I Brought My Own Coffee, Thanks

There is a major problem with office workers.

How the hell they expect someone to survive in an office environment with crap instant coffee is utterly beyond me.

This was the predicament I found myself in recently, when I had two days work experience at my local paper. Now this post is in no way to be considered poor reflection on those fine wordsmiths at the Greenock Telegraph – which, in case you hadn’t heard, is in fact the finest local newspaper in the West Coast of Scotland – no, in the whole of Scotland! (and if that isn’t a claim worthy of the Sun then I don’t know what is) It is merely meant to reflect my utter admiration for people who work under stressful conditions – without super quality caffeine on an IV.

When I began my two days I knew roughly what to expect since I had spent some time there before. I felt prepared.

So this time, when I walked through those double doors at 9:30, I did not feel such an amateur. I slid in front of my very own computer booth, tapped in my personal log-in and snapped on my secretary-come-secret agent headset. Reporters notepad on desk, pen in front pocket and handbag stocked with reporter-like things tucked at my side, ready to be grabbed at the click of my editors fingers.

Everything was going well as I spent the morning fashioning nibs from local ads (what we in the industry call those little fillers at the side of the page that tell you of local events and whatnot). It was only when my trust-me-I’m-a-journalist shirt began to feel just a little chilly, that I noticed the other warning signs. The thirst. The headache. The tightening around the eyes that seemed to spread to my jaw. Eventually using a slightly shaking hand to straighten my short-in-a-sexy-yet-sensible-way skirt I had to admit it – it was coffee time!

10:30am. Damn it. I had hoped to make it til at least 11 before I let the caffeine get the better of me but hey, strong coffee is a mark of a true journalist, right?

But when I get to the tea room, I was a little… disheartened. Not so much disappointed, that would be too much. But my heart swelled a little at the sight before me, and not in that joyful way it sometimes does, more in that way that tells you something awful has happened but that your too pumped with adrenaline to appreciate it.

There was coffee, sure. And it was instant, which is fine, more than fine, it’s great. But it was the second most intolerable instant coffee known to man. It was that dreaded fiend, Tescos own brand. Not even one of the decent ones that tasted just like the good stuff but a slightly more aerated colour in a different jar. It was that rubbish that takes two spoonfuls to have a taste, two more to just about bear some morose resemblance to coffee. And the worst part – it was decaf! I know, I felt it too; the horror. I mean for goodness sake, why even bother drinking something characterised by its potentially heart disease creating key ingredient in favour of a version which might boost you concentration a tiny bit more but has only been so far proven to do in mice!? I can think of other kinds of murky water that could well have the same effect and probably taste about the same!

This sad scene put something of a dampener on my morning, but I was not prepared to let it beat me; so I had three more before noon and by then, things began to look significantly brighter.

I have nothing against the humble instant coffee; I drink cups of the sweet brown nectar everyday (black, two sugars, if you’re interested), and I did feel so suave and journalisty sitting in front of my pile of half read dailys, shorthand notes and copy print-outs. The steaming mug to my right was the perfect addition to my completed look; keen young reporter at work, disturb and face her cutting wit. Even the glasses perched half way off the end of my nose since I wouldn’t see the computer screen from the ridiculous distance it was stationed away from me made me appear somehow like I fitted my situation. (whoever sat at that desk before me must have been the most long-sighted fellow ever to have lived, by the way, and I think they superglued that tower to the flippin’ desk because for all my efforts, it would not move closer)

But be serious. I am only 19 years old and while yes, I may have acquired an unhealthy addiction to strong coffee at a young age, the rest of the people in that office were there every dayDrinking that stuff.

I knew I would be flagging after two days of that. My means of remedying a potentially embarrassing situation?

I brought my coffee, thank-you very much.

That’s right, in a sandwich bag. I brought enough of my favourite from home to last me the day and low and behold, my two days ended marvelously. I had a couple of pieces submitted for the paper for the rest of the week and went on my merry way, even with the promise of future days work to come.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the press, I would like to take this opportunity to impart these words of simple wisdom to you: If you work in an environment where concentration is key, make sure you are well stocked in whatever you need. Be that cigarettes for the nicotine addicts out there; biscuits and bananas for the diabetics, as I can only assume Eric, who had the desk next to me must have been since for all the time I was there the man never stopped snacking yet was not fat; or in my case, decent coffee. Make sure you have what you need and it will give you the confidence and the focus to enjoy the experience more.

See you in the headlines!!

SSDD

Advertisements

The Dog Days of Summer

Dog Days of Summer. Dog Days. The dog days… What the hell is a “DOG DAY”!?

Well I’ll tell you.

I used to think that a ‘dog day’ was another name for one of those lazy days you have during summer. The ones where there is heat rising in a mirage-like haze from the roads, a slight sheen of sweat covers every forehead and more iced treats are floating about than at an Italian gelato vendor.

One of those days that become so bright you could swear some belligerent ten year old had turned on a high watt bulb over you and was trying to incinerate you with a magnifying lens.

One of those days so hot and summery that all you want to do is take a nap under a tree then douse yourself on cool water and guzzle a litre of ice tea from a tall glass filled with ice and topped with lemon.

tall glass of something from my pre-alcohol days… 😉

One of those days. The Dog Days.

But no. This is apparently (and admittedly disappointingly) not the case at all.

Mystic Meg

Apparently, the phrase stems from the Ancient Romans. Those clever little conquerors who invented all manner of things we now take for granted such as roads, cement, plumbing, government, even an EXTREMELY early computer, made a bit of a silly. For all their intelligence they may er… have read a little too much into the stars… kinda like Mystic Meg… except people actually believed them… for hundreds of years

They believed heavily in the power of the stars and their influence over earth. They studied them extensively – at least, as extensively as they could without todays technology.

Sirius Constellation

Once a year (another thing they invented, by the way, the calendar) the brightest star in the Sirius constellation would synchronise with the rise and setting of the sun, outshining all others in the sky. The Ancient Romans believed that it was the energy, light and heat released by this combination that led to the hotter and brighter summer seasons. Hence, Dog Days. It was really just a very early term for summer.

(This all has nothing to do with Harry Potter, by the way…)

The surprising thing is, that despite this being something they came up with simply as it was the only rational explanation they had for the change that came about in the environment around that time, they were not so far wrong; Sirius does shine brightest between July 3rd and August 11th, which is generally the hottest time of the year – it does not, however effect the actual temperature. That bit was all a load of rubbish. But it made them happy to feel clever, so we’ll let them have that as they were rather good at a lot of things.

It was the astronomer Geminus who out forward a more correct thesis around 70 B.C.

He wrote: “It is generally believed that Sirius produces the heat of the ‘dog days,’ but this is an error, for the star merely marks a season of the year when the sun?s heat is the greatest.”

This is what FLORENCE WELCH (of FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE fame) refers to in her song “Dog Days are Over”, used in the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack. Many people originally thought the reference to “dog” was a tip in the direction of the films protagonist. Not so.

Florence Welch

So when you thought you were hippy swaying in a field to a song about breaking up with some “dog” of a guy/girl, or emancipation from being treated like nothing more than a “dog” – you were actually celebrating the end of the summer season, as sanctioned by the Ancient Romans. Go figure!

Not so chuffed about it now, are ya… 😉

It was purely a serendipitous moment that led me to this discovery. I was randomly pondering its implications, trying to make some nuance of sense of it, after hearing our fiery haired Florence on the radio (as you do…). Then the very next day I discovered its origins on, aptly enough, a calendar at work. 😀

Florence Welch

So consider this while you lament the end of the summer holidays:

When the light of the Sirius has waned, will you continue to grieve the passing of its season? Or will you invest your former vigour in new, autumnal exploits?

In other words, wocha up to after summer, anything interesting happening in the Autumn? 😀

Just because the fairest season has lived and left, does not meanthat the sun has to set on life and all its brightness.

And so, in the best of Florence style, I bid you, put on your flowery crowns, don those flowing dresses and RUN! “Run fast for you mother and fast for your fa-a-ather/run for your children for your sisters and b-rothers.”

Would you know, I think I’m becoming something of an optimist in my old age.

NAAAH! More like some kind of wood nymph. 😛

SSDD

“The Dog Days Are Over” still…