Acts of Waste

The restaurant was tall and full of itself.

Have you been doing to a reasonable standard all the things now required of you?
Yes. Mostly. Almost mostly. Just about. Yes.

I de-bowled the cold pigeon slices onto the salad, and spooned on the granola and the fennel cream.

And this'll persist?
Most likely.
And you'll be taking them as inspiration in the things you do that aren't them?
Not if I can help it.
For you there is no help.
And the methods are still...?
The prevailing doctrine demands improvement, from everyone, at all times. I try to apply it. I admire its ambition.
The whole place must be gleaming.
At the ground floor reception there's twenty eight thousand pounds nailed to the wall. And it's ten feet up and it can't be removed.
Bill Drummond?
Not so far.
It doesn't flutter away? In the winds of innovation?
It takes the form of a TV that's never on.
And this cost nearly double your yearly young go-getting income?
It also involved a man and some software that displayed information and a man to run the software.
And whither they?
Not sure. The information it used to display was already displayed on sheets of A4 paper.
My tits hurt.

The waitress removed our remains and filled our wine glasses. People celebrated results.

It can't be broken off and donated to someone who wants it?
It has to stay.
And what of this principle of permanent bettering?
It doesn't reach that far up the walls.
Who ordered this?

The waitress asked if we'd like another bottle. I nodded.

A long-gone somebody. Before the doctrine.
I'm experiencing a thing I don't want to experience.

We moved on to smoother subjects and waited for the fish.


The building has four floors. The lift's buttons are set up so that the number on the button you press is also the number of the floor the button instructs the lift to stop at. A voice announces the number as you exit. And on the bit of wall next to the lift doors on each floor is a large plank of information to do with where everything is and why you might want to go there.
Some people mentioned that they found it difficult to discover, after they got there, what floor they were on, and I was asked by a manageman to solutionise the improvable. I think that's how he put it. Solvify the crevasse. Bradbury the topknot.
I tried to resist. If your problem is you can't find out what floor you're on, your problem is much bigger than not being able to find out what floor you're on. But no. Then what about a sign directing you to the plank? No, this would appear deliberately unhelpful and maybe sarcastic. So I was wafted into the reprographics alcove and ordered not to come out until I'd stated the obvious.
I printed an A4 sign that said you are on the first floor. In bold Helvetica, I think, although it could've just been something that looked a lot like Helvetica. Taking care not to repeat myself or make any signs for places that didn't exist, I printed similar but not exactly the same statements for the other three floors. By which time the laminator was purring like a distant helicopter, ready to attack anything, regardless of colour, typeface or grammar, and as I fed it the four signs I patted its lilac flank and whispered the words the work we're doing here is vital to facilitate the smooth running of this organisation, whatever this organisation is. I switched it off after it'd passed the fourth sign, and went to the lift in a more businesslike manner than usual, so as not to appear to be gloating.
The lift has its own internal plank which includes information on all the floors and rooms except it doesn't mention a thing about room number six.
I leapt out onto the fourth floor and began mashing the this is the fourth floor sign against the wall opposite the lift with my forehead and elbows and the aid of a substance that strongly resembles but is significantly less effective than blu-tack, while people who've never not known what floor they're on stared at the sign and then at me and shook their heads and started conversations like
Are you really...
But there's already a...
and moved off with faces like funeral rain. I returned to the public waiting area and sat behind the enquiries desk and imagined a future where every wall was a sign, the comic sans smeared up it like abbatoir splashes and the apostrophes scurrying like lice. And I was doing nothing to stop it. I opened a Twix and carried on with the paperwork.

Fat Together

This didn’t quite happen: I was the cafĂ©’s only customer, sat at the counter seducing a bacon sandwich looking out the window and reading a book while the waitress sat beside me tutting at the Times quick crossword. My book was an old Russian novel and I was hoping the waitress would notice the fuss I wasn’t making about my impeccable taste, so I could then tell her it only cost fifty pence and establish that along with my heroic lack of look-at-me I also know about how far money can go. She exhaled through her nostrils and looked up from the crossword and said I’m not good at these things. I smiled and said sometimes they’re a bastard. I didn’t ask her whereabouts in Australia she was from. 
We stared out the window and I conquered the sandwich and watched legs and shoulderblades go past outside and time stand still in the cold and cockroachy prison in the book. She said moustaches in the summer must be bothersome. I thought about telling her how I used to have a moustache but it was joined to a beard because everyone had a hairy face because we were in the mountains near enough and if you shave in the mountains your priorities are reckless, you’re not going to be able to wrestle any goats or worry any snakes with a soft bald mouth, are you, mate, but I just said yeah. 
Something two foot tall fell from above the window and shattered on the pavement. It was a potted house plant. Soil rolled into the gutter. The waitress tsked and said it’s the flat upstairs, they’re really spacey. It probably frightened one of them and they kicked it out. We watched legs avoid tripping over it. Or maybe, she said, it just got sick of its owners.