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Trick or treat October 31, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Single London.
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Somehow, in the next three hours, I’ve got to muster the energy to go into London for aperitifs at Baglioni. The engagement party is upon us and I’m going to stagger towards it with good cheer having slightly overdone myself at Village East last night. That I’m typing this while still in bed as we approach 3pm is not a good sign as shirts need to be washed and ironed and I need to be able to go outside without feeling the urge to burst into tears.

Wiggy’s fiancee is a big noise at Agent Provocateur. Worryingly, she informed me that I am being strategically placed at dinner next to a single colleague who is ‘hot, but crazy’.

Lets stop right there. There was a time, actually most of my adult life, where I let ‘hot’ override ‘crazy’ and paid the consequences, charging into situations with open arms and flowers not realising I am rushing into relationship equivalents of the Somme. It’s not that long after the last one and I am still having flashbacks. It dangerous to even think about a particular evening in Cordoba without having to lie down in a darkened room and listen to whale music.

Alarm bells instantly rang. Why, of all the almost infinite number of adjectives, to choose from should ‘crazy’ form 50% of the selling point? It’s not quite as bad as the ubiquitous ‘bubbly’ which can be instantly translated as ‘fat and insecure’, but I’m still not getting anywhere near involved. The arts, wine and mental illness is no foundation for relationships, weekends away or one’s own sanity and I’m only now learning not to repeat my mistakes exactly.

In fact, I’m considering forming a survivors group for men who are suffering from hot but crazy PTSD. You can see them all over town walking round with a haunted look on their own, usually heading towards a bar, suspicious of anyone being nice to them wondering what lurks beneath. They’ve been to a place where nothing quite added up, the world would fall in if everything ceased to be perfect for a split second and their movements and actions placed under a Stasi like scrutiny. Readjusting to reality is a challenge and we should perhaps petition for hot but crazies to wear a badge – maybe they do already and it’s invariably Prada.

Venturing downstairs mid-blog for water, I saw the last two exes had both texted me overnight. One to remind me that it would’ve been our anniversary. The last one to say she’d met someone wonderful but would be bored today. In fact, I’m well aware that tomorrow it’ll also be a year since the latter and I embarked on that particular odyssey. That’s two anniversaries this weekend with hot but crazies and another one is being revved up for this evening even as I type.

I’m the antithesis of a superstitious person and an advocate of the Richard Dawkins school of rational thought, so it hadn’t dawned on me until now that I seem to embark on relationships around Halloween. Maybe that’s when HBC’s surface and pick off low hanging fruit such as myself.

I’m seriously considering not going out tonight. Baglioni, Whisky Mist and London is going to be full of them. There is only one known protection and that is to say you are poor and pretend to be from the Midlands. This is possibly why, on the surface at least, Brummie men seem quite cheery and contented. If only they knew.


Destiny’s Child October 29, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, Friends, In the news, Media.
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There’s a headline the papers missed covering the news that Sagittarians are more likely to be child stars due to their star sign.

A lot of right-minded people whose opinions I’d normally respect would dismiss astrology as having absolutely no value.  I disagree. For this PR creative, it’s the third time it has got me out of the shit when there’s absolutely no budget  to bump up client coverage and the eyes of expectancy are upon you.

Four pieces of national news coverage, all weighty, and even an endorsement of the ‘findings’ from the resident Daily Mail astronomer. Which says all you need to know about the thorough, academic rigour of astronomy.

I was tremendously flattered that Dan Glover of Mischief PR, who I know reads this blog, correctly guessed this was a Mark Perkins story upon reading it splashed across the morning papers. It had all the usual hallmarks: desperation, artistic license, a sole reliance on Wikipedia and as many celebrities who can be thrown into a press release as possible.

One hundred to be precise –  some of whom not even their own parents could say why they were famous – as it got a bit desperate to find 100 child stars toward the end. Needing numbers we were very nearly on the verge of putting Madeline McCann in which, in retrospect, would’ve increased our chances of getting in the Daily Express.

Were people actually talking about the story? I hear Johnny Vaughan was talking about it, but that’s hardly an endorsement. Johnny Vaughan hasn’t said anything intelligent thing since he woke up in a cold sweat about a dozen years ago and mouthed the words ‘Even I hate myself’ before going back to sleep and his reality resumed as normal .

Agencies have their evaluation systems and I have mine. He’s a publican called Lee and is one of my best and most trusted friends. He could recite the story perfectly and I consider that impressive as he once thought Shakespeare wrote Oliver Twist. When Lee accompanied recently me to a contemporary furniture shop he managed to openly mistake, in the presence of aloof shop assistant, the nest of tables I was looking at for a chair  (and even then he refused to back down, maintaining they still could be sat on – prompting the withering response ‘So could a fucking cactus’).

So yesterday was a good one. The papers got an excuse to run pics of Britney, Christina, Miley and Scarlett; Lee and millions like him got to look at them over his cornflakes and the shit sword of Damocles, for a brief moment of time, deigned not to dangle over my head.

And I thanked my lucky stars.


Even Wiggy October 24, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Single London.
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There’s something wonderful about Friday nights in London.  I think the hours between 5pm and midnight are almost certainly the favourite of the week because there is the possibility of not quite knowing the course the evening may take, where exactly one may end up and with whom.

Saturdays don’t cut it in the same manner, there’s too much preparation involved and with that can only come anti-climax- usually, in my case anyway, tinged with Queens Park Rangers doing something unfeasibly idiotic to concede a last-minute equaliser.

People have too long to get comfy and settle in on a Saturday, but to charge out of an office into the open arms of a cocktail list and rummage through the litter of the week with good company ticks all my boxes.

For those of us who work in the media and don’t have a wife with a rolling pin waiting for us at the door, Friday is a chance to let loose and live the cliche. Village East on Bermondsey Street is a good place to end any week that has been coloured by auditioning models in bikinis singing ‘Like a Virgin’;  a personal trainer gone AWOL following a desertion by his fiancee (on several occasions I’ve bolted out of the gym halfway through one of his sessions so I know where she’s coming from), and builders not returning phone calls about where I can plug a phone in Wisley House.

Yet, come Saturday morning why is there some council tithead with a high-power headge strimmer outside to at 8.15am? In October. Last week, if I thought at least I’d escaped the suburban gardeners and Neighbourhood Watch, I was woken at 9am by my friend, Wiggy who’d driven unannounced from Clapham to personally deliver the invite to his engagement party and drop in for coffee.

It’s not only a shock to be woken at 9a.m by a camp postman driving a BMW convertible with a TV in the dashboard (‘I bought if off Rod Stewart’s tailor!’) but the idea that this dilettante is settling down.

He used to prance around Clapham with verve and nerve going up to pretty girls, declaring that he simply had to tell them they were ‘the most beautiful girl he had ever seen’, hand over his business card and then scuttle off to a darkened corner having laid the bait for a phone call in the week. It was like watching a crustacean at work in an Attenborough documentary.

Remarkably this method kept him in a line of very attractive girls for over a decade (it was, of course, a numbers game and on many a time I felt a warm glow of satisfaction as a woman with her instincts properly switched on told him to ‘Fuck off!’). Though he either got bored in a couple of weeks or they easily sussed him out having been molested by a man who couldn’t remember who they were, I can’t recall him ever referring to his latest squeeze by their actual name – more often a ‘tag’ that usually revealed his lack of imagination so among others there was Polish bird, Selfridges (she worked on the cosmetics department at Selfridges) and Harrods (correct, the cosmetics department of Harrods).

I recall attending a party with him at a bar on the Kings Road in the company of his latest squeeze, Harpers. She was a fashion writer for Harpers and Queen. Come to think of it, that could best describe my tag for them as a couple. The evening was a disaster on all fronts.

Arriving at Harper’s Kennington house where I’d been invited for supper, I immediately sussed why I was there. As was invariably the case I realised I’d been drafted in only because the latest girlfriend had some lonely, frumpy friend with a crooked smile that needed an debonair, single man to escort them and the best he could muster was myself. The number of times he did that to me. The one on that night was the daughter of Lord and Lady so and so and was built like a stateley home.

As she played footsie with me under the table, I flashed one of those ‘You fucker!’ glances at him because, yet again, I’d been sold down the river and pimped out so he could get in someone else’s good books. And so off we went to the party for these friends of Harpers.

Wiggy and I knew absolutely no one there and it transpired we were the only males in the room who were not officers in the guards. As a pair of  men who were always more likely to end up in a sandpit rather than Sandhurst,  our lack of social standing was all too readily exposed and we did not improve matters by dropping a pair of Mitsis and heading off to the bar.

Harpers had been cheerily waltzing about, telling people about the dashing, romantic young broker who’d stolen her heart by appearing out of nowhere and telling   her she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever etc etc and pointing over to the grinning idiot swaying next to me.

In retrospect, mingling was a mistake. Many men, when placed in certain environments and under the influence, are creatures of habit and a farce of nature. As far as Wiggy now knew he was in a bar (check), full of women (check) and one could only watch in awe as he went into autopilot and approached the nearest pretty girl and told her she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen and handed over his card.

Not only was she Harpers best friend, who’d heard about this patter just minutes before, but Harpers was stood next to her. Both too shocked to slap him, they were still stood there with mouths agape as Wiggy returned to the bar content with another good job done. Suffice to say it was only a matter of seconds before his evening unraveled spectacularly.

The email he forwarded from Harpers informing him his services were no longer required is still fresh in the memory. It opened with the line ‘Do you practice at being useless or was it something they taught you at school?’ and then followed a tirade questioning every facet of his poor character and psychological flaws that was brutal, damning, beautifully written and completely accurate.

Everyone who read it agreed entirely with her assessment and one or two speculated whether she had gone far enough. Afterall, she only had a glimpse of the brushwork, God knows what  she’d have written if she could’ve seen whole canvas.

So the reality of his engagement sunk in with last Saturday morning’s hangover as he handed me a greetings card sized invite. It’s all drinks at the Baglioni, dinner at The market Tavern and a party at Whisky Mist, with a ‘Hello!’ style portrait shot of a glamourous looking French girl, full of the flush, and him stood there grinning manically in a suit in a garden setting. Look very carefully and I swear you can just spot a bead of sweat on his brow.

This all has her imprint all over it. If left to him there wouldn’t be an engagement, let alone a party. She has him well drilled and he knows his place, though anyone looking for a portent will see the party celebrating their engagement is on Halloween.

The women of Clapham should, if they had any sense of civic decency, give her a medal. Last month she was the other side of the world on business for a week and he was too scared to go out. When I spoke to him, he was spending his third consecutive night indoors watching Sex and the City. And he was happy.

So this is a grave development as it just gives my parents more ammunition. Even Wiggy. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by my mother that of my peer group I am now the only one not to have ‘settled down’ (a phrase that is peculiar to women and parents). Most of them did it years ago and have started producing offspring left, right and centre. Even worse, they are making a good hash of it so I can’t point my parents in the direction of a traumatic divorce or three.

It’s not exactly like I’m running at harem here either. The only thing I’ve woken next to in bed in Wisley House was an empty champagne bottle. That was very nearly three weeks ago and it still hasn’t returned my calls.

It’s in the can October 22, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, West Byfleet.
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Across the kitchens of England this morning people turned to coffee, muesli and Magic FM to ease themselves into the day.  Not here.  A nailed on way way to kickstart the senses after five minutes lurching around Wisley House in a disheveled daze is to sit down, check email, take a bleary eyed swig from the nearest half-full can of coke and gag on the fag butt surreptitiously floating inside it.

I wonder if this particular scene was repeated in other homes this morning? I doubt it. A crack den in Toxteth, perhaps. Certainly this isn’t the scene of hi-tech stylish, domesticity as sold to me in the Poggenpohl brochure where people gleamed almost in tune with their kitchen surfaces. Even to type, the laptop screen and keyboard had to be cleared of the detritus of this inglorious start.

From here the day can only go downhill.

The wheelie bin of fortune October 19, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Suburbia, West Byfleet.
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After many years years of artistic and cultural absorption, inelegant inebriation, nervous energy, confident exhaustion, endearingly unstable women, own goals, near misses, the occasional blinder, wretched luck and amazing fortune, of prancing around the world with a sense of unfettered possibility and unjustified optimism, after all that, there was a question branded across my furrowed brow:

How on earth did I end up at a Neighbourhood Watch barbecue in West Byfleet listening, with all the conviction I could muster, to a stranger on the burning issue of Woking Council’s wheelie bin rota?

It was always going to be against the odds that I’d blossom at the occasion. For starters, how do you explain consumer PR to a 62 year old accountant? It isn’t even worth saying you recently sent a mirrorball  into space because as you begin to explain in detail ‘why’ one deemed it necessary and reasonable to send into a mirrorball in space, the bafflement only increases. Push it further for outright hostility.

My cause was not helped being 35, single, living alone and revealing I enjoyed cooking. That prompted a number of questions regarding my  lifestyle (‘Do you like rugby?’ ) that no doubt left them to conclude I was quite clearly ‘one of them’.

An afternoon of unrestricted chardonnany, sausage and complaints about the rabble from Addlestone is normally a surefire winner in these parts, but as a person for whom golf patois does not come as easily as an Iggy Pop lyric, I was in very unfamiliar company and, in true News of the World fashion made my excuses and left back to the bolthole of Wisley House, where I had just moved to set up a commune for one.

That happened over a month ago. Yet, the answer to the question of how it came to pass that I found myself – for all Iife’s formative times, incidents and interactions – at a Neighbourhood Watch barbecue, feigning indignation at the squirrel population, and what follows seems an interesting premise, certainly a starting point, to write about.

And so it begins…