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January 2008 - Start the Week

Can I really be the only one who would have preferred to have treated the last few days as completely normal and then had an extra week of holidaying at some time during the longer, warmer days of the summer?

The Australians have managed to get it right, haven't they?  Move Christmas to the middle of the summer where you can actually enjoy it properly.  I bet they didn't all sit around indoors on Christmas night taking it in strict turns to cough.

They'd have all been sat around the barbeque, out on the beach, taking it in strict turns to run out into the sea and grab a wave.  A far, far better arrangement than our one, I have to say.

Oh yes, madam, you've guessed right.  I'm sitting here putting fingers to keyboard for Comment in those depressing few days after Christmas has faded away, but before the delights of the New Year are quite upon us.

And, yes, madam, you've guessed right, I still haven't properly got rid of that horrible cold; it's just gone down on my chest, causing me to have to bid for my position in the coughing pecking order, whenever I'm sitting down with any other people.

Christmas night was a wonderful affair, with about five of us taking it in turns to drown out Mr Tarrant, who was asking the questions on the interactive Millionaire game which we were attempting to play in between bouts of throat clearing.

Still, at least the boys team won the million at the end; I said right from the start that Tegel airport was in Berlin.  It was just a pity that the million quid wasn't for real, it would have nearly paid for all the Christmas presents.

So here we are then, folks, Christmas is now out of the way and the delights of New Year's Eve are still to look forward to, as I place myself before my little screen to write this load of old nonsense.

Actually, if the somewhat decelerated rate at which I'm currently typing continues, then the delights of New Year's Eve are likely to turn into finishing this off and proof reading it, before watching it disappear up the telephone wire towards world-wide-spider-land.

Mind you, I suppose there could be worse ways of spending the last evening of the year.  At least preparing an edition of Comment could be vaguely described as being productive.

Have I ever complained on here about the bunching up of all our public holidays in this country?  I have?  Oh, well, I think I'm about to do it again.  Well, it is incredibly silly, isn't it?

We have four of the damn things in the spring, two for Easter, then the two in May.  Then the long break till the end of August for just the one.  Then another long break before three come along together again for Christmas and the New Year.

We get eight of the bloomin' things, so why not just have one every six-and-a-half weeks to even things out a bit throughout the year?

Our wonderfully generous government could even round it up to a nice, even, twelve holidays, then we could just take the first Monday of each month off.  Simple!

And another thing, whilst I'm being an old grumpy, if we had twelve regular holidays, one each month, then perhaps the novelty would wear off and just one or two people would find less of a need to let fireworks off on every single holiday evening, just to frighten poor old brown chap, leg at each corner, tail at the back.

So, anyway, dear viewers, a very happy new year and a warm welcome along to the first Nick Harvey's Comment of 2008.  We're celebrating our thirtieth year, this year, in case you've not read the small print elsewhere.

You'd think that after thirty years of practice, I'd be sufficiently prepared in advance to have a subject ready for every occasion, wouldn't you?  No way; it simply doesn't happen like that!  As I write this paragraph, I still haven't thought up a title for this month's epistle, to go up at the top of here and over on the index page.

I promise I'll get round to filling it in at some point before the final publication deadline, but right now I'm afraid I'm in one of my rambling modes, so anything could happen.

Mind you, from the floods of correspondence I've nearly received over the years, one or two of you have said that you prefer the rambling editions to those where there's a definite subject from start to finish.  That should make this particular edition a real winner in the popularity stakes!

So why, I want to know, couldn't I find a calendar for 2008 where the weeks all start on Sundays and run through to Saturdays?  The only offerings I could manage to lay my hands on in any of my local stationers' emporia were of the, stupid, start on Monday finish on Sunday, variety.

When you're as old and weary as Nick Harvey, you can't suddenly start having a calendar on your office wall where the Wednesdays aren't in the middle column.  It completely destroys your way of life.

You need to keep your Wednesdays in the middle column so you can avoid them for appointments of any kind.  That's very important, you know.  As a very senior executive in the food industry once said, in response to my father's offer of lunch on a Wednesday, "You can't have meetings on a Wednesday, it buggers up BOTH weekends".

So, having failed to find a Sunday to Saturday calendar in, what would be considered, the 'proper' outlets, both 'er indoors and myself started scouring all the lesser outlets, right down to humble market stalls.  For some strange reason, no joy whatsoever this year.

I was almost resigned to not having a calendar on the wall this year, a far better option than one where the Wednesdays are slightly to the left of centre, when I accidentally happened upon Mr William Gates' little web site for his Microsoft Office products.

Lo and behold, Mr Gates suddenly became my saviour.  Lurking between miscellaneous downloads for other strange and wonderful items of software, were a couple of calendars, one a Word document and one an Excel spreadsheet, but both in the format where you start the week on a Sunday and finish it on a Saturday.

Upon detailed inspection, the Excel spreadsheet version was a better bet size-of-numbers-wise, as I'm sure William would put it, for Nick Harvey's failing eyesight, so I clicked on the relevant little icons and downloaded my prize.

A quick whizz of the laser printer and a flurry of the stapler later and my wall is now adorned with my brand new, 2008 calendar, with the Wednesdays where they damn well ought to be, in the middle column.

All I need to do now is wrestle with the decision on whether to scribble things on it in pencil, as has always been the case in previous years, or to, possibly, take advantage of the technology and key the details into the spreadsheet, then reprint the page each time.

Decisions, decisions!  I'd better make a note to myself to work out which is the better option.  I know, I'll write a reminder on the calendar, January 16th looks like a pretty good day.

Somebody really ought to invent a proper, perpetual calendar to nail to your office wall.  One where all the birthdays carry themselves forward from year to year, but add one to the person's age each time, as they do it.

I hate that job, don't you?  It's usually in the middle of November, but far later this year, for reasons discussed a little way above, where you wade through this year's calendar or diary, filtering the one-off entries from the annual ones and carrying the latter forward to next year's edition, with all the necessary adjustments for age, as discussed immediately above.

I expect there's already a solution out there, if I bother to delve a little deeper into Microsoft's magical offerings.  "Other software suppliers are available", as they'd have to say on the BBC!

I gather it's all quite standard if you're happy to rely on one of these palm-top machines, or whatever they are, but it gets a tad more difficult when, like me, you want a proper sheet of paper or cardboard to nail to the wall in full view, even during those brief moments when all the technology's actually turned off.

Anyway, you need a proper view of the month ahead, so you can plan things properly.  It's no good having a task pop up on your desktop telling you it's somebody's sixtieth birthday today when you needed to have posted the card two days ago and bought the bloomin' present in the previous week.

That would be about as much use as getting home from spending Christmas with the family, down at the coast, and having a task pop up on your screen to say that you've got forty-eight hours to (1) think up a subject for Comment, (2) think up a title for same, (3) write the damn thing, (4) proof read it and check it, (5) colour the paragraphs prettily to annoy certain viewers and then (6) publish it.

No, it'll never catch on!  Or will it?  Well, I seem to have just completely failed on (1), practically succeeded on (3), and I've about half an hour left for (4) to (6), inclusive.  Oh, and I finally managed (2) as well.  Do you like it, madam?

Now, if I'm not to topple over into next year before completing (6), I'd better get my skates on, hadn't I?  More of this rubbish will appear at the beginning of February, so make sure you put a note on your calendar to join me then.

In the meantime, in between time, as somebody once said, keep healthy, or, at least, make sure you cough in turn.  Right, I'm off, where's me linctus?

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