Archive for August 2010

To whom it may concern

24.8.10 § 4 commentarii

As the second of my two days off this week drew to a close earlier this evening, I sat down to do exactly two things: in both cases I ended up depressed and not finishing.

The first was to do some tweaking and editing to the two essays I've chosen to submit to Oxford. As I plan on concentrating on Romance philology should I be accepted, I thought it would make most sense were I to submit two essays in that field. One is entitled Catalan and Occitan as a diasystem, and is a rather simple 2000-odd word piece I wrote for my "Dialectology of the Iberian Peninsula" course in my final semester at Southampton. I have fond memories of that class and even of writing the essay: it was possibly the most enjoyable course I did during the whole four years, and it set firm my ambitions for postgraduate study. In a rather charming case of synchronicity, one of the set books for this course was the very book which had made me decide on applying for university six-odd years ago: Ralph Penny's A History of the Spanish Language. I had bought it from Borders one afternoon and sat reading it at work during my break. I paused for a moment and thought "this is really cool: I want to do this!" And so, in order to do so, I decided to quit my job and go to university.

Anyway, that particular essay only needed a light touch-up: a few spelling errors, some clumsiness of phrasing, the occasional mis-numbered reference. It was already the requisite length and so the editing took only half an hour. The second sample essay is actually an excerpt from my undergrad thesis, which was on the disappearance of the inflected future in colloquial French. The part in question actually dealt with Zwicky's concept of "markedness" in morphological change as it concerned the loss of apophonic variation between Old and Middle French, and I was always quite pleased with it. However, I was rather narked to discover that my initial draft in English has disappeared, and so I need to re-translate from my dreadful French version (there is no way I'm submitting the French: it's truly awful.) There's something particularly depressing and tedious about translating one's own work: when translating someone else's it's almost like an intellectual puzzle, something to fuss over and think about, with all the attendant sensations of triumph and pleasure when one hits upon the most apropos translation of a particularly knotty construction. Disheartened by the prospect of translating my own (rather turgid) prose, I pushed the damn script aside and turned to my other task of the evening: writing a job application letter.

As you may have gathered, I utterly loathe my job: laughing at it is the only way I can avoid the black depths of despair. My financial situation worsens with every passing week (I currently have exactly £7.23 in the whole world), and in order to simply meet all my bills I have to work close to a sixty-hour week. This, along with the worry and the drastic skyrocketing of my alcohol consumption, is killing me. I have a hollow, dead look around my eyes. I feel my brain slowly atrophying away, unable to concentrate on anything, or see anything to completion. So, I can either wallow in depression and self-loathing, ticking off the days until we are either evicted or menaced by bailiffs, or I can look for a new job.

I want out of the hospitality industry for good, so I'm applying for an assistant manager's position at a (rather classy) cookware shop in town. I don't have any previous experience in retail, so I can't just submit a CV and a quick cover note reading "Damn, I'm good. Give me a job.": I need to spell out exactly why I'm ideal for the position, and how my previous experience translates into useful skills for the fast-paced world of selling pots and pans. Which, in my opinion, it does. As a professionally-trained chef and self-confessed gadget freak, cookware is something I'm intimately familiar with. I have extensive experience in both managerial and customer-service rôles (you don't think this level of bitterness is natural, do you?). I'm a university graduate, from one of the country's better universities at that. I'm articulate, intelligent and quick to learn. Before actually getting to know me, people have told me that I'm also quite charming. So why can't I write a neat little cover letter modestly explaining all of this without sounding like a half-mad, stuffy fifty-something writing to his MP to complain about the prevalence of fag ends littering the gutters?

I hope to remain your obt. servant,

Deiniol Geraint Jones

Senior (!?) moment...

16.8.10 § 1 commentarius

Video utterly unrelated. Just happens to be an excellent expression of both Welsh patriotism and gay pride in the same video. One does so like convenience. I also just happen to really like Shirley Bassey. "The Living Tree" is wonderful in its expression of high camp, for example. I know, I'm a fucking queer. And, honestly, if I'm in the right mood, "We'll Keep A Welcome" can bring a tear to my eye. I'll also confess to singing this when pissed (along with "Yma O Hyd"... it's got to the point where my best friend can actually sing along to the latter without actually speaking any Welsh. For some reason he's also word-perfect on "Sosban Fach", and I swear to god I've not taught him.) and really I shouldn't be encouraged. Actually, while we're at it, it's something of an ambition of mine to join a male voice choir- pathetically sad I know, but surely I wasn't the only one who was fairly chuffed that Only Men Aloud won "Last Choir Standing"? Was I the only person in the UK to actually watch that (catching up on iPlayer, even)? Bugger, not only have revealed quite how sad I am, but this brief disclaimer has also rather over-run. To the post, therefore:

Arse, I've forgotten what I was going to say.

Occupational Hazards

13.8.10 § 4 commentarii

My apologies for the recent radio silence. As it happens, Pretty Chef has gone back home to Brazil for eight weeks, so we're a man down in the kitchen during our busiest period of the year. In order to cover him, I've been working a sixty-five hour week for the past three weeks, which is somewhat punishing. Also, as Pretty Chef is also our nominal "head chef", it's fallen to me to do all the administrative stuff in the kitchen. This, surprisingly, is quite a massive amount. Aside from obvious things like ordering and stocktaking, I'm also filling in and signing off on our due diligence records, weekly sales, wastage and complaints/meals ratio. Furthermore, due to our parlous financial situation I've also taken on the maintenance of the beer garden: it essentially means extra money for planting hanging baskets, tubs etc, repairing garden furniture (which is more my métier than actually dealing with plants: I'm happy enough with a powertool in my hand but become somewhat lost with a bunch of alyssum) and tugging the weeds/incipient trees out of the brickwork. For tax purposes, it's done through a gardening company called Gortos Gardening: an in-joke about five people in the UK are likely to get.

All of which means I haven't had the time to scratch my arse, let alone blog. Furthermore, my thoughts have been filled with work and little else. While this is excellent for my bank balance it rather puts a cramp in the old creative activities. And religious, for that matter: I'll confess that my observances have been perfunctory at best. I was also intending on working on essays for my MA application over this month (Mark, I may be cheeky and ask you to look over them), but that's also rather fallen by the wayside. He Whom I Call Beloved is also whining, as the last time we had sex was sometime in June (I can't be buggered with buggery.)

Nevertheless, my dear readers, I do feel a sense of duty and obligation to you faithful less-than-a-dozen, and so feel it needful to actually post something. Given that I've nothing interesting from a religious or linguistic point of view to talk about, I shall instead talk about something work-related. I've posted before about the occupational hazards of being a chef: knife wounds are worryingly common, and I've mentioned before how burns and hot temperatures in general have deadened the nerves in both of my hands. Additionally, I've heard that varicose veins can be a problem, although I suspect that's primarily a female complaint.

What they don't warn you about at catering college though is the dire condition of Chef's Arse. Nine or ten hours, in a very hot environment, while moving about like a crack-addled raver all adds up to a certain amount of sweating and thence chafing in the inter-buttock region. This can get quite raw: I have seen (and spoken to my therapist about) middle-aged chefs after service dropping their checks and rubbing emollients between their cheeks in order to combat this. It's one reason why chefs are so pleased if the staff changing room has a shower.

Back when I was in college and on day-release, I worked at a nice little pub with four other chefs. I was the lowest of the low: a commis, which is one step up from the guy who does the dishes. The chef de partie rather took me under his wing: Marcello taught me more about cooking than any of my tutors at Coleg Llandrillo. He was great: a fifty-something Portuguese dude who'd cooked and fucked on pretty much every continent except Antarctica. One day, when we were both getting changed, he told me: "the most important thing I can tell you is this: don't wear boxer shorts on service. You'll regret it." Like pretty much every man of my age, that was all I wore under my trousers: and I asked why the hell would I change my underwear preference? "They ride up. It just makes things worse." After a few shifts, I understood what he meant. I got the piss taken at rugby, but soldiered on: boxers do make the whole chafing issue so much worse. What one really needs is a bit of elastic to keep the cloth away from the danger zone.

About three weeks ago we took on a new chef, a commis on day-release from the college. After having watched him scratch his backside as if he were attempting to excavate the lost ark for a few weeks, I found myself passing on Marcello's advice. Of course, he ignored me: men don't tell other men what pants to wear.

This evening when we were getting changed, he bashfully told me that his girlfriend had bought him these Calvin Klein briefs, and he was stuck with them. Whatever gets you through the night... think I.