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Blame it on the Culross January 28, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Friends, Single London.
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It was one of those mornings where one gets out of bed, immediately recalls what happened the night before and needs to lie down again. There is an inclination to blame an old school cocktail from the 1920’s called Culross. Look it up. It’s very good, certainly moreish but the cumulative effect of that is one’s female companion thinking it a perfectly reasonable idea to teach me how to do the Waltz in the bar of the achingly fashionable Soho restaurant Hix (go for the lemon sole with clams).

Naturally I was useless, again I blame the Culross, and it’s a good job the proprietor and chef Mark Hix (the man behind the food at both Scotts and The Ivy) had left sometime before this spectacle. Plus the partner of a colleague who happened to be there by coincidence. I felt relief when he came over to say goodnight. Even before careering into someone else’s table attempting the Cha-Cha there was the dawning awareness that the evening was going to head into a tailspin.

It all reinforces the conclusion that neither she nor I should be allowed out. Certainly not together. Far too combustible. I relayed the specifics of the evening, none of which I can share beyond that, to my friend Ed Wells. He’s given up being appalled, but instead simply asking ‘What now?’

After months of persuasion he has finally got round to going on Twitter and already i’m thinking it was a humdinger of a mistake to encourage my colleagues to follow him to get him started. if he starts he may not stop and I’ll have to leave the country under an assumed name.

We also discussed the matter that I will be forced to leave the country soon because I and a couple of our mutual friends will be going to Kuala Lumpur for a wedding in May. One of whom I don’t know that well, but as Ed reliably informed me ‘He’s a social grenade n’all!’. Ed suggested that, as we’re going to a strict muslim country, we might as well put a four figure sum in an account now and give him the code to sort out the inevitable transfer of funds for bail.

This is exactly the kind of preparation those of us without an ‘Off’ switch have to consider when visiting different cultures, especially for a wedding.

For the second week we are planning a beach holiday in Thailand. That sounds like a recipe for disaster. Leon Dale has been doing the thorough research and concluded Phuket is the place to head. Everyone I’ve subsequently spoken to has looked aghast and said ‘Don’t go there…it’s just like Blackpool!’.

For the record, Leon is from Blackpool so that explains the extent of his research. He probably thought it a home from home, just the difference is you;ve got sunshine instead of interminable drizzle and it’s lady boys wearing ‘Kiss me quick’ hats and not some boozed up fat shaz from Accrington. Maybe they have ‘Kiss me quick five dorra!’ hats instead. I don’t intend to find out as there is definitely calmer, more tranquil options for a Thai beach holiday and we’ll doubtless show ourselves up in those places instead. By then, the cha-cha-cha may have improved.


J Sheekey, I Shakey January 25, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, Food.
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It pays if you go on a wayward night on the tiles of a Friday night to remember that you’ve got a new bed being delivered and an old bed taken away at 9am on Saturday morning.

The shock of waking up bolt upright alone in a kitchen chair was made worse by having three large, unsmiling northerners marching through the house with a bed, discovering that I was utterly unable to communicate and having to scuttle off into hiding until confronting the situation was absolutely necessary. The upshot is I pointed to the wrong bed in the wrong room for them to take away.

At the time I, after the banging and crashing sound of a bed being assembled, was simply relieved to be done with it and have anything to lie down on.

It’s been that kind of week and certainly has there been little time for composition. Sudden deadlines meant that I did a 20 hour working day on Monday. Or was it Tuesday? I’m not entirely sure. There is a school of thought that time is a social construction, but as days of train journeys and unhinged hours writing up pitch ideas alone in the office merged into one i didn’t see anything social about that particular construct.

That is until I met the Last One for dinner in J Sheekey. Most people would typically ensure there was time for an aperitif before dinner, but typically we allowed for ninety minutes – normally the maximum allotted time it takes Queens Park Rangers to send a man plummeting into existential torpor – working our way through an assortment of bloody marys, kir royales before moving onto the Sancerre. Dinner was excellent – the hake with wild boar meatballs merits another visit – and the company was good. There’s no agendas anymore. We can relax and conspire to put the world to rights.

At the table next to us was a famous British fashion designer with a trio of braying Ab-fab types. On my journey I’d seen a news piece in the Standard about the surprise engagement of a very famous comic actor to an anonymous model. Sure enough, comic actor swanned over to the table next to us and there was much air kissing and sincere congratulations.

‘You must be so thrilled!’ they cooed. More air kissing, fluttering and posturing ensued then comic and anonymous model bade their farewells. Ensuring comic was out of earshot the table next us all screamed ‘But he’s GAY darling!’.

Somebody really should tell her and I bet she thinks she’s got quite a catch. It doesn’t take a genius to see there is more than a touch of lavender there, but it just goes to prove how vapid and clueless models are. The Last One didn’t look impressed and rightly so. People get what they deserve. On that note we had a big pitch win last week and it was thoroughly deserved and almost unexpected. Celebrations were splendid in Village East on Friday night, though more understated than the previous Friday when there wasn’t much to celebrate other than it being Friday and not Monday.

In scenes more reminiscent of Ibiza Uncovered than West End shi-shi, that particular foray saw a colleague physically carried out of the bar of the Sanderson (it pays to eat and youngsters going on about eating is cheating should be ignored), hauled out onto the pavement with even less dignity than my bed on Saturday. At least, with my form for assisting with removals, I wasn’t asked to identify who needed shifting or some poor sod minding their own business and perfectly functional would’ve been emptied into a taxi.

Finally, if you are going to have a night like that and recount it in all it’s unfettered shambles and indiscretion to a colleague the next day, before you go on a ten minute rambling monologue ensure you’ve called the right colleague and not the straightest person in the office who was quite rightly appalled. ‘What?…You mean this isn’t? …oh God…HELLO!…erm..this is recorded message by someone impersonating me…’.

The memory of that sudden sinking snap of realisation of my has come flooding back. I need to lie down again and any bed will do.

Ethnically cleansed in the office January 19, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR.
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For the fourth time in the last week I’ve been subjected to the pitying eyes and goodbyes of the office cleaners as they head off while I’m sitting there staring at a screen fiddling with my deliverables.

It’s all very humbling and rather sweet of them to notice me. However, my presence isn’t so clear when they seem to dwell around my desk for an eternity with a vacuum cleaner that sounds like a Soviet nuclear meltdown. Pleading eyes turn to daggers then to weary resignation as they get on with it as my head slowly fries.

These are the twilight hours of any PR alone with your thoughts and wondering about eternal unfathomables such as whether an idea will get coverage, how many more days can one go without shaving before well-meaning strangers start handing you change for a cup of tea, why are pitches never postponed and what’s Harry Redknapp like during sex? Does he do that involuntary twitching when he gets excited or agitated as when sat in the dugout? It would be enough to drive Mrs Reddknapp mad. I bet he gets really twitchy, jowely and irate if she’s got a euphemistic headache and who could blame her.

Then again, you get home, having sat opposite a corpulent woman giggling at texts on her phone from Waterloo to West Byfleet, missed the programme you’d meant to watch, and start to blog about it all only to discover that the fucking wine you’ve opened is corked. That’s scuppered all that then.

There is no Plan B. Next time the cleaners wave au revoir, I’m off with them for a night of vodka toasts, balalaikas, folk song and stories of ethnic cleansing. That explains a lot about the vacuum cleaner. It has almost certainly seen action and not in a benign way. It’s only a matter of time we see it in the dock in The Hague.

Don’t stop tinkling January 19, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR.
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It’s very hard to think of anything meaningful to write after waking up at 4am having had a bad dream, only to realise that what you were dreaming about was actually infinitely preferable to the reality of the day ahead.

There’s another one of those potential clients lurking in the wings and my attitude to certain new business pitches is the same as Jacqui Onassis must’ve had in her latter years to open top car parades. It’s when they can’t actually tell you what they want, but the slightest deviance on your part and they shoot you down.

The last pitch is still fresh in the memory and already written about. In Anthony Beevor’s ‘Berlin’, his account of the final year as the Russians swept Westward into Germany, there is the story of a German officer captured by drunken Russian troops.

He was made to play the piano for their entertainment and told that if and when he stopped playing he would be shot. After 20 hours of non-stop playing he collapsed, weeping with exhaustion and was promptly dispatched without mercy. It’s a chilling image that sticks in the memory and I can’t help feeling that some brand managers have read it and admired the Russian approach to handling potential suppliers.

There was another pitch last week for which working a 1am on preparation and then rising at 5am for coffee and a check of the notes was all part of the big push. Only your writer here hadn’t actually bothered at any stage to look outside to discover he was practically snowed in. There was the futile gesture of standing on a train platform for ninety minutes without the sign of the train before accepting defeat and returning back to The Wisley to Tweet messages of goodwill to those who could make it. All this is creating the sensation that Janaury is a month we should all just write-off.

Soon I will probably stumble out here into the unlit darkness and get the first train into town. Sometime between now (5.50am) and later (10pm probably) I’ve got to have a eureka moment. So we must keep on tinkling at the ivories, the Russians want to dance.

Feeling vulnerable in West Byfleet January 12, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, West Byfleet.
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There was an email from Neighbourhood Watch today asking if any of us knew of anyone who was ‘potentially vulnerable’ on the road where I live. Just what you need at work, but it does throw the mind and make one wonder. The thing is it didn’t say vulnerable to what so it left one unsure whether I should nominate myself.

Vulnerable to Malbec? Check. Unhinged yet endearing women? Check. Vulnerable to procrastination, ‘just the one before home’, impulsive and quite ridiculous suggestions for what would be ‘fun’, being berated by my cleaner for forgetting to buy Cillit bang and certainly vulnerable and in fear of being attacked by marauding Sri Lankan petrol station attendants over a misunderstanding? (another story for another time) Check, check, check, check, check.

It also turns out that certainly I’m vulnerable to Vernon Kay. The personal trainer is struggling to find a slot for me due to my non-compliance in the winter months and it seems that Vern is on the horizon. That must be the final indignity, losing my physique to Vernon Kay. That almost merits a feature in Take a Break.

On a final note, whilst re-reading ‘The Wives and Times of Jeffrey Bernard’ I could put a date on when I’d first read it while commuting, when I but a twinkle-toed young Account Executive about town, almost to the day.

My ‘bookmark’ of that time fell out from the pages and a fitting testament both to myself and the subject of the biography. A penalty fare notice from South West Trains for fare evasion, dated October 12, 1998.

The time was 8.50 as well so I was obviously extremely running late and no doubt a shambles. Only a tenner then! Evasion inflation. I think it’s hovering on the twenty mark presently and that’s something else I’m still vulnerable to as well.

Worth talking about January 9, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR.
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According to an advertisement just seen on the television, I’ve been reliably informed chlamydia is worth talking about. That’s news to me and there are surely better conversations to have if I had someone here to talk to.

I imagine that if I fired chlamydia at them as an opening conversational salvo they’d be straight out the door and calling the police. Maybe we are just supposed to go around informing strangers of our chlamydia status and get the update on theirs? It would make client conference calls more interesting (‘In terms of your chlamydia moving forwards…’) and I’ll get it put on the agenda of all future meetings.

There was a time when a friend and I could’ve benefited from such a conversation because I’m sure it wasn’t around in my younger days. I blame Britain going digital.

A decade ago in Puerto Banus Wiggy and I were trying to locate a bar that we’d heard was rather good. We didn’t have the benefit of this ad in those days and had certainly never heard of the thing (such clean boys), so were quite blissfully asking people ‘Do you know where we can find Chlamydia? We’re looking for Chlamydia, can you help?’. No wonder we were getting such appalled reactions.

Turns out we’d misheard and the bar was called Comedia. There was no small amount of embarrassment on our part when we were explained the difference between the two, but having seen the clientele I’d wager that if you were looking for chlamydia you’d have got it in Comedia and probably a lot else besides.

The chance of catching it at the moment would be a fine thing. The only illness currently on the cards is pneumonia. The cold snap is still with us and I’m not going anywhere due to the roads immediately surrounding Wisley House. The one fraught venture to Waitrose and the BMW had it mind to show me it’s finest Jayne Torville impersonation and I very nearly ended up in someone’s front garden (they shoot you for that kind of thing round here).

This containment is actually welcome. To start the first day of the working week after a two week break with a new business pitch was not ideal. Especially so as I think we’d have got more of a response to our campaign ideas had we been pitching in Swahili to a pair of dead monkeys. Apart from looking at myself and my colleagues in a strained, sympathetic expression like we were stark raving mad for an entire hour and a half that was it.

No questions, no comment, no feedback whatsoever, just a ‘You’ve clearly put a lot of time into that’ and that was it. Well, yes we had. After ten minutes I could tell we were all dying on the spot and did think about feigning a seizure out of curiousity to see if it would provoke any kind of reaction or just to speed things up a bit. Subsequently, I’ve come to wonder whether we’d mistakenly rocked up into the wrong room where the cleaners were having a tea break and just went for it. It would explain a lot and it has been that kind of week.

Being practically on first name terms and the Christmas card list of the lost bank card department with the people of Lloyds is hardly a badge of honour. In one five minute spell this week whilst walking from work to beat the rush at Waterloo for the few trains running in this weather I managed to realise I’d lost my bank card, I didn’t have my door key and snap and break a button on my favourite winter coat looking for them (don’t try to plunge your arm into an inside pocket of a jacket fully buttoned up is the lesson there).

Being stranded at Waterloo without money knowing that you aren’t actually going to be able to get into your home when you reach your destination doesn’t set the tone for a happy evening and the calming festive cheer of Christmas seemed long forgotten. That was only Tuesday.

Today, Sunday, I’ll be over at Liverpool St for midday. We’re doing a week long big piece of direct-to-consumer PR activity that is the result of months of work and planning and no small expense out there in the coldest weather for a generation.

Marvellous. If God loves us, he’s got a funny way of showing it. Will there be any consumers to be direct to? Will the client be lost to frostbite? Will I emigrate? Forget chlamydia, the next week will definitely be worth having a conversation about when it’s over.

All trainers cancelled until further notice January 7, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Home, West Byfleet.
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The market for apocalyptic movies is going to bottom out if this chill continues much longer. The scenes at Waterloo around 4.30pm this evening put to shame the likes of 2012 or 28 Days Later as the survival instinct kicked in and it became clear that only the fittest were going to get the only train heading out of town.

It’s testament to quick wits and a degree of physical strength that not only did I get a on the one train out of town in an entire hour, but also a seat in the first class carriage. The train pulled away with hundreds wailing on the platform, the condemned beating the doors and windows with cases, Evening Standards and iPhones flying in the air. One could but smile meekly and pretend not to be aware of their fate. Still, at least it was warm from where we were sitting as their frothing mouths froze.

Talking of fitness, it was a mistake to befriend my personal trainer, James Daly on Facebook over the Christmas period. It’s worse than having a female stalker. There’s been one or two in my time. At least they want to do something sexual to you (or in one bizarre case, many years ago, turn up at my door with a can of tuna). In his case he simply pops out of nowhere to admonish me for having a late night on the sauce or advising me to do press ups. And not even proffering a single can of fish as he does so, though he would probably approve of the omega 3 and protein.

He would’ve been proud of me this evening. I went for a thirty minute walk despite the – media word of the moment – ‘treacherous’ (‘Et tu Brute?’) weather conditions and ice on the roads. Where does this adjective treacherous come from when describing the ice laid out before me? As I approach it, it’s positively psychotic. Have we otherwise had loyal ice, friendly, cuddly and reliable ice or ice that would take you out for a slap-up fish supper, walk you home to your gate and give you a kiss on the cheek for your troubles? No. All ice is bloody nasty and don’t we all know it.

While most people would’ve stayed in for a sedentary evening I was out there skidding on ice and battling the elements in a cameo Ernest Shackleton would’ve been proud of just to get a bottle of Valpolicella from Waitrose.

There’s a portion of the public footpath in West Byfleet that is like the Cresta run. Having already gone arse over tit in front of a mother and child this morning at this precise point of the odyssey , I took it on in unlit circumstances and beat it with vino tucked under the arm. Now there’s focus for you!

How much more of this can be endured, time will only tell. Daly has been appalled and it’s been noted that friends are taking his side and shopping me as to my true nature. In this interconnection is absolutely ghastly, if you ask me. I like my life compartmentalized and now it’s all turning against me. So much for social media.

Somwhere between the gutter, the glitter and the stars January 2, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Single London.
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If there was speculation on New Year’s Eve as to where I’d end up tomorrow, I certainly didn’t think I’d emerge from a flat at 1pm and stumble into Brick Lane covered in glitter after an all-nighter. The Muslims gave me funny looks and for once, I understand entirely where they were coming from, appearing to be precisely the kind of thing Jihad was made for. In fact, the way my head was feeling I was game for being converted. In a charitable mood I gave an approaching beggar a tenner and he punched the air and told me I was one of the good ones. I could correct him there, but these days I’m prepared to pay top whack for any kind of compliment.

There had been talk about going onto another party in Dalston, but for once I made the right call. It’s a long time since a girl has offered to tuck me into bed, but as I was being tucked up delicately and she admired her handiwork, I did feel a bit like Lenin lying in state and after a few minutes I knew that West Byfleet was calling and I should get back to the home county, home comforts of Wisley House.

Shoreditch House last night turned out to be good fun, certainly ripe for observing the caricatures of media types expounded and exploded and actually proved to be the calm before the storm. I met one or two new people last night who were good company and it was to the flat of one of them we retreated back to for the all-night party. Decks in the living room is indicative of where their priorities lie and it is all a bit of a glorious blur. Back home a bottle of wine was opened and I decided to watch Performance and listen to Bowie’s camp glam Aladdin Sane. They both captured the essence of that 12 hours or so. Best left at that really.

Predictably I left my blackberry there and it will have to be retrieved at some stage soon, especially with a pitch first thing on Monday and my not being entirely sure what the arrangements are.

Whatever happens, I can’t face an MD for the first time and assure him his brand is safe in my hands whilst still covered in glitter. If we were pitching for G-A-Y maybe, an international car hire business, definitely not.

On other news, I’m glad to report that Patches the hamster (re. earlier post ‘The Great Escape’) was found in a next door neighbour’s garden by the Tweeter. He even posted a pic of Patches back in his cage. He looked malnourished and surly. Much like myself when I looked in the mirror upon surfacing today. Had I gone to Dalston, there’s a very strong possibility I too could have been found cowering under a shrub in a neighbour’s garden and ready to be returned to my cage.