Week 65: & Then I Bought An Investment Bank To Its Knees

Friday, 29 March 2019

Reading time 03 minutes 45 seconds 

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

In the world of IT if you want to delete files you Zap them.

Zap.com was my favourite computing tool until it wasn’t. By using it I almost nearly brought an entire Investment Bank to its knees and it almost made me redundant, twice. 

My IT career has been varied. I once had a job selling computers and they gave it to me because I was polite. However, I was so bad at this job that I once informed a man, who came into our shop asking if we sold Windows, that the local Glazers were around the corner. Years later I blagged a job supplying computers to a bank and when the bank needed help in fixing the ones I had built I was given a job there. That’s how short of people the IT industry was in the early 90’s.

Today we are used to graphical interfaces and apps and swiping and general dexterity. Back in the day (and it was only 30 years ago) we had to type in commands onto the screen to get a computer to do stuff. It was laborious, very time consuming and you needed to concentrate. Part of my job was to type commands in order to create space on the file server, as we had run out, and at this point so very nearly did the time on my fledgling career. 

I was speaking to a buddy whilst doing the housekeeping task and mentioned how dull it was. He suggested I use a program to do the heavy lifting for me and I remembered I’d previously used something called ZAP.COMwhich could do the trick. However, I had previous form with Zap and had mistakenly wiped a copy of a key piece of software, whilst preparing lots of new PC’s, but I believed lightning would not strike twice.

Well it does, and weirdly in the same place.

I typed in Zap.com and the area I was clearing up was gone. To put this into context imagine if you shouted the word “Hoover” and your vacuum cleaner magically took care of all your carpets instantly. Come to think of it I bet Alexa has an app for that.

Then I heard it.

A gasp from a colleague. Then the No, no, no, noooooo!!! from another. One mentioned that their files had disappeared and when someone else said the same thing the realisation of my mistake hit. I searched for our data. It was gone. It was gone because of me. I’d deleted an entire Banks IT data.

OK breathe. OK forget breathing go vomit then assess the situation. 

Pandemonium started to ensue and I did the only thing I could so I emailed my IT colleagues explaining what I had done and that I was working on a solution. I had no idea how to fix it, but I was taught to clean up my mess although my Dad hadn’t warned me I’d be this messy. Backups. We were one of the world’s biggest banks of course there would be backups. My colleague arrived and taught me what useful in a crisis meant as he worked with me all day to help restore the data. 

Some people passed by my desk and patted me on the back. One colleague passed me a leaving card. I took a lot of stick but mainly it was people’s kindness and understanding that shocked me as, 3 decades before Rag n Bone man made a song about it, I heard the phrase ‘you’re only human’ on more than one occasion. At the end of the worst day of my career I walked into the global head of IT’s office and explained our situation. We could only get 79% of our data back. The other 21% was gone forever. Zap.com was much better at its job than me.

I stood there awaiting the hammer to fall and before he could talk I said I would pack up my possessions and leave.

He put his hand up and spoke. He explained that my actions were admirable as I had owned the mistake from the beginning and worked hard on fixing it and brought in the right people to help me. He congratulated me for that. I was dumbfounded and explained about the missing files and we’d never recover them. He said it was a lesson to us all and that we’ve shown our weak spots and we could work hard on rectifying them, so they wouldn’t happen again. 

It reminded me of the scene in Trading Places where Eddie Murphy breaks a vase, learns that it was worth $35,000 but was insured for more, and says “You want me to break something else?” 

Picture: One for the Seinfeld fans 

Week 64: I’m A Coward

Friday, 22 March 2019

Reading time 3 minutes 56 seconds 

To see what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice – Confucius

I’m a coward. As in Wizard of Oz Cowardly Lion coward.

An example of my cowardice came to light at a recent gig. It wasn’t one I was performing, but one I was attending.

The gig was at the Royal Albert Hall (RAH) and I was seeing Bill Burr. He is an opinionated American comic and his opinions get him a lot of laughs, which means he does his job well. He’s not afraid of a social media backlash and whilst he is not everyone’s cup of tea I find him refreshing. Gigs however are like football matches as they involve sitting in a crowd with other people and I find there is nothing worse than other people other than the person I was going to the RAH with.

The evening started like all great evenings. In Tesco.

I was surrounded by cheap Easter eggs and I wondered if I dare eat one at the RAH. The answer was yes, and I opted for Aero over Kit Kat as that seemed appropriately regal. With my starter snack organised I opted for some Cadbury’s mini eggs as my main. 

When in the RAH we checked our surroundings.

The man three rows behind us was either speaking incredibly loudly or the acoustics in this great hall were doing a marvellous job. As if reading my mind my friend announced, “This guy sounds like a chump and is going to wind me right up”. At the same time, we clocked 4 blokes in front who were in a lager race. I pointed them out to my friend and we wondered who would annoy us the most.

The support act was a very funny comedian and worked hard to make it look easy. Luckily in case you missed any of his punchlines the loud chump three rows back would repeat them loudly then add his own joke on top. Sadly, this would drown out the comedian’s own topper joke. This Chump was the DVD additional commentary and a wannabe comedian, which is something I can relate too. 

I was getting wound up and when I’m like this I look for a simple solution and found it in my friend. He was seething, which pleased me. Knowing that someone is more wound up than me always helps relieve my tension. The blokes in front were still necking their beers and were yet to be annoying although a young couple were about to announce themselves as the third members of our silly competition. 

I don’t know why but I get annoyed at the look one person gives another to confirm the funniness of the joke. It has always irked me, and this young couple were doing this. The comic said a joke, and this clearly hit a nerve with the lady as she looked at her date and dared him to carry on laughing. He declined the dare and stopped. The humour had offended her, and she wanted to pass on her anger.

When the opening act finished I got stuck into my chocolate but before long Mr Bill Burr coolly wandered onto the stage and the place went crazy showing their appreciation. He launched into his first joke and Mr Chump was silent but it was at this point the DVD commentary switched to the lager lads.

The jokes were coming thick and fast and the drunk men were starting to react with their opinions. They thought they were funny although no-one else did. Then Bill used a reference to a plumber in a gag and the mood went from joviality to anger. It was obvious to us that Plumbers were not the butt of his joke but used as an ‘insert profession here’. This crossed the line for the main member of the lager geezers who stood up and flipped the bird, with both hands, at the stage. Good job he’d finished his beer!

We now had an angry plumber.

I wanted to say something but didn’t as poking this idiot and asking him to be quiet might not have helped. The infuriated plumber was pulled back into his seat by his mate who after a moment of clarity saw how annoying he and his mates were. Then after his time of being dormant Mr Chump spoke up. “Chill out Mario!” Me, my mate, the people around us and even angry date lady laughed.

The plumber continued to shout out from time to time and I wanted to tell him to shut up, but didn’t such is my fear of irate tradesmen. However, Mr Chump would always come back with a witty response and the plumber was getting so wound up that eventually he conceded defeat and proceeded to leave.

The evening finished. The plumber won the award for most annoying audience member and Mr Chump redeemed himself. 

As we departed I could hear the conversation of the couple in front. Much to my surprise they had enjoyed the night including the plumber and the Chump. She then shocked me by saying the annoying part was the bloke sitting behind noisily eating chocolate. 

Picture: Me and the bloke from Breaking Bad, or his Manchester City supporting lookalike

Week 63: Is He The Head Of A Drug Cartel?

Friday, 15 March 2019

Reading time 02 minutes 19 seconds 

Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet……..or murderers – TGI Friday’s

The Guillotine must be solid gold, it looked very heavy and very expensive as it swung from the chain around his scary neck. What made the neck so frightening wasn’t the cool looking tattoo covering at least 75% of it but the huge head that sat upon it. More specifically the face. It had menace and screamed stay away. I noticed none of that until I spoke to him. Curiosity killed the Mat.

Why have you that pendant sir? 
My high pitched nasal tones must have startled him as before that point in time I did not exist. To him I was an apparition hence his surprised look. He didn’t take long to recover.


That was his reply, it wasn’t said in a friendly tone like my simple innocent curious question, it was barked in annoyance. The bass in his voice reverberated around my entire body. If I hadn’t just been, some wee would have leaked out.

Why was I always so nosey? Why not just leave it be? Or why not start with a leading question? Where did you get that amazing Gold Guillotine Pendant? Once I’d won him over with flattery I could then counter with why. 
So many questions but the horse had already bolted and the words had left my stupid mouth and had landed into the cereal bowl like ears on the biggest head I think I’d ever witnessed.

It was at that point, when he looked at me with menace and anger that I started to think what the charm around the scary tattooed neck could mean. 
Was it a cigar cutter? No it wasn’t big enough. What else could it be? 
Why would a man who I didn’t notice apart from his gold jewellery have a Guillotine, the best ever invention for removing human heads hung around his tattooed neck? Was it a boast that even that couldn’t remove his noggin from its mount?

My brain reached the conclusion that he’d have to be a murderer for a minor drugs cartel and this was the device of choice used to cut up body parts. He had a Guillotine in every port and had disposed of more bodies than the Co-op. It was now so obvious to me and I was very annoyingly interrupting his dinner. 

I then started to question myself. If that was the case and he was a cartels cleaner then why was he sitting next to me in a 3 star all-inclusive hotel in the Canary Islands? Netflix Boxsets had taught me that Narcotics was a good business. It paid well. So why was he here?

My girlfriend glared at me in anger. She had told me to leave it which made me want to know even more. At times proving a loved one wrong has a certain sort of pleasure. This was not one of those times. This was the time where if I survived, for the first ten times of hearing the “I Told You So” comment from her, I would not be annoyed. 

Was he on the run? Would I be caught in a crossfire shootout and die abroad? Did I tick the correct insurance box and pay for my dead body to be shipped home? I’d heard it was expensive to transfer a dead body in a plane. Why was that? Is it because it takes up more room than a live one? Can’t you stack more in if they are laying down and don’t need to be woken up and told about the amazing offers available today with their exclusive scratch cards?

OK imagination. Hold on your running away with yourself.

He was with a woman and a child so he couldn’t be all bad. They looked friendly. The kid didn’t have a mobile phone or tablet at the hotel dining table so he must be a fairly good parent as every other child there was engrossed in little LCD screens. I longed to be a child who could sit at the table with the world wide web at my fingertips rather than the silence of my family.

He looked at me. I looked at him. He carried on looking at me and I bottled it. The words Sorry to interrupt left my cowards mouth and I backed away to my table. He spoke to his wife, I could still feel the heavy bass of his voice touching one of my souls which was twitching.

I never saw him again and I still don’t know why would you wear a guillotine necklace. I do know that I should just keep my mouth shut and mind my own business because my girlfriend told me so.

Picture: My friends children dress me up in their fancy dress. They think they are torturing me but I just like clothes that fit.

Week 62: I’m Now A Cat Burglar

Friday, 8 March 2019

Reading time 2 minutes 54 seconds

Time spent with Cats is never wasted – Sigmund Freud.

World peace would be nice but I’d settle for a dog. 

This canine want led me to steal a cat. I’m unsure if that’s kidnap or catnap. I say stole, but in my mind I rescued her like a damsel in distress only to find out 12 months later I was played by folk far smarter than me.

I’ve never liked our feline friends, mainly because they are not dogs. Our canine friends on the other hand are caring, loyal, loving and a potentially great food source come the Zombie apocalypse. 

As a child we had a dog who I loved so much I’d eat Pedigree chum with her. To this day dog food still makes me feel hungry and loving.

My dad was told to keep our dog in doors every mating season and his reply was always the same, she won’t do anything, she’s a good girl. And she never did. 
I’d never heard him say the same about me…………… or my sister.

When I moved into my house I had to let a cat into my affections . I had no choice, she was there before me. I liked her as we had similar taste in TV programmes and only occasionally disagreed.

There was to be no more cats. We were getting a dog as soon as this one died, and then I went to the pub with an old school friend. Big mistake.
They ended up living around the corner from me and once they found this out her relocation plans started. 

We consumed a lot of booze that night, our excuse being it’s Friday. 

My pal mentioned getting her cat put to sleep as they couldn’t find a home for it. I understood this to be murder and I became enraged. 
How dare they do this I shouted. My Mrs who was with us laughed at my anger as did my friend. I apparently can’t do angry without looking very silly. I must have looked preposterous as I was fuming.

People who went to our school didn’t grow up as murderers. 
Thieves, worlds best snooker players, sure no problem, but Filicide? We were better than that. It’s just not how we behaved in our east London comprehensive. 
Our rivals at Forest school on the other hand were more the murdering type. I’ll never understand why we didn’t like our private school, privileged neighbours who were better educated and richer than what we was. My school pal had changed over the last 30 years, or maybe she just hid her murdering side well during double English.

I will not permit you to murder this cat, I proclaimed. Drink was spat over me as both women laughed again. Why were they laughing? I was asked in a very east London way what was I going to do about it. Well I’m not going to let you commit murder because it’s inconvenient. 
I’ll be over tomorrow and pick it up. 

My girlfriend asked about the plans to get a dog. We’ll discuss that after I’ve saved this poor creature.

We left the pub so I could sleep and sober up. The next day still fairly angry I drove over before a heinous act was committed. I wasn’t just saving an animal but my friend as well.

The cat was crying as I arrived. I picked her up put her in the cat box, the same way you put a condom on an elephant, carefully and with a few friends to help. 
She looked scared probably because she didn’t know what liberation looked like. I was a hero. I should be wearing a cape.

When I got her home my Mrs started laughing. She was weird that one.

The cat settled in. The other cat wasn’t happy but we adjusted and made it work. We are very adaptable. Our new Cat never liked me and would always run away. I was told she had a very soft coat.

12 months passed and my old school pal popped in one day. She told us how lovely everything was and wanted to see the cat, who did the right thing and ignored her. There were now two humans in the room she hated, but she misunderstood me, I was her saviour.

I mentioned that I was still shocked at her attitude over filicide and her and my Mrs started laughing like the night in the pub. 
We weren’t’ going to kill her you buffoon. We just needed you to find a reason to take her as your Mrs wanted another cat.

Me and the cat stared at my girlfriend? What? You engineered a conversation to get a cat?

I’d been played, our cat looked as hurt as me. 
The expression from this animal (my cat not my Mrs or friend) was incredible. We then had a moment where she told me with a simple look from her feline face that even though I mentioned in the car that I was saving her from a fate worse than death by not letting her move to Oxfordshire she didn’t know I was saving her from murder. Maybe mr . little guy you are the hero of my tale. It was a very intense look that conveyed a lot of information. 

We’ve been friends ever since, me and the cat that is. I’ve not seen my school chum and I’m very wary of my Mrs.

I’ve also yet to get a dog as the cats are still very much alive. I guess if I want that “sorted” I could ask an old mate and my girlfriend. 

This weeks photo is how I was perceived by a very talented artist I know from 5 years ago. I wonder how he’d see me now ?

Week 61: How We Resolved Conflicts In The 70’s

Friday, 1 March 2019

Reading time 02 minutes 20 seconds

The aim of argument or of discussion, should not be victory but progress – Joseph Joubert

Having the answers within the palm of your hand to almost any question is such a leap forward for humanity that we’ll be feeling the benefits for the rest of our existence, which according to my doomsayer mates is about 3 weeks. 

Computing has bought our society numerous benefits, but just like the weird name of the street near me there is a Downside.  
Jobs are disappearing and being replaced by the machines. The ones I believe deserve a mention as technology tarmacs its way through our lives are our almost forgotten heroes, the amazing Capital Radio switchboard operators. 

My Dad and step mum loved a tipple or two or when the mood took, maybe even a cheeky third. They would drink and talk either on their own or with friends. Looking back on my childhood it seems that this is all they did, well that and tell us off. They could not agree on anything apart from the colour of the wine. Red. 

I always believed they were arguing when they were drinking but I’ve since learnt from living with drinking partners of my own that they were sparing with one another like boxers but on intellectual matters. 

There would be the occasional low blow and sadly no mouth guards to stop the nonsense that would leave their cake holes. There was never any malice, it was just lively discourse. From the outside looking in it may have looked like world war 3 but from the inside it was better than the three Television channels available.

My step mum was very liberal minded, she left her homeland of South Africa and her attitude was one of tolerance, inclusivity, love and cuddles. She read constantly, would study encyclopaedias and could complete a crossword quicker than anyone I knew. Which was not many people. 
My dad was a painter, of vans. 

Their nightly discussions would always reach the same crescendo as they would disagree on a point. If the Pears encyclopaedia, the book version of Wikipedia couldn’t answer and prove which one was correct then a shout would go out. 


My sister and I are still none the wiser why our names were always pluralised but they are even in our recent birthday cards. Maybe on the count of seeing two of us through the drink?

“Matthews phone Capital Radio and ask them to prove I’m right” This was a regular occurrence.

Before the internet that was the only route to the final bit of missing knowledge. If you were unaware of a fact and your annoying friend who had an answer for everything was challenged then that was the equivalent of googling something. 
They were a talking search engine and were on hand 24 hours a day.The biggest disagreement was about the area The Elephant and Castle. My dad riled my step mum so much that she refused to finish the tale and would not divulge its secret to him for the next 20 years. She sadly died with that knowledge which should have taught me the importance of not interrupting. It didn’t. I only learnt how to be stubborn.

I was telling this tale to my sister who said on more than one occasion she had to phone to find out the origin of the Gypsy Kings. 

The incident I still recall is about the man my dad resembled. The late great Queen front man Freddie Mercury. The disagreement was his birthplace. This sprang up after 3 bottles of wine which in normal human time is about 90 minutes. He was either from England or India. He had to be English with teeth like that was one argument.  


I dutifully phoned Capital radio as I had many times. Weirdly enough back then we all remembered phone numbers as speed dial was yet to be invented. As always those amazing talented people had an immediate answer. I’ve always wondered how they did it.

Freddie was from Zanzibar I reported back. They then argued as to the where the bleeding hells that was, as I fell back to sleep.

We should have enquired as to why our names were pluralised or about The Elephant and Castle. Oh well, I guess now we’ll never know.

Good on you Capital Radio, lest we forget.

Picture: Me and the funniest bloke I’ve ever known. Is This is how Freddie would look now?