So, my flatmate Martin has been on holiday, in Florence and his old family haunt Prague. When I picked him up from the station last night, he looked to be in much better spirits than when he left, which is, I’m told, rather the point of a holiday.

Like most holiday returnees, his bags bulged. Unlike most, his bags bulged with Czech packet soups. Curious.

Glasgow Central station. Sign one:

‘West Cornwall Pasty Company.’

Thought One: Isn’t ‘West Cornwall’ a synonym for ‘North Atlantic’?

Sign two, in large metal letters above a franchise:

‘Tastty!’

Thought two: Hell, I’d be annoyed by that.

I winced. I’d just been asked what I knew about installing apps on Windows. Undeterred by my reply, my colleague continued, waving some printouts at me.

“Oh, I see,” I muttered, “So your MSIEXEC.EXE thingy is furballed. Is it cross-linked with… er… RUNDLL32 dot … something?”

“Yes!’ She exclaimed, excitedly, “That’s exactly what Dell support told me! I have to reinstall something…”

“Reinstall the install shield installer install?” I offered.

“That’s it! You know the problem!”

“No. I’m making this up. I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”

She looked crushed. “But…” she began.

“This is exactly why I can’t be arsed with Windows. Sorry, but I’ve never managed to solve this sort of thing, and I gave up trying years ago. It sounds like they’re suggesting the right sort of approach, but since I’ve no idea what…” I consult the print-outs “…squibblefumblurg dot coffig does, nor where it should go, nor indeed where it might come from, I really don’t know what I can do to help.”

Sorry, Helen. I’m not trying to be smug, I just genuinely don’t know. I can cut video, build dynamic websites, do half-decent typography and composite photographs. I can rip and splice audio, collate hundreds of news feeds, publish my diary, and network with anything else. I can compile database servers, search a hundred thousand files for the word ‘crocodile,’ and burn DVDs. I can do all of that without knowing a damn thing about troubleshooting Windows.

The smell of freshly-sawn MDF tangs at my nose as I ascend the staircase, emerging into some weird minimalist white view of hell. It’s a pleasant enough space, but I now know that the ‘Ikea chic’ of the catalogue is far more carefully-considered than one might expect. This is simply empty. The immaculately-quoiffed sales exec executes a commendable impression of someone who isn’t turning her nose up at me, and asks what sort of price I’m looking at.

“Well,” I bluster, “around here, I guess a two-bedroom flat is around a hundred thousand. So these places are – what – double that sort of money?”

She smiles graciously, evidently relieved that her judgement is sound and she read me right. “More like double that.”

Oh. P’raps not, then.

I nose around for a few minutes, grateful the decor is so clinically vile, before escaping through the MDF gauntlet.

The exchange“, in case you were wondering, not that there’s any information there.

Fixing up someone else’s DTP is one thing… pulling an all-nighter doing it is quite another. Still, 27 programme proposal documents done (plus title pages), and the folder is in the post looking a damn sight better than its equivalent of last year. But still – I’m freelance – shouldn’t I be able to invoice for this shit? [sigh]