmentation and crystal healing advertised on Facegoop has motivated me.

"Souls are expensive, M. We cannot afford that kind of luxury. So I say yes to the phone that I know nothing about on the off-chance that I can generate some money from it?"

"God, yes".


Anyway. That wasn't the problem I had in mind. This is my problem.


It is nearly Christmas. When you have an office job at nearly Christmas it is your god given, constitutional and ECHR sanctioned RIGHT to be a bit useless and giggly for anything between a week and a month before the big day. This tradition is a cultural hangover from primary school, when, from mid-November, all efforts were directed towards covering every available surface in glitter and cotton wool balls, and rehearsing for your part as "third pine tree" in the Nativity play.


Things you have to do in an office - well, a British office - before Christmas:


1. Do all your online shopping in office hours and get it delivered to the increasingly sarcastic men in the post room.

"Parcel for you from that famous law firm "Amazon and Partners", miss".

"Er, thanks. Do you have one from, uh, Hamleys LLP?"


2. Decorate your bay, or office, with "ironic" tinsel. Drape miles of flashing fairy lights around the managing partner's office, insisting "It's CHRISTMASSY!" with an increasing note of jovial menace, if he complains. Install a dancing miniature santa with a hair trigger motion sensor in the busiest corner of the office, so that 90000 times a day the whole department can watch him gyrate lewdly to a tinny version of Jingle Bell Rock. Advent calendars are also popular and can waste up to ten minutes a day, particularly the ones with a chocolate inside.


3. Not just eat mince pies, but make a fuss about eating mince pies.

"Oooh, isn't it a bit early? Are we allowed?"

"Shall we put them in the microwave?"

"Ooooh I've got icing sugar on my tie"

"These aren't as good as Waitrose".

"I like the M&S ones with frangipane".

etc.


4. Sign 8000 company Christmas cards for all your clients. Corporate Christmas cards come in two versions: menacingly abstract - your corporate logo rendered slightly glittery on a matt black background - or distastefully jolly - your corporate logo being pulled along in a sledge by a cartoon version of the managing director in a santa suit. In either case, the slogan will be a triumph of empty non-offensiveness, like "We hope you have a prosperous winter" or "Seasonal good wishes". The subtext is as clear and glittering as the fairy lights that now festoon the managing partner's office: "Please do not succumb to the deepest recession since 1929, and continue giving us your money in 2011".

Actually, this shows how long it has been since I worked in a British office; they all do e-cards now, because of The Planet (or is it The Recession). Disappointing. How is one supposed to waste a decent amount of time with an e-card?


5. Spend a week preparing for the office party.


6. Spend a week debriefing after the office party.


7. Plot your Secret Santa gift, then resentfully conduct an in-depth inquiry to try and find out who got you the "hilarious" tube of Canesten and packet of remaindered Superdrug condoms.


Of course, it doesn't always pan out like this, and I have on occasion had to actually work at Christmas. However, the rules clearly state that if you are required to work during this unofficial extended holiday period, you are entitled to be viewed by your colleagues as a holy martyr in the league of St Stephen and brought regular offerings of Cadbury's Celebrations and mulled wine. It also entitles you to a free pass for your annual appraisal.

"I had to work at Christmas".

"Of course, we are most grateful for your efforts. Take this large bonus to tuck into your hair shirt".


What, then, does the freelancer do? I have no kitchenette to lurk in, conducting comparative mince pies taste tests. I want to sit in an overheated windowless box, staring into space and wondering how to get myself next to the hot intern on the christmas lunch table plan, to wear paper hats to five canteen Christmas lunches in two weeks, to eat Celebrations by the fistful from ten in the morning and down tools for mulled wine at regular intervals. BUT I CANNOT. On top of that, my two main "employers" (a big word, yes) are both holding their Christmas parties on 16th December when I have already arranged to be in London selling rude biscuits. It is a tragedy of epic proportions. Seasoned freelancers (that sounds wrong, like you have been sprinkled in salt and pepper) and other non-office workers. How should I make this season extra-special? Ideally this should involve no outlay greater than 20 centimes and be easily achievable by someone with the energy and motivation levels of a catatonically depressed giant panda. Go!

15 comments:

Bryony said...

I too would be grateful for any suggestions - husband and I both work mostly from home and were proposing our own office party - inapporpriate photocopying, hanky panky in a cupboard (if we can shift the suitcases) etc. My boss has agreed to phone in so we can make inappropriate remarks to him. In fact, maybe that's your solution... let us all have a phone conference party complete with alcoholic beverages of choice...

Imogene said...

I've been invited to two Xmas bashes at the places I whore... erm hire myself out to. Not sure how that came about, and quite honestly not sure I feel like going. The grass is always greener... ~sigh~

chiclit said...

I work in non profit, and so usually we have potlucks-or low budget parties, and I have even been on the committee that planned them. The year we tried to turn our classrooms into a "ski lodge" was particularly memorable from a decorating standpoint. No alcohol or great gifts like my sister gets in the corporate sector..no loss in my opinion. But about your blog and monetizing-have you considered subscriptions or donations? Your blog sustained me through my layoff and continues to sustain me by smart phone now that I am working again (for the moment). I am sure I am not the only one who considers the blog the equivalent of a newspaper or podcast that one subscribes to or supports...

Xtreme English said...

You haven't been alone LONG ENOUGH! I can see you're a neophyte at this. Poor baby. Is Christmas coming? Good! Buy a bottle of peppermint schnapps (tastes every bit as good as those candy canes other people hang on their Christmas trees) and one of that inexpensive French brandy. Add a good slug of each to your FIRST CUP OF TEA in the a.m., and just keep it up until you want to switch to something sparkly around midday. That would be 6 oz of red wine (cheap wine works pretty well, and they say merlot is quite healthful...whatever) in a 12-oz glass topped off by coca cola or (MY favorite, diet orange soda--some call it "Atkins Sangria"). And stop beating yourself up. Best Christmas I ever spent alone and self-unemployed was with the president of our local synagogue in a kosher Israeli restaurant. Nobody there was drowning in guilt or whatever blessings our families and churches had slapped on us.

Xtreme English said...

P.S. The online ad people wiped out my total earnings from the past year (something like $7.91) because I didn't cash it in by Dec. 7. Boo.

momosyllabic said...

Do something you would normally do sober (e.g. buy lentils) while drunk (to match the experience of "being at work" in the holiday season): while shopping, make sure to find an attractive but inappropriately young grocery store employee and grope him/her (matching office party lascivious interest in intern). Do something you would normally do sober (e.g. swim) while excessively hung-over (matching the day after the office party feeling). Finally, buy someone you barely know an awkward and unwanted gift (e.g. lentils); deliver it in person.

Nicky said...

Oh lord I am hurting with laughing at these suggestions - genius ...

Alison Cross said...

What you do is get together with other freelancers and have an afternoon/evening event where all that week's worth of mince pies and secret santa are squashed in to 7 hours of fun.

I work for myself and at Christmas, I get together with a few other self-employed sad bastards and we go out for a Works Christmas Dinner.

Have a party on Twitter. I spent last New Year on Twitter and it was the BEST New Year's Eve I've had in years. I am officially a SAD BASTARD.

AX

Margaret said...

You need awkwardness, too much booze, too many carbs, a cute outfit that goes horribly wrong, some inappropriate making out (snogging), and resentful work-slacking (I could be doing this at home in my jammies!).

Hmmm. This is tough; all these are things that require a Man to rebel against. I give up. Go with Xtreme English's recommendations--they seem the most sensible (except the merlot and diet orange soda, that's just nasty). I would tweak it thusly: peppermint schnapps + cocoa for breakfast; cheap brandy and tea for elevenses; wine at lunch (very Continental!); a nice glass of port in the afternoon to warm your bones. Then suddenly it's 5 o'clock somewhere and you can get down to the serious drinking.

And make sure to eat a lot of cookies so there's something in your stomach.

José said...

Heck!
I haven't seen cadbury caramels with chocolate filling here in Portugal for a couple of years now.
I miss them.

Merry Christmas,

José

swmum said...

Working at Christmas is entirely overrated: currently psyching myself up for 72 hours rota'd incarceration in the NHS, hurrah. Tis the season to be jolly... (Fa la la la Lah, le la la lah) till you end up on a casualty trolley (fa la la etc etc). Still, there is always next year, if Small Child is still speaking to me...

nappy valley girl said...

I really missed the Christmas parties once I went freelance. It is definitely one of the downsides. The only solution is to get together with other freelancers and create your own party - or shamelessly invite yourself to the party of some you know/ do freelance work for.

Sewmouse said...

If you are missing the Corporate Pot-Luck-Because-The-Boss-Is-Too-Cheap-To-Cater-In lunch, dive into your refridgerator, drag out all the leftovers, toss out the blue fuzzy ones and reheat the remainder.

Voila - Pot Luck Lunch.

wv=coraidsh. Corporate Radishes. An excellent garnish.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I accomplish the work-at-home version of slacking off at the office by getting a little, erm, liberal with my billing in proportion to the work done. Although of course there's less cover because one does have to produce work for the time billed.

However, I'm a little tempted by Xtreme English's very indeed extreme, and soddenly enjoyable-sounding, techniques.

gill said...

I have not been in a office at Christmas (ex lawyer) for 3 years on account of being at home with small children but this made me laugh so much. I think is the only time i miss being at work, particuarly client lunches where one would do the mince testing until til about 11, get in a cab so as not to be late (traffic from holborn to W1 can be terrible at this time of year...)and then never return. Also my birthday is in late December so I could waste half of that day being the one that handed round the mince pies. I wonder though of due to The Recession such laxness is no longer tolerated and time sheets more closely scrutinised...