Wednesday, September 24, 2003

"Do you want some more cheese? Wine? A cigarette? Go on, help yourself, have as much as you'd like..."
Am in France. Have at times assumed I am in Heaven. Got into Nantes early evening. Had short tour of town then had lovely French style dinner with Sis and Beau-Frere in their home. Next day, had lunch with Sis in town and was left alone to shop until I ran out of money. Ran out of money; stopped shopping. Had drinks. Went back to the flat. Had some cheese. Went out for drinks. Had more drinks. Met some French friends. Had more drinks. Went to restaurant for dinner. Ate smoked duck, foie gras, cheeeeeeeese and drank wine so rich and maddeningly fume-filled, I almost fell off my chair groaning with bliss. Then went to smoky bar and had more drinks. Had more drinks then things got blurry and got lost walking home at 3am - often in the wrong direction. Then took a boat and nursed our hangovers today by spending afternoon on the river and about to tuck into moules but unfortunately no frites and more yummy wine. Then more shopping tomorrow and going home, bidding a sad farewell to Sis and Beau-frere and the land of Everything I Love About Food, Fags and Booze. Am already upset. Must have more cheese to fend off glumness. And note to self: buy industrial size pot of wild boar pate and practice spreading it all over myself.

Goddamnit, I don't want to go home!

Saturday, September 20, 2003

And now it is Saturday night and I’m going to have to be up at literally the crack of dawn to catch my train to France; this time tomorrow, I shall be with my sister and my brother-in-law, enjoying French hospitality, fags, booze and dairy products. Woo! I shall come back bankrupt and no doubt still unemployed, but hey! It’ll be my third trip abroad this year so that’s no too bad and I shall update all you avid, salivating readers with my French adventures (if the five of you can wait that long).

My other sister has had a tattoo done for her 30th birthday. Gosh, I can’t wait to get older…

Thursday 18 Sept
Spent the day forcing myself through six more job applications in a rush to get them out before deadline and before I go abroad to the land of cheese and wine, then after a an aggressive emailing session at the library I came home and began to prepare dinner for our most honoured guest… Devukha! After scoffing down the food and three bottles of wine between four people, we had coffee and a whole bottle of Metaxa which I have never tried before but am pleased to say I know quite well now due to Devukha’s unstinting introduction to the beverage. Gosh, he does know his food and drink, and thanks for making the sauce for the chops – we would all still be in A&E having our stomachs pumped as it was the most puzzling bit of the recipe for me. Adding wine to the pan? How does that work? Wine is for drinking, you can’t heat it up and eat it in, like, food.

Wednesday 17 Sept
Forced myself to break from the schedule and set about making calls before ER to sort out various bills and… things. Then I lay down on the sofa and watched ER anyway. :: sigh :: I did manage to venture further than the cornershop to my bank where I changed my account to an ISA which is so tragically exciting for me right now, I can’t bring myself to go into it here, this blog, which I started to record my life as it unfolds in some bizarre fit of deluded self-love with the notion that I actually have something to report to the websurfing world and that there are people out there who give enough of a toss to read about it. Oh, how I hate being proved wrong… started and finished one more frickin’ job application and spent the rest of the evening making soup and drinking wine and mocking the adverts for Underworld. So there’s a war between vampires and werewolves? Like, is anyone surprised? They’ve never got on, not since the werewolves failed to get an invite to the vampires’ summer barbecue and parked in the vampires’ usual space at the shopping centre and then the vampires kidnapped the little werebabies and sucked them all drier than stale Weetabix. There’s been bad blood between them ever since. Bad blood, get it?
Oh, forget it…
Monday 15 Sept
Went to my dance class and surprised myself at being quite able to keep up with it all and not dying at any point during the physical exertion. I was actually hoping things would go faster and the sequences get more complex by halfway through the session so it’s looking good in terms of keeping up with this. I still managed to forget left from right during one particular sequence and somehow nutted myself really hard at one point (while I was skulking at the back of the room so hopefully no one saw it happen) so I don’t think I’m ready to skip to the next level. :: checks bruise :: Hmm, no, not yet.

Sunday 14 Sept
Had a jolly day out by the sea with Former Flatmate A, having lunch, sipping cocktails, shopping, strolling along the seafront and stumbling across some sort of Hare Krishna jam session on the pebble beach, then more cocktails and a sore throat on the train home as a whole day of non-stop smoking, drinking and rabid gossiping started to take its toll. Despite trying every shop possible in the south of England, I failed to find the perfect pastry cutters. Went to bed feeling strangely unfulfilled

Saturday 13 Sept
Hungover. Oh, so very, very hungover. Bleurgh.

Friday 12 Sept
Had the worst job interview I’ve had since leaving full-time study. I was so clearly not right for the job, it was farcical to see through the interview at all but I was there, they had the questions in front of them and I had taken a seat already and it was just a case of red faces all round as we limped through the process, all present knowing full well I shouldn’t have been there. They still made me sit the fucking database test which tempted me in all sorts of ways to further ridicule this ridiculous morning but was too busy trying not to point around the office laughing at everything I saw. :: sigh :: Well, that’s one rejection letter I’m actually looking forward to receiving… Crawled home, still feeling humiliated and annoyed about wasting a large part of my day and started getting ready for the evening. And the evening was booked for…The Official Leaving Do. And fuck me if it wasn’t a big one…
So, with five people leaving all at the same time, and with the previous night’s clandestine meeting still very much on our minds, I met up with all my former work colleagues for a curry in Soho. Things started badly when I minced into the restaurant in my red high heels, feeling extremely buoyant and purged of all previous bad feelings towards the job and the company… and walked straight into one particularly distraught colleague who had taken one look at those present at the table and had refused to move from the doorway, claiming that there was “no way she was going to spend her Friday night with that horrible fat woman.” It took me and the Chilean all our collective strength to drag her to the table and then the other resignees turned up late so some quite blatantly divided and hostile small talk had to be made until the rest of the gang arrived and diffused the situation.
Despite the bad start, the meal was great and after the initial awkwardness we all had a fantastic time; there were a few moments of whispered discussion as we compared notes on the interviews of the night before but apart from that, it was all very jolly and amusing. We were each presented with an enormous bunch of flowers and a gift and some amusing “You’re Leaving!” cards which really surprised me as I wasn’t expecting anyone to actually remember my name by this point, having so successfully withdrawn from everything so early on… was genuinely touched and having let go of all my bad feelings quite successfully the night before, I was very, very pleased.
Had great moments walking through Soho to some Italian bar for more drinks afterwards as one colleague was constantly circling us like paparazzi, snapping pictures with an OTT camera and making us look like Z-list celebrities bigging it up unnecessarily. The Chilean had abandoned us by that point to help his friends’ band play somewhere in East London which was a shame because I know he would have loved swaggering through town with his own press invasion following him… his loss… A little old lady bolted out of a restaurant and demanded to have her picture taken with us, so convinced was she that we were famous… aww… drinking in the bar went from slightly awkward “gosh, what do we talk about now?” chit chat huddled around small tables to full on, shake your booty and fall over drunk slurring “I love you guys, keep in touch forever, okaaaaaay?” madness. I danced with everyone, over-enthusiastically making up dance steps to songs as unlikely as Delilah, That’s Amore and Here Comes the Hotstepper. Rolled out onto the Soho streets sometime between midnight and dawn and made drunken phonecalls to the Chilean, trying to convince him to join me in going for “one more drink somewhere around here” while he made the counter-suggestions that I join him for drinks “somewhere near where I am.” Since he had no idea where he was, and I had no idea how to get there from Soho, we called it quits and I said goodbye to everyone then lurched home clutching my flowers and trying not to cry or be sick in the cab. Went to bed grinning and feeling like I had a very good time getting closure on my year with this mad, bad and sad little company

Thursday 11 Sept
Spent the day making clandestine calls to my old work colleagues, trying to gauge exactly what the nature of our interviews that evening were to be about. As five of us had resigned at the same time, for a variety of reasons but the main one being collective outrage about our treatment by the woman at the top and the blatant lack of direction, focus and money in everything we tried to do, the board of trustees had noticed and were duly concerned. Hence the calls and arrangement to see us each individually for “exit interviews” to be conducted without knowledge of the CEO, to garner a clearer idea of exactly what had been going on in the daily routine.
Despite spending the whole day reassuring myself as I sat on the patio smoking and drinking coffee that this was my opportunity to tell the truth about how things had turned out in the last few months, I turned up at the Secret, Undisclosed Location in a terrible state, having tried to be clever and getting the bus instead of the tube which meant I ended up over half an hour’s walk away from the Secret, Undisclosed Location. I looked so harassed when I arrived, they had to unpack an electric fan for me and made me sit by it until I looked less like an angry Chinese tomato about to explode.
It was oddly upsetting to go over my experiences at the company and to have to describe the craziness of the year I’ve spent there; I went into the job at the same time as starting this blog and I remember being so incredibly excited about it all, I couldn’t stop babbling about it. And I’ve come a very, very long way from where I started – there’s no denying the fact that I have got a decent year’s worth of work experience in commercial, charitable, digital arts / media marketing and general admin. I’ve made some great friends who I hope to keep in touch with and remain friends with as long as possible, I’ve got all sorts of new skills and confidence and am lucky enough to command an okay wage for my age (it’s been great job searching and rejecting jobs below a certain salary – never imagined I’d be doing that at this point in my life)… it’s been a great time, doing events, making up my job as I went along and feeling like I was really carving out a position for myself within the team overall – there was no marketing department before I was offered a marketing position and there was just me, putting together whole systems and designing and overseeing a department, all by myself. So why have I left?
I tried to explain it to the trustees as best as I could without turning the interview into a CEO-bashing affair but try as I might to discuss the matter in a more general way, it really is because of her that I am going.
I don’t want to stay because work seems to have dried up and for marketing, there is nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to market. I don’t want to stay because the facilities were beginning to really get me down; it’s a horribly run down building and we seemed to be working in the grottiest rooms with continuously blocked drains, ant-infested kitchen area and permanently uncomfortable windowless office space. I don’t want to stay because everything I’ve tried to do in the last few months has fallen through again and again; I’ve analysed and investigated and explored all the reasons why I’ve constantly come up against dead ends and those dead ends are always her.So I have left.
And by the end of the interview, I felt really drained and upset that this job which I have really made my own, and this company which has so much potential and in an area so exciting and cool and all the prospects for myself, my colleagues and the people we work with has been ruined by the one at the top, who has disregarded our skills, our experience, our strengths and our enthusiasm and has basically driven us all away by her incompetence, her crazy, unfeasible and unachievable ideas, her total lack of respect and astoundingly unprofessional behaviour. I’m so sad to go, to have to leave my colleagues and the vibe we had between us and all the interesting, exciting stuff we got involved in working in this area of the arts, but I’m just starting out in the world of grown-up work and I’ve become so disillusioned and so fucked off with what’s happened in the last few months, I can’t stay. And I told them so in my interview and left feeling hollow and heartbroken.

I went straight to my parents’ place for dinner as My Favourite Auntie was over from Hong Kong for her annual visit and it was mumsy’s birthday so all the blue feelings of the interview were cunningly dissolved in poppa’s excellent crispy duck pancakes and multitude of other gut-bustingly good dishes. The birthday cake was wonderful (thanks Big Sis!) and I went home to Taxloss Towers feeling somewhat okay. :: sigh :: At least I had experienced closure and went to bed feeling as if I could really move on from the Job of Doom to do better next time I go for full-time employment. Like the kids in South Park, “I learned something today…”

Wednesday 10 Sept
In keeping with my new schedule, I got up in time for Little House on the Prairie and spent an hour imagining I had my own little wooden house full of blue patterned china and a really pressing need to make my own bread and darn socks. Found myself longing for the perfect pastry cutters and had to slap myself really hard to snap myself out of my domestic fantasies. After the obligatory viewing of ER, I got ready to start my long, tough day’s tasks which were: lunch with my parents and sister at a funny little Thai place Big Sis had discovered, then some shopping, then meeting Former Flatmate A for drinks, then back home for dinner with my Beloved. Oh, I don’t know how I survived this arduous, frantic day but somehow I did and have lived to tell the tale of it here, in my blog. My folks seemed to enjoy the Thai meal which was a good thing as they are notoriously sniffy about eating out – they’re always up for trying new things and very knowledgeable about international cuisine and dining out in London but more often than not, will be incredibly fussy and critical about what they trying. Not so today, probably because the stuff we were having was so similar to what we normally have at home, “with just a bit more hot stuff” croaked my dad, mopping his brow and delicately spitting out some whole chillies.
Seeing Former Flatmate A again was quite marvellous as I have missed her terribly and in keeping with a strange and slightly distasteful tradition of ours, we met under Eros in Piccadilly and exchanged some money (my deposit on the old flat, in fact) like rentboys negotiating a “job.” We drank gin and vodka in the ICA and chatted until we were breathless and promised to meet for a day by the sea that weekend. And I went skipping home through St James Park feeling enormously pleased with myself. Ahhhh.

Tuesday 9 Sept
More of the same but with even more luxuriating in my not-working status. I spent some time pondering what career I could take up that would allow me to continue in this vein as long as there is some thing good to watch on Channel Four first thing in the mornings.

Monday 8 Sept
Embarked on my new non-working schedule of getting up to watch Little House on the Prairie, then ER, then hanging around considering another cup of coffee then doing bugger all until the others come home. Had more fun than it sounds like; it’s been an absolute pleasure not getting the tube and then sitting at a desk all day. Whee!

Thursday 4 Sept
My penultimate day at the Job of Doom and I began to realise what I was going to be leaving behind: all the friends I’ve made here, all the systems and procedures I’ve designed, all the little quirks and rituals that come with every sort of office job. One particular ritual I was particularly keen to see through one last time and that was to sneak off for drinks with the Chilean without telling anyone else, something we always did at the beginning of the week. Not quite sure how this came about – possibly because if there was any more than just the two of us it would always escalate into some kind of OTT, liver, brain and reputation destroying all-night binge. But, come to think of it, that would often happen if it was just the two of us… so, hmmm, not quite sure how the ritual came about… :: scratches head and looks puzzled ::
Nonetheless, we went off for a drink and that turned into two and by the tenth gin and tonic for me and nth pint of…Whatever for him, it was clear it was going to be a long night. And so it was, and I had to crawl into the office in the same clothes with a rotten hangover the next day, trying not to look like I had been A Very Bad Girl and hoping against hope that I didn’t smell too bad. Had low-key “You’re Leaving!” drinks after work, an event that was poorly attended due to an Official Leaving Party scheduled for the following week and was grateful to slink home to welcome back August D from Amsterdam, pleased the madness of My First Job was at last over.

Tuesday 2 Sept
Skived off work, claiming my FUCKING MOSQUITO BITES were too inflamed and infected to allow me into the office. This was partly true as I had been bitten on my goddamn right eye which had actually prevented me from putting in my contact lenses or wear my glasses and had left me temporarily blind and therefore useless. However, somehow, despite my (exaggerated) bodily afflictions, I made it to a job interview and spent the whole hour there trying desperately to impress the panel and trying not to show how badly I wanted the job. I think I failed in both areas and in fact, later failed to get the job but :: sigh :: it’s not going to happen in the blink of an eye and though I have missed out on this really good position at a really great place with some very impressive people, something on the same scale will hopefully come up again. Pleasepleasepleaseplease let something like this come up again...

For a report on Amsterdam, I recommend going over to Taxloss and seeing the pictures of the cats Mishi and Minou who formed such a large part of our experience over there. All I have to add to the report is: Anne Frank house very, very good place to visit – very carefully planned and not at all morbid, not particularly political or accusatory and a very moving and genuinely informative experience for those who want to know what it must have been like for the Franks to live through those times and to live as they did, great to see the sister of August Dangerlove who really must come over to the UK to see us as we had a lot of fun together, FUCKING MOSQUITOES, I like the trams and cor, aren’t coffeeshops over there just great? Journey there and back as trouble-free as it could possibly be, in stark comparison to August D’s troubles but that had nothing to do with me. I hope.