Kensington, I remember the day starting with that immortal word. The boss saying we needed to go to Kensington, London Town.
I had just started in the new job. I was IT literate, done my time in the trenches as a Web IT Support guy. Some Scottish raiders bought out the previous on-line company I had worked for, who had virtually on their own invented the ‘On-Line Admin Fee’. So I was offered a move, North to Alaska, or the redundancy. I took the money. I managed to get a job as a Project Manager with a nearby recruitment company who wanted to move into big time web-hosting.
My old company were the masters of web hosting hyperbole. One of our most famous internet magazine ads listed everything as free, except the price. Free hosting, Free web space, free domain name, free email address, all of which begged the question; if everything was free, just exactly what was the punters paying for?
However, all that was behind me as I drove with the boss toward Kensington to do a very simple IT job. He’d informed me when I arrived on my first day to start my project of managing his web-hosting Empire, one of his financial backers, a Russian billionaire’s daughter, had just bought a printer. I gave him my most, ‘well isn’t that just amazing’, quizzical look.
“Yes,” he said. It seemed the daughter wanted to get this printer connected up to her PC.
“Can you do it?”
“Yes,” I said in my most IT expert convincing way, “Connect a printer to a PC, no problemo.”
“It’s in Kensington,” he said as an afterthought. As we were based in Surrey, it was a bit of a drive.
We left and he drove like Niki Lauda, to London. On the way he added that the daughter also wanted the PC & printer connected up to her Internet network. Again I said, “No problem,” and thought to myself, “How hard can it be?”
This was back in the dark ages before Fibre and High Speed Broadband and Fire Breathing Dragons & Westeros, but we had some OK connections back in the day. I thought, “Kensington is in high speed Londonium.” Not a problem then.
The first thing that struck me about Kensington was its village-ness. It felt like a small town inside a very big city. I fully expected to see Paddington Bear, wandering around eating marmalade.
The boss parked his car outside this upmarket antique shop, and said, “Were here.”
“The daughters shop,” said the boss pointing at the antique sign, as we went through some gates at the side and went up to the second floor.
The apartment was big and spacious and very expensive, even back then. The exact type of place you would expect a Russian billionaire’s daughter to live. She was all friendly and nice and proceeded to make coffee for us, as she bitched about her BT connection.
“Get in line.”
I clutched onto my small screwdrivers like small lucky totems. My boss was all the business, making the big impression with his Russian billionaire backer’s daughter.
“My man here, will fix everything,” nodding at me. I nodded back.
“I’m driving back to the job now. How long will you be?”
I just said I’d get the train, when I finished.
He left. I drank my coffee and waited for an opportunity, to break into her constant yapping and bitching about ‘Life The Universe and BT.’ I could see she had a Laptop. Good. I spotted the BT router in the corner. Good. I was looking around for the printer when she suddenly stopped and headed for the door.
She turned and said, “OK, let’s go to the shop.”
Down we went and entered this Antique shop full of upper-class junk. One lump of driftwood. Price tag £250. Some old geezer’s clock, £300. Chipped Chinese plates, £20 each. A mouse coloured scarf, wrapped around a crystal skull. The Scarf £50, the Skull, priceless. Well, I couldn’t see a tag. In the corner was a Hewlett-Packard box with the legend, ‘HP Printer’ plastered all over it. I thought, “Check.” On her desk was her PC, only it wasn’t a PC it was an iMac.
The blood slowly drained from my face as I could see a large P45 coming my way.
I knew about iMacs in a sort of galloping by, on a horse, sort of way. My last company had one, an eye-catching toy we had at the entrance to our office to amuse the visitors. They were colourful and looked like glowing plastic jellyfish. I used to pick up my son from school and sit him in front of it. He played some silly online games, while we did the real work on Windows & Linux machines.
The Russian billionaires daughter was pulling up her invoices and pointing at them.
“I need to get it connected so I can print them off.”
“Yes,” I said again, taking a deep breath, “Should be no problem at all.”
“When you’ve done that, I want to be connected to the apartment. The shop is online. I want to use the same Internet connection.”
“Connected?” I said very slowly.
“Yes connected to the Internet. From upstairs.”
“Jazus,” I thought, the walls must be four foot thick in these old houses. There is no way in hell to connect her apartment with this shop.
“Yea, I said, should be no problem there.” She started busying herself around the shop while I unpacked the Printer. I floundered around on the iMac, looking for something, anything that looked like the windows, ‘Add a Printer.’
“Everything OK?” she tossed of, every now and again. Looking over at me as I sat like a knob and tried to figure out how the fuck I was going to get this done.
“Couldn’t be better,” I said, “Easy-peasy.” Oh! how we larfed, I thought.
Inside the HP Printer box I found the Magic Install disc. Beautiful, I thought. HP have this covered. I hook up the printer and run the Disc. And hey presto, we’ll have a working printer. I started the disk and HP went to work. What was I worried about? The Russian billionaire’s daughter will be happy. The Russian billionaire will be happy. My boss will be happy, happy days all around. The install finished and I was left looking at a HP logo on the screen. The printer was connected. All I needed was to print out one of her invoices. I moved around the screen. But couldn’t find any iMac folders.
It all looked very Windows to me. I felt a, “John McEnroe, You cannot be serious!!!” coming on, inside my exploding head.
The daughter was looking very strangely at me. “Are you OK?” I looked at her with what can only be described as panic buttons for eyes.
“Yes, I’m fine,” I lied laughingly.
“Is everything OK? No it’s not ‘Fucking OK.” I’ve just managed to install a Windows OS onto an iMac. Your fucking invoices for your shitty company have totally disappeared and I do not know how to get them fucking back, if ever. I am now, at this point in time, without question, out of a, fucking job. Or worse, I’ll get tossed out of a helicopter in a black bag, somewhere over the cold North Sea. Daddy MacMafia, I was convinced, will not be too pleased.
“Everything is grand. No problems. Printer is hooked up. I just need to do some tweaking. To get it to print correctly.” With that she picked up her bag and left, saying she’d be back in about an hour.
I felt like crying. Life was so unfair. Why me? Why fucking me. Of all the gin joints in all the world, she’d have to have a fucking iMac?
The banging on the door brought me rudely back to the future as a couple of ‘Johnny foreign’ tourists outside were trying to get in.
No help. I went over to the door and put my head to the glass. “Were closed.” No comprendre. I opened the door and was starting my spiel again, when they bundled passed me and started browsing. Defeated yet again, I let them and went back to fiddle with the iMac. I tried to uninstall the disc. No go. I tried to reinstall it. No way Jose.
I rebooted a few times and got zilch. Still on Windows. How! How did this happen? After cursing HP for allowing this to happen, a eureka moment. I discovered the iMac was still on the Net. Now it was time for ‘Harry Meets Sally’. “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!” It scared the bejazus out of the tourists but I didn’t care. “Google,” I said, “Mr Google, I’m back in the fucking game.” They were looking scared and fingering the Scarf and the Skull. I moved over to them.
“Buy, you want to buy?”
“Yes,” was their scared reply.
They produced a wad of cash and I took it all. £50 for the scarf and let’s say £100 for the skull. I wrote £150 on a piece of paper along with paid in full. They left shaken, but happy for a bargain.
I hurried back to the iMac and started some serious googling. After some false alarms and some dead ends I found what I was looking for. The sequence for booting the iMac, back to that ‘Peter Pan Never Never Land,’ that was Apple-World. I booted the iMac and held down the key sequence, Command X or some combination like that. It was a long time ago but I can still remember the relief at seeing all those crazy Apple loony-tunes icons, back where they should be.
Right on cue, in the door sweeps the billionaire’s daughter and comes straight over to me.
“I need to check on some invoices.”
I stood back and said, “Be my guest, and by the way, while you were out I managed to sell a scarf and a skull.”
She looked surprised at this. Then again, the whole antique shop in Kensington was probably a very expensive hobby or a Russian mafia front. I managed to get her printer, printing around 17:00 and then realised I’d missed lunch.
I never did convince her that the BT magic Wi-Fi Fairies, that ran the Internet, could not go through two floors of solid cement and hook up with her iMac. You can now send the BT fairies through the electric cables, but not back then, and so ended my trip to Kensington and the billionaire’s daughter.
Cover image courtesy of Jeremy Brooks via Flickr
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