Friday, June 20, 2014

How to work a four day week

Following on from a recent post regarding the four day working week, is it actually possible to have a full time job but just work a four day week every week for a year using annual leave (the word holiday sounds too frivilous to use nowadays in the serious office environment; after all, it won't be a holiday per se; you'll have your phone on the beach and check work emails every day), Bank Holidays (an official term so the word is permitted), and the odd sickie? In short, probably not, but let's give it a try anyway.

Let's say you get 25 days annual leave a year (I'm feeling generous) – that's automatically half a year of four days, but still a way to go. There are eight Bank Holidays, including Easter, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year (let's be equally generous and pretend Christmas Day and Boxing Day fall on different weeks), so that's 33 weeks in total taken care of. But still leaves 19. Hmm, now it gets tricky. You could probably get away with five days of paid sick leave. Let's chuck in the odd funeral and hope your company believes in compassionate leave. At best, that makes ten weeks remaining. Hmm, very tricky now. The only option is just not turning up for work one day a week (for ten weeks) and hope nobody notices.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The nation's favourites

I love a cheese sandwich, me, but if I were to choose my favourite bread and cheese to make one, would it consist of Cathedral City ('The Nation's Favourite Cheese Brand') cheddar and Warburtons ('Britain's Favourite Bakery') bread? No, it certainly wouldn't (it would be from an organic bakery, naturally (or at least Waitrose). The bread would be thick and crusty, not limp and pappy; the cheese would be rich and creamy, not bland and tasteless). I hadn't even heard of either brand until a few years ago, now suddenly they're our 'favourites'. There's something so arrogant and bold about the claims, but if true, surely based on a combination of blandness and cheapness rather than quality.

Where did these claims originate and are they verifiable? I can't be bothered to find out, but I bet it's like one of those anti-ageing cream ads where it says in huge writing 70% of women say the product works, then there's an asterisk and you look at the bottom of the ad to the small print and it says their survey consisted of asking twenty women in the street, and probably gave them a few free tubs of cream if they said it worked.

(I also noticed the other day that Q magazine is the self-proclaimed World's Greatest Music Magazine. It's another bold-yet-difficult-to-pin-down-exactly-where-they-got-it-from claim. Err, have they not heard of Mojo? Wire? Rolling Stone? Uncut? (All much better than Q.) I use Q magazine like I use the Radio Times, ie what they like, I hate, and vice versa.)

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Book of untaken photos

It's perhaps once a day I take a great photo in my head. My daughter has a way of capturing memories in her mind like a photo but this is more literal. I see things that I know would make smashing photos. And even though I have a phone camera and can and do sometimes actually take photos, they're never ever anything like what I imagine in my head. I sometimes blame the camera, naturally, but more often it's because I'm not a great photographer (well, only occasionally). I'd like to take more photos of people, but don't have the guts. What I need, ideally, is a professional photographer to shadow me all day, every day, and for me to tell him (or her) the photo I have in mind, and for them to take the photo. And it will be a great, award-winning photo (on a daily basis). (In movies, it would be the equivalent of me being the director and telling the Director of Photography exactly what I want. Then them having to catch it instantly.)

Alternatively, I was thinking of publishing a photo book of photos I've not taken. So there would be descriptions of the photos but no actual photographs.

Such as:

Great photo of sunset here, Kuta, Bali, 23/6/2011, 7:45pm.

Or, slightly more poetic:

Jagged mountains stab the low clouds, a lone blue house nestled at the
base of a mountain punctuates the harsh but beautiful landscape...

Actually, landscape photography is the most difficult to get right, especially with cheap cameras having infinity focussing, the result is usually flat and dull. Anyway, that's the concept of the book: a book of photo descriptions but no photos. A type of travel book.

Here's a recent one:

We were driving along a coastal road in Cork, Ireland. Ahead was a warning sign of a deer, black on yellow; the road signs in Ireland are quite elegant and charming. The sign was on the side of the road, behind it was dense green foliage, including explosions of purple rhododendrons. There was something about the lighting, the colours, the bend in the road that would have made it a great photo. But there was no way of taking it, then it was gone.

Previously on Barnflakes:
A Brief History of Photography

Friday, June 06, 2014

'In terms of' overtakes 'literally'

In the fast moving, exciting, hectic office environment, clichéd office jargon doesn't hang around for long and fester (actually, it spreads like wild fire or a virus and then hangs around for years). Last year, literally, everyone was saying the word 'literally' in every sentence. That was so last year. This year, everyone is saying 'in terms of'. Every. Single. Sentence. Literally. It can be 'in terms of' anything at all ('in terms of... design / sales / Tuesday / opportunity / lunch / information / time*), literally, and it literally means absolutely nothing. And started off quite amusing (I wondered if it was a running conspiratorial joke), then got very annoying. People in the office have no idea whatsoever why they've suddenly started saying it. It's just happened. And then spread. At first there was one person, a sales guy, who started saying it. The following week, another person joined him. Then another. And another. And another. In terms of 'in terms of', everyone's at it. Literally.

*Actual 'in terms of' heard today

Previously on Barnflakes:
Four day working week
I'm literally not being funny but let me ask you a question
Email etiquetté
The offensive office

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The cherry orchard

How many fruit trees make an orchard? To be classified as a serial killer three murders is the minimum, but it takes just two trees to make an orchard. Like the National Gallery's recent once-in-a-lifetime display of two Van Gogh sunflower paintings side by side, this is similarly a rare opporutity to see my daughter's three cherry tree paintings – each painted at least a year apart – side by side. And they're just as beautiful as Van Gogh's.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Martha's Robot Paintings
The Cherry Tree

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Blight of the plastic bag

It's difficult to say exactly why plastic carrier bags are probably my biggest bugbear in life. Perhaps it's something to do with their average usage being 20 minutes whilst they take 1,000 years to decompose. Maybe it has something to do with observing workers at lunchtime buying a single sandwich, having it put in a plastic bag, getting back to their desk and immediately binning the bag (average use: two minutes; and then imagining the same scenario in every office all over the world and silently shuddering). Maybe it has to do with the island in the Pacific ocean twice the size of Texas made entirely of plastic debris (known as the Great Pacific garbage patch). Or supermarkets just not caring at all; for them it's free advertising*. They litter our city, countryside and beaches (seventy of them littering every mile, apparently**). Or just that they're so ugly (and I hate the rustling sound of them!).

Anyway, if charging five pence per bag (the law to be introduced next year in the UK) doesn't exactly sound like a huge victory, it should be remembered that the scheme has worked in Ireland for some years, where the five pence charge resulted in a three-quarter drop in usage. It highlights nicely the utter selfishness of humankind, only willing to assist in saving the planet when it affects their purse.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Don't blame us

*Did I imagine this? A few months ago I saw someone walking with a French Connection carrier bag with the words BAG 30% ADVERTISING 70% written boldly across it. I thought to myself 'how true' but can't find any evidence of it online now. You'll have to take my word for it.

**It's not often that I agree with the Daily Mail, but all my facts are taken from an article in this very publication. They say they have been campaigning for the last six years to get plastic bags banned. Well, good on them, though if their readership actually took any notice of the articles and reduced their bag usage, it would probably solve half the problem in one fell swoop.

Watch Ramin Bahrani's wonderful short film Plastic Bag, with a voice over by Werner Herzog.