Blog Week 1: The blog begins. As does life in a new office.
Sunday 27 November 17.45
Finally got round to starting my blog. Since I got ADSL at home, I confess I have spent a lot of time reading other people's daily blogs. Why not write my own? Well maybe they have more interesting lives or write wittily ...
But I think this will be more my online diary than a blog. I must admit it is a bit of a thrill to be writing in the public domain. No idea if anyone is going to read it - a lot of this stuff is not going to make much sense to anyone else in any case. But that is no bad thing. Given where I work, I have to be careful about what I say (up to a point).
I have turned off the comment function; I don't want feedback. The trouble with blog comments is not many people listen and discuss. Most people rant. Certainly that is what I do.
For the moment I do not really have a witty name for my blog. Perhaps 'Lost in Brussels' (but who isn't?) or 'Bored in Brussels' (I am not the only one) or 'Single girl in Brussels' (definitely not the only one!). I guess a great title is not important for my blog right now. "Brussels Blogging" will do.
I want this blog to be something more than the typical EU foreigner in Brussels rant. I will not call myself "expat" as there are not too many proper expats actually in Brussels; just lots of EU foreigners on local Belgian contracts that somehow think foreign citizenship makes them an "expat".
But I have decided my blog will not:
1. Complain about the Belgian weather. It annoys me how much other foreigners complain about it. Often I just want to scream: if you have a problem with the weather, go home! Complaining does not help! But I must admit, yesterday's snow was really inconvenient.
2. Complain about life in Belgium. I know sometimes it feels like there is a lot to complain about here. But everyone forgets: we are abroad. So accept things are not like your home country, stop hanging out in identikit Irish bars and try to get to know the local culture(s). But bureaucracy here can be a real pain.
3. Complain about my life as a (newly) single female in Brussels. I am not some Brussels version of Bridget Jones. Brussels fact: too many single women, not enough single men. Single women seek commitment, single men seek sex. Accept it, get on with life and maybe you'll get lucky! After all some men are after more than sex. (Well I read that somewhere on the Internet so it must be true.)
So - if you are still reading - here goes !
No I'll start tomorrow.
Monday 28 November 23.45
My life has changed so quickly lately I do not know if I am coming or going. After a quick - possibly hasty - decision at the end of last week, I have switched offices for a little while. I am going to be a secretary in an office that my firm is merging with. Think of it like 'secretary swap'; although I think I am the only one swapping so far. Arriving in the new office today was a brutal reminder so soon about what it is like to be the new person again.
I arrived early. The Office Manager - apparently nicknamed Yoda, because of her Star Wars fixation - was reading a newspaper in the reception area as I arrived. She looked up, seemed bothered that I had turned up so early and gave me a resentful look. Had I intruded on her quality time? After making the colossal effort to say hello, Yoda said she did not have the time to show me around the office this morning- too many things to do (like fighting Darth Vader?) - and I should wait there and someone would come and get me.
I just sat and waited and waited; surprising given it was now past 9am and there was no one at reception. Finally, after at least 45 minutes spent reading Friday's copy of the FT, a secretary - I'll call her Jo - came and showed me to my desk.
Jo and I are sitting opposite each other in a part of the building that seems a bit cut off from everyone else. Good thing is she loves to talk and joke. She is pregnant and due in a few weeks time. Her bump is not so big though.
The office was pretty quiet today - seems many people were out at some meeting somewhere in Brussels - and some other people are getting back from holiday.
Jo took the opportunity to fill me in on who is who in this part of the office. She has nicknamed most of the people here; for this blog it is easiest just to continue using her nicknames. Some of the names are a bit weird: I think they give a good idea about her interests: films, tv, international politics and kids stories. I am not listing everyone here - just the ones around me. Anymore names and you'll just get lost.
• Bill (as in Clinton) - the Managing Partner. Makes insincere speeches with a sincere face at a moment's notice, really bothered about his appearance, hands known to wonder when females are around. Incredibly intelligent though.
• Rodney (as in Dangerfield) - another Partner. Apparently, looks nothing like the deceased US comedian: is always complaining on the phone to his wife that their teenage kids 'don't give no respect'.
• Cherie - another Partner. Striking resemblance to Mrs. Blair's smile. Poor woman.
• Goldilocks - Counsel. Long dyed-blonde hair and one too many sunbeds. Sounds to me like Barbie Doll would have been a better name.
• 3 Beards - another Counsel. Does not trim his beard very well.
• Shakespeare - an English associate. Recites Shakespearean quotations for no reason.
• Lisa (Simpson) - an American associate. Distinctive voice that irritates the whole office. Poor girl.
• Spock - another associate. Less to do with his ears - more that everyone thinks he has beamed in from another planet. (Why are the associates in this department so strange?).
• Yoda - the Office Manager. Has pictures of Star Wars characters up in her office.
• A - a secretary sitting not too far away. No nickname (as yet).
• B - services guy. Again yet to be nicknamed.
Jo is the secretary of Bill, Lisa and Spock. A is the secretary of Cherie and Shakespeare. In my short time here I am going to start working for Goldilocks and the 3 Beards. It seems this position I am temporarily filling only became vacant last week. The secretary who used to work for Goldilocks and the 3 Beards just quit. Had a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel the world with her boyfriend and so left with next to no notice.
Have already decided to rename 3 Beards - from now will be the 3 Bears - as in Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. Ok silly joke, but today was a bit empty. As neither Goldilocks nor the 3 Bears was around today there was not so much to do.
Jo walked me around this part of the office. Met a few people but can hardly remember their names.
My PC, phone etc were set up mid-morning. Very limited intranet access today - but will have full access tomorrow.
Boring afternoon: helped B with archiving some files of Cherie and Rodney. Was supposed to be posting my first intranet entry today about switching offices. No idea what to say or who I send it to. Sent an email for Pierre (not his real name), the office manager of my last place, telling him there would be no intranet blog post today. Was glad to leave at 5.30pm.
Tuesday 29 November 22.53
Before work went for a tour of a particularly trendy local health club. Nice place, but pricey - but hey I am not paying!! (Tell you why another time). Must remember to get signed up soon.
Got to office a little late and Yoda was waiting for me at reception. She told me we needed to have a quiet word in her office. Wondered what I had done. Went with her and she asked - in a pointed sort of way - if I could close the door behind me. As I closed it there was a small picture of Darth Vader staring at me, lightsabre in hand.
Yoda announced she was leaving the firm within the next few weeks; some exciting new position had come up and she was not going to wait to see out her full notice. There are some formalities for me to sort out with my move and her successor would deal with it together with Pierre - my old office manager. I asked who her successor was and she just looked away, said she had too much to do and all would be clear soon.
Left her office relieved that I was not in trouble for something or other, but perplexed why she had wanted to tell me this information.
Jo was not around today. Maybe something to do with the pregnancy?
Again not many people were around today, so I spent the day archiving with B. He works really hard, but has little conversation. I'll nickname him Brilliant, because he is such a hard worker.
Maybe things will pick up a bit tomorrow. The excitement here is killing me.
Wednesday 30 November 21.11
I am not joking: as I entered the office reception this morning, Yoda was deep in conversation with the office cleaner about the fundamental difference between the lightsabres used by Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker reflecting the father-son relationship. The cleaner did not have a clue what Yoda was talking about. I just tiptoed passed, managing to avoid getting dragged into that particular conversation.
It is a bit eerie in the office today. Again there was hardly anyone around. One case seems to have taken many people away from the office recently.
I only found this fact out because Jo was back today. She was ill yesterday with with some 24-hour type flu yesterday (luckily not the awful one everyone seems to have been suffering with over recent weeks).
To break the monotony in the morning I started looking on the intranet at the pictures of the people I am supposed to be working with. I must say Jo's nicknames are not that accurate. Certainly amongst the partners, Bill and Cherie (well her smile) do not look like their namesakes, but Rodney actually does. Goldilocks is brunette and 3 Beards (as Jo calls him) is actually clean-shaven (at least in that photo). Spock has big (but not pointed) ears. Still I'll keep the names, they are as good as any other.
Just to show how boring it got today, the highlight of the day was the news that my new office and my old one are having an additional joint Christmas party (not sure if I mentioned these offices are merging in the New Year). Both already have their own Christmas parties organised, so it looks like yours truly is going to be attending three. Crisis: I do not have enough dresses for these parties! Solution: lots of shopping!
I come to work to relieve the current boredom and emptiness of my life, but at this new office so far all I look forward to is going home.
Thursday 1 December 22.05
Work started a bit more interestingly today - even if it did not last long.
I finally met one of my bosses, Goldilocks. She arrived just after me and we had a long(ish) conversation in her office.
I say conversation, but she did most of the talking.
A lot of the conversation was me being told how well I had done to 'take the plunge' and 'make the jump' and 'join the team', be a 'pioneer'.
As she talked I kept thinking how she had really bought into this vision and teamwork stuff at whatever merger integration meeting she has recently attended.
The only interesting thing she said was she is taking over some of the administrative responsibility for information services, and dealing with some other 'the practical administrative stuff'. She did not go into any details but said I would be involved - which sounds ok. She mentioned having a welcome lunch soon - which sounds even better!
It is strange that the other support staff have not arranged a welcome drink or lunch, but I guess different offices do such things in different ways.
As I was about to leave I asked Goldilocks when I will finally meet the 3 Bears, she said she had no idea and sounded like she did not care less about him. Wonder what is going on there?
Not really a lot to do for the rest of the day. Goldilocks went off for a meeting for the rest of the day - strangely leaving no contact details. Still no sign of the 3 Bears. Jo was not here today (again) either.
Just did some more archiving (with Brilliant). Archiving is about the most boring activity possible in any law firm anywhere.
Friday 2 December 18.45
End of the week - hurrah! Today was about as uneventful as the rest of the week has been. At least the archiving seems to have come to an end.
One slightly worrying thing was I got an email mid-afternoon from Pierre (my old office manager) saying from next week I have to start my intranet blog entries about this happy merger that I am involved in. He wished me well saying "I am sure you know what is expected of you." That sounded slightly ominous.