Roles and responsibilities 

As soon as Andy walked in the office, he knew there was going to be trouble. It wasn’t so much that Sarah was hunched over her desk with an unhealthy looking sheen on her face, but more the luminous green glow permeating the ceiling above her.

Andy backed towards the door. How many ‘duvet days’ had he banked? Perhaps he could work off-site for a while, at least until someone else showed up. Breakout?

Just then Leanne clocked him.

“Oh, hi Andy. Do you know what’s happening with this?” she asked, gesturing towards the ceiling. “I’m supposed to be interviewing clients today. It’s not a great look.”

“Sure,” said Andy, nodding emphatically. “Obviously, it’s not something I’m able to deal with. Have you reported it to anyone?”

Leanne blinked rapidly. “I’ve got enquiries coming out of my ears.”

Sure you have, thought Andy. There’s plenty of space between them, after all.

Andy switched on his computer  and glanced at the clock. 9.15. Surely someone else would be in soon.

“Any idea what started it?”

“No. Well, there was a bang on the roof earlier. I thought it was probably one of those mental seagulls doing a kamikaze.” Leanne gave a screech and looked over at Sarah, but her glazed eyes didn’t appear to register anything.

Andy was watching the loading symbol circling round and round when Sarah’s head hit the desk. Meanwhile, the green glow took on a deeper colour and the wall began to droop like an undercooked pizza.

“Oh my god!” yelped Leanne. “What the hell’s going on? “

“I’m still waiting for it to log on,”replied Andy, spreading his fingers in earnest.

“Surely, there’s a procedure for this kind of thing, isn’t there?”

“You’d think so.”

Andy felt the sweat bead at his forehead. Was there? It wasn’t like anybody actually read the paperwork.

The computer uttered a soft tone and the desktop finally appeared. Andy pulled his seat in.

“I’ll email head office.”

There was a crack followed by a shower of plaster as the ceiling came down around Sarah’s desk. Through the hole Andy could see the edge of what looked like a spaceship. Beside it stood a dark grey figure holding a weapon that was firing out luminous green rays.

Leanne waved her hand about at the dust. “This is outrageous! How can they expect me to work in these conditions?”

“I know, it’s unbelievable,” agreed Andy. “I’ll copy in all managers. There’s been no training for this whatsoever.”

The door opened. Tracey walked in.

“Hi everyone, how are…oh my god!”

“Tracey!” said Andy. “You’ve been on the first aid course, haven’t you?”

Tracey flinched. “Er, yeah, but…I mean…we weren’t trained how to deal with…this.”

“We appreciate that,” said Andy, catching Leanne’s eye, “but as you can see, this is quite serious. If you’re able to do something…”

“Have you called the emergency services?”

“I’m up to my eyeballs.”

“Surely, we need to call them?”

“Okay, do you want to do it? Obviously, you’re more qualified than I am.”

Tracy’s eyes narrowed. “I haven’t been here so I don’t know what’s going on. It’s better if you call.”

“I’m going to take flexi,” announced Leanne, packing up her things. “What are they going to do – fire me?” As she stood up, the alien fired at Leanne and she collapsed to the floor.

Andy picked up the phone and dialled 999.

“Hello, which service do you require?”

“Er, well, I’m not sure.”

“Okay, what’s happened?”

Well…it looks like we’re being attacked by aliens.”

There was a pause. “Right, well I can send all three, but just so you’re aware, there is now a charge for any unnecessary callout in line with recent policy changes.”

“Oh.” Andy rapped his fingers on the desk. “Let me call you back.”

“What did they say?” asked Tracey.

“There could be charges involved.” Andy sat back in his chair. “I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be responsible for incurring extra costs. Surely, that’s for management to decide.”

“Yep, absolutely,” agreed Tracey.

Andy began tapping away at the keyboard. “Dear all, we had an incident today in which I was required…”

The alien swept it’s ray gun across the office, this time towards Andy. On any other day he might have been worried, but there was nothing in his job description about dealing with alien invasions. That was one document he had been sure to read. Clearly, someone was going to get in the neck and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be him.

Strength in numbers

I had the opportunity to spend this Christmas in Italy with my partner’s family. It was one of the last traditional events I had yet to experience over there and I hoped that taking part might enable me to experience a little more of what Italian culture was all about.

After a spectacular flight across the sun-blushed peaks of the Swiss Alps, I landed at Malpensa airport and successfully made my way to meet Veronica at the local train station outside of Lake Como.

As is the custom whenever I visit, we went for a quick aperitivo at her dad’s bar, then it was time to head to the family’s apartment for dinner. Soon after arriving, however, I began to notice a tendency for all members of the family to outwardly express an opinion on everyone else’s business. It’s not the first time I’ve witnessed this and as I discovered, it wasn’t only confined to the Mulas household.

On reflection, it seemed to me that this (admittedly irritating aspect) came down to that most well-known feature of any Italian home; the dinner table. Throughout my stay, every lunch and dinner was eaten around the table with just about every member of the family in attendance from two to 65 years-old. And it was here that anything and everything was discussed, whether it was what to have for dinner the next evening, the best route to take to town or what a certain child should or shouldn’t be doing. No one was safe.

I’m a fairly independent person and am used to making my own decisions, so I initially found this a challenge. Even just getting out of the door was often delayed by an impromptu debate on what we ought to be wearing and if it was this place we were going, shouldn’t we go another day or take so and so with us. Nevertheless, as the days passed, I began to see a deeper reasoning to this approach and I found myself thinking back to something her dad once said.

A few years ago, I went to the wedding of Veronica’s oldest sister in a village near Rome. On the way home, we were sitting in the airport with her parents, waiting for our respective flights. The news was showing on a big screen, flashing up the usual ominous world events and I mentioned how nice it was to have been away from all that. Her dad gave a dismissive wave at the television and said something that stayed with me; “all that matters is that you stick together.”

The notion of the family unit was central to virtually every activity that took place within the home. When the table needed to be laid, everyone helped out, if a child started crying, others were ready to offer a hand or some advice. Inevitably, this attitude spreads out to neighbours and other relatives who, like long lost friends, would stop and chat in the street or the hallway or simply turn up, unannounced.

Not only that, but this group mentality puts everyone on an equal footing, including children who, from day one, are initiated (kicking and screaming) into the etiquette of Italian social life. This was apparent when we went to dinner at a friend’s. Naturally, the evening took place around a large table with a family of six. Everyone helped out with the preparation and, perhaps most crucially of all, every opinion was listened to, including the children’s.

The last notable instance was during a visit to an aunt and uncle’s house. Their son, a reedy man with a grungy biker look, had not long come out of rehab and was now living in an annex at the back of the house. He struck me as a gentle yet melancholy soul who had clearly lost a large part of his life, but with a supportive family network around him, it seemed to me that he couldn’t be in a better place to rebuild his life. I wondered how he might have turned out if he was shoved into a one-bed flat somewhere across town or bunched together with other recovering addicts.

With such loving and devoted family around you, there’s little you can’t get through, even if it does mean having to put up with everyone’s point of view in the meantime. It certainly brought out an affection for my nearest and dearest when I returned home and I hope to hold onto that impression, even without the addition of an enormous dinner table.

Are you creative?

I’ve been on the hunt for jobs lately and have found myself amused, frustrated and straight-up perplexed by a few ads I’ve come across. In particular, the controversially named ‘creative’ positions (which generally amount to advertising roles, but worded in incredibly flamboyant ways). In my view, these are an insult to genuinely creative people who produce work of artistic merit or expression. They also talk a lot of bollocks.

In response, I decided to write my own job ad. I hope it will entertain others who are in a similar position and provide some light relief from the weird (and sometimes pretentious) world of job searching.

Happy new year!


 

Hi!

Are you a creative genius with a surgical eye for detail, sickly amounts of enthusiasm, doesn’t know tired, a smile carved onto your face, leaper not a jumper, amazing at numbers and everybody’s friend, with at least 5 years experience working in Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Powerpoint, Excel, felt tip pens, international politics and subterfuge?

Then you might have what it takes!

Here at Amazing Incredible, we don’t do things by half, we do them by a whole and a half!

You might also have noticed (because of your eye for detail – if you didn’t then you’re already fired) that we love to use exclamation marks! That’s because everything we do is amazing (and incredible)!

We work with the world’s top brands (even though every other company says that) to make their wildest dreams come true (we produce ads). But more than that, we strive to make sure everything we do for our clients is so eye-wateringly spectacular that they actually leave us with tears in their eyes. After all, we want people to be in love us, not just pay us.

The Good Stuff

– Free grilled quinoa on toast every morning, a pint of coffee and sourdough macaroons

– Tricycle racing around our own purpose built track on the roof (with incredible views of everything cool)

– An office orangutan to hang out with on your lunch break

– bouncy balls

– knitting

What we ask in return

  • You’ll be bold first of all, preferably have a beard, possess bombastic design skills, brave, bouncing with energy (did we mention beard?) and love other great-sounding words beginning with B!
  • You must be a team player, but also work fine on your own, be consistent yet adaptable, bleed creativity and also be hyper-numeric; in other words, an extremely conflicted individual!
  • You will literally shit ideas.

Pay

Who cares when we’re such an extraordinarily fabulous company to work for?

Benefits

10% off beard combs from John Lewis

Free Friday drinks at Wanko’s Gin and Sourdough Pizza Bar

Stupid games to play (because Google do stuff like that, don’t they?)

More coffee!

If, after reading this, you’re not feeling physically sick or experiencing the shakes, send us an email at howdypartner@ai.com telling us how you would keep the fires of creativity burning from atop the gleaming spire of our brand-building beacon.

Denmark Street 

A place to make a mistake and another to rectify one.

I’m not sure why I take the turning, which adds minutes to my walk, furthering the possibility of missing the bus. But my senses need refreshing, a change of scene to knock me out of my homeward routine. So I take a wander down Denmark Street.

They call it the ‘West End’ in the tourism leaflets but you wouldn’t know it. When I reach the junction with Unity street, there’s nothing but apartments housed in an imposing red brick buidling. Then, out of the darkness emerge the great temple-like doors of the Wah Yan Hong Chinese supermarket. The smell wafting out of the door is familiar, the same one that always seems to surround far eastern food stores. Is it the freezers full of seafood or some ubiquitous spice?

Next door is an extravagant Chinese restaurant, decked to the rafters in lanterns and dragon statues. The overall colour scheme is black, however, giving it the kind of air where you might expect a local Triad meet to take place.

Across the road the stage doors of the Hippodrome are open. I glean a look inside as an usher welcomes a group into a  red-curtained room. Articulated lorries block up the kerb, and there’s a stage hand sucking on a rollup in an unlit doorway.

Blink and I’d miss the steps that lead down to Harvey’s Cellars opposite, blue fairy lights illuminating the old wine racks. It’s the oldest establishment on this stretch by at least a century and still sells the Sherry for which it was founded on in 1895. 

I think about wandering in and feigning a party booking just so I can explore, but instead I decide to take a look in the magic bar next door. It’s a fairly unremarkable boozer decked out in traditional fashion, but with a secret theatre in the back just big enough for 50. It’s empty when I look in but the bartender assures me that it comes alive when the table candles are lit and a show is underway.

A downtown sidestreet such as this wouldnt be right without a seedy side and Shadows massage parlour is there to provide. ‘Shadows in the night’ as far the clientele are concerned or is it the girls who are ‘shadows’ of their former selves?

The whole facade is mirrored and there’s a handwritten note about a daytime offer stuck to the wall of the entranceway. It’s also right next door to a tattoo removal clinic, which would appear to compliment each other well; a place to make a mistake and another to rectify one.

Up on the wall is a red neon sign advertising Bombay Boulevard, a plain looking Indian restaurant. The red glow reflects in the empty windows above making me wonder if there’s any less conspicuous parlours along this stretch.

The thick scent of pure, unadulterated grease, fills the air from a chip shop. Two middle eastern men are behind the counter, their oily faces bantering with customers. 

A sickly-lit alleyway adjacent offers the ideal spot for a late-night urinal or something a little more tawdry. 

Under the bridge

Down by the river, beneath the motorway is a place where the sun burrows deep. Concrete pillars are its pen, and the banks the paper, on which the light draws ever-shifting shadows.

Every so often, I venture down there, and try to capture what’s been sketched on the walls. Its particularly  interesting visiting at different times of the day, with mornings casting a bright white light across the Easton side, while sundown brings a warm, yellow glow that dies out over the western end of the river.

There’s not many places like it, especially in an age where any unkempt space is quickly pounced upon by rabid developers. Closed in by the motorway in an area still overlooked by estate agents means it continues to exist for now; an obscure and gritty canvas for graffiti artists and sunlight, alike.

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Adela Breton: the life and work of an artist and explorer

It would have taken days, weeks even, to reach South America. Then followed a journey on horseback into the Mexican jungle to work in searing heat, all the while battling fever and bites from numerous insects.

This is something of what Adela Breton, the Victorian artist and explorer, describes about her travels to ancient Mexico in two exhibitions currently on show. The first, at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute (BRLSI) looks at Breton’s personal life and her experiences working at the Mayan ruins.

Growing up in Bath, Breton began donating objects and works to the institute following her trips to Central America. Some of these are on display along with a timeline of her working life displayed on panels in the foyer of the institute.

One of the most interesting things are copies of her sketchbooks, which feature watercolours of the surrounding landscapes and people of Mexico as well as photos that give a real flavour of  life in some of the towns and villages during that period.

The second exhibition at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery looks at Breton’s artistic practice. It’s on a somewhat grander scale, showcasing some of the huge tracings and paintings she produced while visiting the ruins.

The exhibition is the culmination of a much larger project to conserve, store and digitise the collection of her works. Breton began passing on her findings and works to the museum after the BRLSI could no longer provide the space to look after them. Bristol’s collection stands at over 1400 items and prior to the exhibition, the conservation team spent four years restoring and preserving the huge range of artworks.

Harry Metcalf, Paper Conservator at the museum, was involved in the project and says how the process gave them an insight into Breton – the artist.

“What’s interesting is that she used a variety of methods to record the decoration and carvings, including prints, watercolours, sketches and notes. This has enabled us to understand how she went about working at the sites and the techniques that she used.”

Many clues are visible in the works such as various cuts she made in the paper, which Harry believes were done to create a ‘flap’ that she could lift up to view the wall beneath her drawings. The cuts were then sealed with brown paper tape which discoloured over time. The conservators left it in place however, as it gives a valuable indication to how Breton worked.

There are also many sections that have been left blank, leading curators to believe that she wanted to remain true to what she was copying where detail had already been eroded or damaged. This highlights how crucial her work was in capturing the details of the remains before some of them were lost forever.

“One of the most important aspects of her work is that very little of the original colour exists so this collection is supposedly now the most comprehensive record of how they would have looked at the turn of the 20th century.”

Mounting the pieces proved quite a challenge as Breton worked exactly to scale. Harry used a technique called strip-lining, where pieces of a Japanese paper were used to attach the edges of the drawings to a rigid backing board.Using a conventional picture frame would have added too much weight for them to be moved and would also have caused problems in displaying matching sections of paintings.

One piece consists of four sections and there wasn’t enough space in the gallery to display them one on top of the other. But the team were still able to hang two pairs close enough so that visitors can see where the details join up.

“It’s not often that works of this size are put on display. It’s a great opportunity for people to come and view these extraordinary works and learn about the life of a remarkable person.”

Part of this article together with pictures of the conservation project can be seen on the website of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

Today, the sky is ours

Their chanting beat against the morning stillness as Ahmed rolled the tyre along with a steady brush of his hand.

The youngsters grinned like it was a new game, but the older ones knew better. This was their duty.

Tarek looked back at the pillars of black smoke rising above the buildings. He was used to seeing the street burn when the government­­ jets came, but this was different. Today, they were the ones making the fires.

At a crossroads, Ahmed lay the tyre on the ground. The other children stood back while Tarek tipped the bottle of kerosene over it. When it was lit, another plume erupted, turning the air a dirty brown.

The children looked at each other, their stained faces fierce and proud while men and women cheered them on. Victory is ours, they cried. You’ve won back the sky.

This was inspired by a recent news story about children in Aleppo setting fire to tyres in order to try and stop bomber jets from attacking the city: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-war-aleppo-no-fly-zone-children-burn-tyres-a7167991.html