New year, new me.

Sunday

It feels like so long since I was last here writing pieces for you all to read, probably because it has been so long. But friends, there are good reasons. Please allow me to explain.

Firstly, I’ve been taking up writing again and I’ve decided that I’m going to try and really push for what I want this year. Now, there are only two things that I’ve wanted ever since I was a small child. One, I wanted to be a stand up comedian. Two, to work in central government in a Whitehall department. Up until recently, I thought I would have to settle for the latter, but upon realisation that a transfer to a department there was very unlikely, I started to focus on the former.

I’ve always written material since I was small and I’ve only ever wanted to make people smile and laugh and all of the things that come with a sense of humour, so at the start of this year, I decided that I was going to act upon this. I got together with two friends of mine, John & Ryan (Twitter; @Beynonson & @RyanPlugs) and we decided to start writing a sitcom. For me, this was a perfect start to air some of my comedic writings and I’ve got to tell you, the fruits of the sitcom so far are abundant! We have produced a lot of good material, a good story and a few episodes are already written to boot! There’s plenty more to come as well as we’re almost half way through the series. It’s looking promising already! I have great hope that this will come to fruition.

So, whilst I have been working on that for the past few months, I have been fairly tied up for time for the rest of my intellectual works. But, last weekend, I did a thing on Twitter where I raised money for Comic Relief by increasing my followers. Basically, people would follow and retweet me, then when I reached my target number of followers, which was 250, I would donate £50. A decent sum, I think you’ll agree. I reached the target with ease, exceeding it in a few short hours and whilst doing so, I felt that I had lots to offer to help raise money for good causes. I decided to do the one thing that I’ve always wanted to do, but have always avoided as I have been far too scared and have had far too many reservations about doing; I decided that I would perform Stand Up comedy for the first time in a charity gig that would feature a friend and a few other local comedians.

Upon this realisation, my first thought was “None of my existing material is good enough, start all over again”, so that’s just what I did! I have completely wrote a set in under a week for this hastily arranged gig. I am going to do compere and open with a set, which, being first on the bill is always nerve-wracking. But, I am confident in the material I have written and in my ability to deliver it, if not entirely sure at first… So, I have enlisted the help of a good friend and aspiring Stand Up comedian, Mr Jonathan Gravelle and we have another comedian lined up so far, who goes by the name of Paul James. Things are looking good! The most important thing to remember, is that whilst fulfilling a boyhood dream for me, it is primarily about raising a good sum of money for Comic Relief. Which is something that I’m sure we can all agree upon as a worthy cause.

The event is at The Ferryman, Briton Ferry, Neath on Thursday. Stage time is nine o’clock. So please, if you can, make your way to event and prepare yourself for an evening of laughter and fundraising!

With the set written, and with four days left to learn it and practice delivery, this week sure will be one of nervous intensity!

Thanks for reading,

Callum

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Setting the Scene

Friday, New Years Eve

Double Bass lines rip through the darkened, smoky room, its low ceiling accumulating a foggy mist, making it look not too dissimilar to clouds. The dimmed lights seemingly make the thin wispy smoke thicker, as the light becomes trapped in its carcinogenic, deathly grips. As the smoke and the dim shining light entwine in their battle a rimshot sounds out, accompanied by the clink of ice cubes smashing against the walls of its glass prison like bumper cars at a fair, floating upon its merry-making spirit buoyant.

Happy New Year!

Callum

A very happy Christmas, one & all!

Saturday

Firstly, I’ve opened a bottle of Savannah earlier with nothing but a table’s edge and a rather heavy blow from my closed fist. My hand is now throbbing.

Secondly (and more importantly), as I sit here typing this, my brother, John and our Scottish friend Haggis (AKA Andrew) are playing alcohol-influenced Jenga. Christmas is not normally something that I’m too fond of. It always brings back memories, some good, some bad from the past. But today, for the first time in years, Christmas feels right. Drinks and banter around the dinner table, pigs in blankets, and wee Haggis doing impressions of Trevor from Eastenders (see ‘you like gravy, don’t you Mo?’ on Youtube), coupled with all the family getting along, well, it really made for a great day.

So, to finish this short little blog post, I’d like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a happy new year! I hope you’ve all had the best of days.

Merry Christmas!

Callum

Days gone by?

Monday

I return home from work at nine o’clock this evening, feeling somewhat thoughtful amid the media furore that has erupted this past weekend concerning a dear friend, Sarah Baskerville. Sarah, like myself, is a civil servant working within the DfT, putting in maximum effort in every day. Although hers are far more important than mine, we both work to strict deadlines and often with a lack of resources available, attempting to deliver an efficient service that not only benefits the taxpayer’s pocket, but inspires confidence at the same time.

There are two things that I have always wanted to achieve since reaching my formative years. One; to become a stand up comedian. (I kid you not) Two; to work in the civil service. Especially in Whitehall. Although, I do recognise that that last part there I may have to forego, and probably the comedian part too! When I started working for the civil service I felt a sense of pride, and yes, belonging too. I felt like I was a part of something bigger, working to provide a service that was of benefit to the taxpayer and that ensured good governance and better public services for the masses. That pride I have always kept burning within me, the driving force that makes me do what I do, that makes me want to serve to the best of my ability. It’s never faded, and neither has my unswerving commitment to the task at hand.

Just before the elections this year, I attending a hustings in the Swansea West constituency. I listened to the political arguments of six or seven candidates, listening to their views. Some I agreed with, and others that I did not. After the hustings had finished, we were all offered teas and coffees, to which I accepted graciously. (I am a terrible stickler for a nice black coffee!) I put my coat on a nearby hook and slackened my tie, leaning back on an old door frame, taking a sip of my lovely coffee I surveyed the room and it’s occupants, taking in the views and opinions that each of their faces belied.

Five minutes passed before I was approached by a sixty-something gentleman with kind eyes and a smiling face. He introduced himself as a retired professor from nearby Swansea University in a tongue so eloquent and so richly upper middle class that it could not even begin to try to hide that he was from social standings far greater than my own. We both smiled and laughed as we chatted the breeze about the events of the hustings, before that all important question was asked. “What do you do for a living, my dear fellow?” said the professor in that rich, smooth tone of voice that calmed and inspired confidence and conversation in a man. My inevitable answer came as I mentally puffed out my chest and said these words; “I’m a civil servant, sir. I work under the Department for Transport umbrella.” Relaxing my smile and pride, I awaited the response from this kind eyed gentleman, who moments before, was very interested in what I had to offer to the conversation. The kind, smiling eyes turned to stone and the smile tightened, turning into a frown, his top lip taking on a stiffness that I’ve only seen from a botox injection. Silence prevailed for what was only two or three seconds, but two or three seconds that seemed to last an eternity as my mind saw the look upon the face and tried to rewind the conversation to see if I had said anything to offend the professor.

The professor’s next words were something that truly shocked me, and I was taken aback by them. “So you’re the enemy” he said coolly, that rich eloquent tone taking on something more sinister and determined. A slight momentary pause before I asked ‘I beg your pardon’. The Professor repeated coldly again. For the first time, I had been perceived as the enemy. This professor, who moments ago seemed a lovely chap had now wheeled upon me bearing down with a malice and contempt, so rarely seen and reserved for those whom one truly cannot abide. Not wishing to continue conversation, I put down my coffee and left. The whole journey home, I had been thinking about what had happened. I couldn’t even understand why someone would have such contempt for me, just because of my job title. Even worse, I wondered if this was a common view shared by many of the public, and if my pride in the job itself and not just the title, was misplaced. Although, I am pleased to tell you that it takes more than one disgruntled toff to remove the pride I have for what I do. ; )

Myself, like Sarah, have always tried to give one hundred per cent to everything I do. We both share a burning passion and commitment to the civil service, and to the taxpayer. And quite frankly, when I saw the Daily Mail article bullying Sarah, I felt a rage inside. For it was not just Sarah’s pride and integrity at stake, it was all of ours. We all work damn hard every day to deliver a first class public service in this country. You only have to look at other countries to see that we are head and shoulders above the rest. The civil service delivers, and so do it’s people on an individual level. And to see an article like that, well it almost made me question just what I do this for. I say ‘almost’ as I was suddenly grounded by a reminder in my mind of just what I strive for on a daily basis.

Articles like the Independent’s and the Daily Mail’s are nothing short of attempting to defame the character of the service and it’s hard working staff. Lazy and shambolic journalism do nothing to help motivate staff already under pressure and struggling to adapt to an ever changing outlook on the services their departments provide and the way they provide them. They only detract from them. I for one, was very impressed to see an article in the Guardian by Patrick Butler, sticking up for Sarah and civil servants just like her. It’s good to see that the British press still has some journalism with integrity and honesty.

Here’s to hoping that the storm blows over and that Sarah can continue delivering a first class service that the taxpayer values.

Thank you for reading,

Callum

Music tip; Orange Juice – Rip it Up

** Disclaimer – Any views, or opinions expressed herein are entirely of my own, and they are in no way endorsed by any government department or employee **

Journalism? Opportunism.

Saturday

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1329321/Civil-servants-Twitter-Oh-stop-twit-Tweeting-someone.html

As I was heading to work at seven-thirty when I receive a message from Sarah (@Baskers) on Twitter, saying that she’s had a nasty article about her published by the Daily Mail. Immediately I got the BlackBerry out and started to find the root of her distress, which didn’t take long. So called ‘journalist’, Quentin Letts, wrote a rather personal and damaging article about her, in which he has the guile to insinuate that she does a terrible job and is a waste of taxpayers money.

I am proud to say that I am a friend of Sarah’s, and that she is an excellent example of the staff that the civil service employs. Sarah is extremely hard-working and the dedication that she has to her department is second to none. What I want to know, is when does someone tweeting in a personal capacity become news for a national paper? Letts has the front to say that Baskers is breaking the civil servant’s rules of impartiality with the line ‘Civil servants used to try to be impartial and discreet’. Baskers has always played by the rules. Her Twitter account, like mine, states that the views and opinions posted online are her own, and not the view of the department as a whole.

Sarah is a woman who likes to have a drink and let her hair down whenever she can. She works a particularly stressful job, which often is a thankless task and she has an unswerving commitment to her team and the integrity of her department. Letts seizes upon an earlier Twitter posting from her, saying that she’s feeling a tad hungover from the evening before as if it’s never happened to anyone else. I’d certainly be willing to bet that Mr Letts was lucky enough to have a university education, and during his time at university I’d also be willing to bet that he suffered more than one hangover. He then goes on to complain about an earlier posting stating that she was feeling tired and would rather be at home than be in the office. This is uncommon, how? I’m sure she’s rather sorry that she is an actual human being who has normal bodily function and not a robot.

This whole article really shows a journalist, so desperate for a story, that he’s willing to attempt to completely ruin someone’s career just for an article. One which isn’t even worthy of being called an article at that. It just shows the state that the British press are in today, if they have to manufacture something as rediculous as this.

Sunday

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-hounding-of-baskerville-2133666.html#disqus_thread

This morning, I awoke to see that the Independent have jumped on the bashing bandwagon too. Disgraceful! Following the lead of the Daily Mail is by no means original and independent journalism. It seems totally unacceptable and completely unjustified to me, that someone can be paid to spend a short while writing an ‘article’ that has the potential to bring down someone’s career (gained entirely through hard work and merit) by adding fuel to the fire. A fire I might add, started by someone with as much journalistic credibility as a sixteen year old ASBO holding arsonist scally.

What this all boils down to is freedom of speech. Sarah, being a passionately engaged public servant is also entitled to her opinions. But, alas, I forgot we were living in the past where if you spoke out you were punished. I find it funny that our government, both of past and present can campaign for Aung San Suu Kyi’s release so that she can continue being an advocate for freedom of speech, but if any civil servants question the government of the time, well, they’re in trouble. Sarah hasn’t directly questioned the government, nor has she criticised the new policies brought in. What Sarah has talked about are the difficulties facing her directly, and the way that she manages her her working life. Isn’t this normal? Don’t we all like to have a moan during the bad times, and celebration during the good?

I also find it rediculous that the media are allowed to say what they like, so long as there is a disclaimer involved, but when a civil servant has the disclaimer “All views posted here are my own, not the government department’s that I work for” they seem to skirt around it completely, also ignoring copyright on the user’s picture and taking the image. By the way, Sarah, I do hope you send them a bill for that.

As a fellow DfT umbrella employee, I do hope that the DfT officials realise that this is pure poppycock and do the right thing, which would be to keep hold of Sarah. She’s a valuable asset to the department and it would be a loss to the taxpayer to see her go.

I’ve had the pleasure to meet with Sarah on several occasions, and I’m extremely proud to call her a friend. Stay strong, mate!

P.S. I’m publicly sorry for being two hours late to our first ‘Tweetup’!

Tomorrow looms…

Like a bad cloud over my head.

Tuesday

Tomorrow is Wednesday the twentieth of October, the day of the government’s spending review. Every cut to all government departments will be unveiled and the true cost of the cuts will be revealed. It’ll be a rather black day for an awful lot of civil servants. After today’s news of the cuts at the Ministry of Justice (courtesy of Channel 4 News – http://www.channel4.com/news/ministry-of-justice-to-axe-14-000-jobs), one certainly has to wonder about the scale of the job losses we are facing. These cuts will affect every department, every agency, every civil servant in the land.

Of course, one has to reserve an opinion and must always be seen to be impartial. So, I do hope that time will prove these cuts to be the right thing, and not the wrong decision. Only time will tell.

One thing is for sure, I will be glued to the news tomorrow.

Callum

Keeping Mum…

… Happy.

Tuesday

Every Tuesday night, my brother and I go to visit our parents at their home for a spot of dinner. My mother looked a little worn out this evening, so I decided to take the load off her feet and offered to cook for the family. Something I haven’t done for what seems like an eternity!

Anyway, I decided that it would be something that was both quick to make, but also delicious and something that would not disappoint the palate. So, I settled upon a pasta and meatball bake. Here’s a photo of the finished dish:

Callum's Pasta and Meatball bake.

And here’s one of me just taking it out of the oven!

Me and my Bake!

Bloomin’ marvellous!

Callum