Monthly Archives: September 2004

When I was a kid… (Part 7)

Some people wake up in the mornings and dread having to go to work. I’ve been so lucky in that I think there’s only been one job so far where that was the case, but more of that another time (The Orange Scurge). I seem to be the job hunter who steps in the proverbial dog shit time and time again. Systematic Marketing was another case in point. Before I go into detail, I’d like to give you a bit more detail of one of the reasons I seem to fall into “Accidental Empires”.

It’s no secret that I have an absolute passion for computers. From playing with the old 8 bit home computers in the 80′s, to working with old 8 bit CP/M machines at my first job and finally progressing to full blown PCs, both at work and at home. In all that time, the thing I have always tried to do is learn more. Once I’ve become proficient in one thing, I’m always looking for the next big thing. You wouldn’t believe the luck I’ve had in finding the right thing at the right time. With Systematic, this big thing was a programming language called Delphi.

Delphi is a programming language based loosely on the classic programming language, Pascal. The thing that really made it different and made many programmers sit up and take note, was the new environment that made this RAD (Rapid Application Development), suddenly become a realtive breeze. I saw Delphi being reviewed in computer magazines and receiving glowing praise. It was relativly inexpensive, so I decided to pick up my own copy.

Working with Delphi was very different to the programming I’d been used to, but I managed to get up and running pretty quickly and must say it was the first time in ages that I actually enjoyed programming. This all happened sometime in the middle of 1995. By the end of 1995 I was gainfully employed at Systematic Marketing as a Delphi programmer.

As with my Loot interview, my time at Systematic started with a decidely shakey interview. Now it’s funny I’ve told this story many times, but I can’t for the life of me remember if I was hours early or hours late, but regardless of this balls up, I was asked to join and was thoroughly looking forward to it.

Now before I go on, let me drop a few names of people I worked with and also some people I worked around, I’ll expand of some of these later: Russell Weetch, Andy Zienkiewicz (Zink-A-Vich), Georgina Marett, Tara Edenborough, Sonia Cowell, Alex Petre, James Bunting, Robert Issac, Sean Bonham, David Tate, Simon Hollingsworth, Tim Huxford, Jenny (brain freeze), David Wallace, Sue (brain freeze), Charlene Politano, Louise Todd, Rod Geoghegan (Griplomax), Brian Doyle and not forgetting Chris Godbolt. I’m sure I’ve missed some names, sorry, but some of these people I haven’t thought about for a few years.

Anyway when I first joined Systematic, we shared an office (or rather sublet) from a company called Ten, which was as far as I can remember some kind of advertising company. Also subletting was a media company who’s name eludes me, a small company called Pen to Paper and a few other small companies.

I can remember Georgina showing me around the first day. We were upstairs and she asked me if I smoked. I replied in my usual witty way “Only in bed”, but that joke went straight over her head and the lack of response left me feling a bit self conscience. As always, it took me a while to settle in, but I had many things to learn so that left me pretty pre-occupied.

Systematic was situated in the centre of the West End. Actually our office was on Charlotte Street, which is apparently the restaraunt centre of London, and where you find restaraunts, you’ll find pubs. Lots and lots of pubs. One of the things I miss most about living in London/England (apart from friends and family of course), is the pub culture. I got to know eveyone at Systematic and the surrounding companies very well, partly through work and partly through the afterhours get togethers. I could tell you stories to make your hair curl, but will try to keep it tame here, if you know what I mean :-)

While pottering away at programming with Delphi, I was becoming more and more interested in the Internet. It helped a lot that Systematic also owned a search Engine called UK Index, which had the potential to be a real player in the search engine , but nuff said there. Anyway the skills I picked up at Systematic would stand me in really good stead later on. It also helped that I worked on some really good systems for some pretty prestigious clients, including The Economist Group, The National Trust, The Caravan Club and Lloyds of London. I also got to do a little bit of travelling going to New York and Hong Kong, which was really nice. Again I have some stories there, but I can’t cover eveything here.

As before I’ll list a few snippets or rather teasers, which I may or may not go into in depth, but it should peak your interest.

1. Taking care of the client is number 1
2. Double Contact Lens
3. Happy 31st Birthday to Me
4. Wooble
5. Drunk in Style
6. Riding Down the Stairs in Style
7. The Amazing Sean Bonham and the “Scrubbers”

It was whilst I was at Systematic that the now infamouse “Escaltor Incident” happened. As I’ve detailed elsewhere this was partly due to me being a bit of a daredevil, but mostly due to the fact that I was sozzled. Drinking was an integral part of working in the centre of London. It’s just so nice to pop down the pub at lunch time for a couple of beers. In fact it was not too unusual for a Friday lunch time drink to expand into Friday evening. Don’t get me wrong work didn’t suffer because of this (not until the end anyway, but that is again a different story), working hard also equates sometimes to playing hard. Often at Systematic I’d be at work around 7 or 8 am and stay till the early evening and on the rare occassion all night, not to mention the work I also did at home. But when you work for a good company, where you feel relaxed it feels natural to work this way, for me anyway.

I’ve grown up a lot in the last 5 years, a lot of this is due to marriage, but nearly every company I’ve worked at up to the point, there would always be someone I’d fall for, what can I say, sometimes I was like some lovesick puppy. It can’t be helped to a certain degree, when you consider the amount of time you spend with people. Anyway I’m not going to name names, suffice to say when I look back over the years I can’t help but cringe at how sad I was. Some of the memories hurt more than others, actually hurt isn’t the right word, but it’s the best word I can think of at the moment. Anyway it feels good to be able to look back and smile in the knowledge that I have many experiences that molded me into the person I am today.

It’s so hard looking back over my years at Systematic trying to pick out the best of the stories. I don’t want to rant on here too much as I realise that the more I write here, the harder it is going to be to read. Many of the stories will at some point be later expanded, but for now I’ll just stick to stories one and two in the list above.

I’m not going to mention any names as looking back over this story, some of the things could prove embarressing. Anyway one night all of Systematic was due to meet up with one of our out of town clients. The night started off as a pretty ordinary drink up. I can safely say looking back on this experience, I have probably never drunk this amount at any time before or since. When the client announced that they wanted to go onto a club, everyone else pretty much dropped out. I can’t remember if I was asked to accompany the client or whether I just felt it would be good to continue the drinking, but it was left to me to bring up the Systematic rearguard and accompany the client.

Now when I said we went to a club, I’m probably stretching the point a little here. The club we went to was just off Regent Street in the West End. It is also what is commonly known as a clip joint. Basically the way these work is you go in, buy a drink and then suddenly a “lady” or two will come over to you and try to cnvince you to buy them drinks. This usually leads to Champagne which is 50 quid or more a bottle. Once the customer is drunk, the 50 quid champagne turns into 10 quid champane, but still charged at the 50 quid price. I can also remember having a few gin and tonics that tasted decidedly water, which is a pisstake when they are 10 quid each. Now I have to admit I wa not comfortable in that club at all. Some of the ladies had some intersting ideas, but I managed to kep myself chaste and sober enough (ha that’s a laugh) to make a sharp exit without raamping up a credit card or two. Looking back it was an awful experience, one I would never want to do again, but hey it all adds to ones character :-)

Something to be aware of and definately something I didn’t know at the time, out of town clients sometimes have very generous expense accounts. It’s no word of a lie when I tell you that I lost count of the number of bottles of champagne we consumed that night or should I say morning. I can remember all that night thinking that I had work the next morning. Anyway when the evening finished I cannot tel you, suffice to say I finally got home around 6am. Just a quick snooze will sort me out I though……

7 hours later I wake up in a panic, still rolling drunk and fretting that I was so late for work. I managed to get dressed and out the door, but still had my contact lenses to put in. I managed to do that at the bus stop while waiting for the bus. Strangely enough though, once I’d put my lenses in one eye was still blurry and the other was like an eye on steroids. I puzzled for a while, before I realised that I’d put both lenses in one eye. The day didn’t get much better. Fortunately my friend Dave came to see me around 3pm, so I used that as an opportunity to go down the pub for a bit of hair of the dog. Did it work? I haven’t a clue, but it was a nice way to cap off a rough day.

This little spot on the entry is dedicated to Plodderick Gaygun, Everyone has their own take on Plod. Some call him Plod, some call him Plodders, some call him Griplomax, but he’s still not letting on as to where that name comes from. I first met Plod when he also took space where our original office was. He was the MD of a company called Whathney, which specialised in handbags and other accessories that fragrance companies used as giveaways (If this sucks as a description Plod, feel free to correct me). Whathney later moved to an office next door and we moved across the road.

Finally no entry could be complete without mentions Mr Sean Bonham and Mr David Tate. Both were employed at Systematic as editors for our UK search engine UK Index (http://www.ukindex.co.uk). They were both radically different personalites, but they were truly interesting to work with. I can paraphrase the whole experience into a few short sentences. Nutty Toff digs scrubbers and Thai jail cell visits meets crazy, sleepy, gentle, yes I can ride my bike down those stairs, well spoken, unassuming bloke. Anyway as always they were a blast to work with and I do wonder what they are up to now.

Time to sign off. This has been a real blast to write and as with these things I know I have left a ton of wholes and bounced around the place, but I will one day collate all of these and expand on the whole shebang, including lots more juicy tidbits. Good by Systematic and hello……… Canada.

Babies are Doing Great!

We had our ultrasound last night and both babies are doing great. One baby is 4 pounds and the other is 4.2 pounds, so they are both at a great weight and pretty much in the clear (touch wood) should they come early. We have an appointment with our OB/Gyn tomorrow to touch base and wil probably be asked to visit every week after this point, as it’s getting pretty close.

6 Weeks and Counting!

The nights are drawing in and winter is coming. Nothing however can dampen the fact that in just over 6 weeks, if not earlier, we wil be the proud new parents of two little bundles. It’s still so surreal that I’m still waiting for that fateful slap of reality, I think that will probably happen when I’m picking mself up from the floor of the delivery room. Today we are having another ultrasound to check on their progress. I must admit, the ultrasounds I’ve seen on TV have always looked way better then the fuzzy mess we get to look at. I’m just amazed that the technician can make anything out. So it’s ultrasound today and a check in with the OB/Gyn on Thursday to reassure us that everything is runing smoothly.

I got a letter from my Aunt Elsie this week. It’s been so long since I’ve received a letter, that I forgot how nice it was. In this age of techno wizadry, the simpler things are still sometimes better. Alas I’ve never been that great a letter writer, finding e-mail so much easier, because I really do hate using a pen, sad I know.

Where Did the Amish Go?

No I’m not looking to convert to the Amish lifestyle, even though now and then it does look strangely compelling. I’m talking about the TV show Amish in the City. Me and the Wife settled down last night to watch what we thought was the final episode, where the young Amish kids decide whether the city life is for them or to return to the Amish community. Anyway what did we find, but some crappy fashion/pop show. Not a single mention in the press or on the TV guide of where the final episode was or was coming. I just hope we haven’t missed it.

Talking of reality shows, our favourite one came to an end last week, The Amazing Race. This is one of those show, were the first couple of weeks are a little slow, while you get to know the people competing, but then you really start to get into it. There’s always a couple or two you love to hate. This year it was a small person and her little princess cousin. Once they got ousted it was time to hate my namesake ‘Colin’, Mr Overcompetitive. I’m not a great fan of Survivor or Big Brother, I think their novelty value has well and truly worn off, but The Amazing Race is a cut above the rest.

It’s My Life!

Sometimes even I get bored writing about my life and the things that happen day in and day out, yet looking back over my entries for the past 8 months I find that life really isn’t boring. True, some days are more varied than others, but on the whole my life is much fuller tan it was when I was in England.

I often wonder what it will be like reading these entries in 10 years time, assuming that I continue to write up till then. I also wonder how my writing style will change and if I’ll ever get anything written and published. Actually that is probably my goal. Getting something written and published and to get paid for it all within 10 years. Can I do it? Hell yes! I just hope it doesn’t take 9 years and 11 months :-)

Still Feeling Crap!

Title says it all really. This flu is now getting me down. Hopefully I can wind down and relax over the weekend. I just hoped I’m not too zonked to watch the first ever Chinese Grand Prix, which unfortunately is on at 2am Sunday morning. Yes I know I could record it, vbut it’s just not the same.

We went out and payed for the crib and nursery furniture today. The crib is ready for delivery, but alas the other furniture is not, even though it as meant to be in 2 weeks ago. Come on Toys ‘R’ Us, pull your finger out. With any luck, we should find out today, when we can expect them.

Winter is definately drawing in. It’s getting dark around 7:30pm now, which really sucks. Fortunately it’s still pretty warm during the day. In fact it’s stil warm enough to wear shorts and a T-Shirt, if you wanted to of course. I think my legs are safely hidden for the rest of the year now :-)

Feeling Like Crap!

Well yesterday was a bit of a non starter. I woke up at the usual time and could just manage to get out of bed to give the dog his medicine and get the girls up. Then it was back off to bed until about 2pm I think it was. The flu has been threatening to take hold for a week or so, but finally got the better of me yesterday. I’m not one who takes to being ill very well. The biggest problem for me, is it’s so boring. I’m still not feeling 100%, but I’d rather go to work than sit watching Oprah or Days of Our Lives. I can always come home if it gets the better of me.

I think this weekend is going to be spent doing nothing much at all. I do know that our crib is in and now we are just waiting for the chests of drawers, so we can arrange delivery. Other than that I think my bed is going to be my best friend… that is unless I feel a whole lot better than I do now.

Oh by the way I missed the biggest news of all of the last week or so. We went to the doctors on Wednesday and since Baby 1 is still in the breech position, we are now going in for a planned C-Section on November 5th. That’s right I said November 5th, just 6 weeks away. For those of you not familiar with English celebrations November 5th is Guy Fawkes night. So you could say we intend making an impact on that day. Also it’s just day after my nephew Stewarts birthday. So if things go ahead as planned, we’ll have 1 kid who’s birthday is on Gemmas birthday (Alanna) and 2 kids born the day after Stewart. Funny how things happen like that.

Don’t Panic

Far off in an unchartered backwater of the western spiral arm of the universe…. and so it begins. The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Or rather it begins a bit like that anyway, my mind is a bit fuzzy. Anyway decades after the the first two books were broadcast over the radio. Ooops let me stop there. Decades after the radio and subsequent books comes the remaining books in the Trilogy. Yes I know there were only supposed to be 3 books, but isn’t that always the way. The remaining books have been recorded by most of the original cast (those that are still alive) and begins broadcasting today on Radio 4. You can read more about it and listen live on the web here.

Now if you miss any of the broadcasts, DON’T PANIC. They are repeated for 7 days after original transmission. Enjoy.

IT’S MONDAY!!!

Another working week begins and at the moment, I’m not feeling raring to go. Maybe in an hour or two once I’ve had a nice cup of Timmy’s. This week is probably going to be pretty hectic workwise, which usually means the week will fly by. Hopefully we hear today that the crib and nursery furniure has arrived at our local Toys ‘R’ Us, which means we will have it for the weekend. Sherri really wants to get the nursery furniture installed so she can wash and put away the baby clothes we have so far. We already have some stuff hanging in the wardrobe on little baby hangers, too cute :-)

I’m still in the middle of the next in the series of “When I was a Kid”. This one covers my time at Systematic Marketing. It’s been a struggle remembering all the names, but I think I’m pretty much there. Hopefully I’ll release that later this week. Otherwise it’s heads down for a ful house. I wonder what surprises this week holds.

Rip Van Meeks

I HAD A DREAM! This was no ordinary dream, this one lasted over 12 hours. I got home on Friday night and I was feeling really tired. In fact I’ve felt tires all week. Anyway around 9pm I started getting a little drowsy. In truth I actually nodded off. It was only after Sherri suggested I go to bed, that I got up. Actually in all truth after I snapped at Sherri, I realised that I was probably better off in bed, than a grumpy lump on the sofa.

I fell asleep pretty much as my head hit the pillow and I didn’t stir until sometime after 9am the next morning. In fact the only reason I actually got out of bed, was because the pup probably didn’t have his medicine, so I went downstairs, gave him his medicine and promptly took my self back to bed. I finally managed to peel myself off the sheets around 1pm. So as you can imagine no much happened on Saturday.

Actually I tell a lie, we had to go out to rent a carpet cleaner, to give the carpet the once over before the babies arrive and begin dragging themselves over it. I think I finally got to sit down around 8pm after having done the carpets.

Last night Scarface was on TV. As I hadn’t seen it before I decided to watch. I have to say it wasn’t that great a film. The acting was OK, but the soundtrack was awful. Not a patch on Serpico.