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Meal for One March 20, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, Single London.
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The way things are at present if someone offered me out on a date I’d think they were talking about dried fruit. Tonight on a Saturday I found myself walking down the aisle of M&S and picking up meals for one knowing I and my shopping basket were fulfilling the predictions of some ghastly demographic.

There’s the not gone unnoticed matter I’m 36 next week and while all around me friends have settled into married lives, started families, taken up hobbies, I can at best respond that it’s not long ago I sent a disco ball to the edge of space for a ‘party whisky’.

While that made news as far afield as Romania and Cyprus, there is the realisation the only impact I’m making personally is upon my debit card at Village East and on late night taxis.

This week there was an interview to be done for Cream 100 Innovators, a book being compiled on the most innovative and creative businesses in the media. Cow, to my slight astonishment (i.e lets cut to the chase, mush. How much is this going to cost us?) had been included and its the first anyone knew about it.

Yet in it we are with my insights on what makes for an innovative agency (more on this at another time) and the book is being launched to delegates at the Festival of Media in Valencia. Finding pictures of our successful campaigns was considerably easier than finding a requested high-res head and shoulders shot of myself. There was nothing since 1991 where I didn’t look deranged.

It is therefore a relief I wasn’t asked about my typical Saturday. Today after a week of being innovative and feeling exhausted for it, my reward was toothache, a first ever filling and facial paralysis on the right side. Being innovative clearly comes at a price and I’m pleased I had a sober night as the dentist peering into my mouth and drilling my head would’ve been intolerable on a hangover.

Being overlooked by the bright young things for an invite to Boujis or Mahiki came as a relief also. Iinnovative or otherwise, trying to make any impression on the opposite sex sounding like the Elephant man and looking like I’d had a stroke would’ve seen me get my face slapped. The only benefit being there was a 50 per cent chance I wouldn’t have felt it.

So now, in the name of innovation, its to the office on Sunday and the week isn’t looking too clever for the personal life. Cameron Diaz has been informed, Sunday cocktails cancelled and I broke it to her slowly thatI’m just too busy being innovative in Bermondsey for that week in Mustique. Establishing the nuclear family is as far off as ever. Judging by the women I’ve hung around with, producing a post-nuclear family is more on the cards.

A Bridge Too Far March 17, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in QPR, Suburbia.
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The other morning I was woken from my slumber by REM’s Shiny Happy People, provoking what can only be described as a Fred West style assault on the radio alarm clock.

Today the first words to enter my transom from the badly bruised and nervy alarm clock was a reminder that Chelsea had crashed out of the Champions League in front of their home fans. Slowly, but surely the alarm is working its way back into my good books.

There is nothing good about Chelsea Football Club nor its oafish fans and I should know. For most of my life I lived in Worcester Park which is a Chelsea stronghold, often tripping in the grooves in the pavement made by the years of knuckles dragging against the ground. In two pubs The Huntsman and the ghastly Tone’s, the latter decked out in memorabilia and the location for fan interviews in a feature length documentary about Chelsea, a bad word about ‘Wisey’ or Zola (Gianfranco not Emmanuel) could quite easily result in a glassing.

Yet where did they come from? They weren’t there when I was growing up in the 1980’s, when Chelsea for much of that time weren’t even in the top division, nor even the 1990’s and early 2000s. Look carefully at their fat, bald or shaven sweaty heads. That isn’t dandruff you can see but filings from where they’ve emerged from the woodwork at the scent of money and success.

Chelsea weren’t even in contention before being fuelled and revved up by the billions of a Russian oligarch. Instead the Champions League has become something of an open wound that now festers with the failure of every season. With every departure from the tournament there is also recrimination usually directed at some refereeing decision and a UEFA or Sepp Blatter conspiracy. If truth be told there have even been times they have deserved to win the thing, on the cusp of doing so, only to throw it away spectacularly.

Level with Manchester Utd on penalites in Moscow, the fulfillment of that ambition and struggle seemed to come to ferment in the perfect scripted ending. Up stepped John Terry, Mr Chelsea, as he was known around Worcester Park, Cheam and the Kings Road, cut him, they say, and he bleeds blue (though that has most recently proven to be not blue but the murky green of greed, avarice and money – much of it the ‘hush’ variety) representative of all that is Chelsea and all that is ugly about football.

This was every football purists nightmare. The man Chelsea loved unquestionably was about to take the kick to win them their first ever Champions League in a moment the fans of CFC would treasure for the rest of their lives and the last thing they would see to make them smile on their mortal passing. This was about to be the defining moment of their lives.

He missed. He slipped, hit the post and fucking missed. Man Utd scored. Chelsea lost. Within seconds, without prior forethought, I was straight in the car roaring down to Tone’s in Cheam. There, as expected, were about 100 Chelsea fans sobbing into their pints and walking into walls, blue and white flags on the ground soaked in beer and spittle. I mingled. Felt their pain. Not dissimilar from when a killer joins in the search party knowing that there is no life to be found except for a grisly body. Sure enough it was only minutes before they started fighting amongst themselves and I left them to it with the sounds of howls, breaking glasware and recrimination in my wake.

Last year I caught the last minutes of the Chelsea – Barca semi-final poolside from Bellagio in Las Vegas. Having completely forgotten about the game, the heart sank at the scoreline. As the final seconds ticked away with Chelsea leading Barcelona 1-0 and having been denied in all probability two cast-iron penalities. Even in these opulent surroundings and 100 degree heat, I found myself dragged back to Cheam, to Tone’s and pictured the scene, just as I could see them signing and celebrating at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea weren’t just winning, they’d dominated and battered the best team in the world into submission. This year was, at last, going to be their year and we all had to brace ourselves.

And then up popped Andres Iniesta. Barcelona mustered one shot after 94 minutes of football. It flew into the top corner. Goal. Game over. Out Goodnight. She Who Loathed Football, sat in the sun in her bikini, glared at me disapprovingly over her mango prosecco as I pounded the bar with my fists. All I needed was a few more seconds of those uncomprehending, wounded, twisted pie-fed faces, the faces who’d been taunting and celebrating seconds before. Then I was done. Back to the pool, back to the sun and a fresh round of cocktails ordered, knowing that we can rejoice for another year.

Now they’ve not even made the semis. Not only taken apart and humbled at home in the first qualifying round, but at the hands of their own beloved ‘Special One’, Jose Mourinho and his Inter Milan side. ‘Mr Chelsea’ left the pitch, face snarling like a Rottweiler with a finger up its posterior, spewing bile and spitting feathers. Immediately followed the post-mortem, ingraciousness and high-pitched wailing of another UEFA conspiracy. The rest of the right-minded football world looked on from Shepherds Bush to the San Siro: shiny happy people.

Lying in the kitchen, staring at the stars March 14, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, Music.
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A warning to the novice art collector: have your wits about you when carrying a newly acquired canvas to your car and try not to have a late one on the Sancerre the night before. Last night included a good few hours spent staring up at the kitchen ceiling in the dark thanks to the latest of a long line of odd purchases, namely a laser light projector that fill the room was with stars amid a cosmic swirl. The companion was so impressed I’ve had to order one for her. It could be a start of a movement, though not one could label under the moniker as ‘progressive’.

Naturally music accompaniment included The Beatles ‘Across the universe’, Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ and Billie Holliday’s ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’. Shame she couldn’t have recorded a version about West Byfleet rather than a state in the Deep South, but come to think of it that probably summed up my general lingering condition since Thursday’s extravagances.

Westfield at midday on Mothering Sunday was populated by people who put conspicuous consumption and window gawping before mother. (For the record mine was holed up in Marbella and I’d had the rare foresight to give her the card and she’d put it on the mantlepiece of the parental sunshine bolthole. Bless.) and neither I nor the Chris and Steve Rocks canvas nearly made it safely back to the car.

Stepping outside the Lavanta Gallery it took all the quick reactions I could muster to avoid immediately being run down by an old girl going full pelt on a mobility scooter going at such a speed that she was clearly intent on breaking the Shepherds Bush to Acton land speed record. It was a relief to get out of there in one piece, I can tell you. The rest of the day was spent staring at walls, with not a cosmic swirl upon them, wondering where the hell I’ll put the painting.

This evening the projector has not been switched on. With another two pitches looming and a to do list that would put Sisyphus to shame there needs to be focus on the week in hand rather than shooting stars across the Poggenpohl.

Bad Moon Rising March 12, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Single London.
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Showered and changed after a long run on Wisley Common, it’s time to settle down for the weekend. Jane is baking muffins and soon the kids will be home from school. Eleanor is progressing well with her ballet and bassoon classes while Alexander’s teachers say he is showing prodigal gifts in sporting and academic pursuits.

Tonight we’ll prepare dinner together and dine at the family table with Angus, our trusty black lab, at my side wagging his tail and making pleading eyes for any tasty morsel that may come his way. Once the kids are tucked up for the night, Jane and I will cosy up on the sofa to a rom-com and have a glass of wine to reward ourselves for another wonderful week.

As for tomorrow, we are tremendously excited about the trip to Guildford for a light lunch, shopping and a walk and we’ll no doubt end the day grinning, contented and giddily skipping off into the sunset in certainty and absolute harmony.

That existence is in some other Daily Mail approved parallel dimension. My reality at almost 36 is an evening that started so promisingly and gilded with glamour at a West End premiere with a walk up the red carpet ended up in a Shoreditch fleapit until 5am in the company of assorted colleagues, Jaegerbombs and breakbeats. I’d only caught up with them for a the one and I gather that’s all they’d gone for after work. It was fortuitous to have the day off, but it all went downhill from there and from my current position in the Poggenpohl family kitchen there’s neither the scent of muffins nor sound of bassoon.

What we do have is a litter of empty Diet Coke cans, a note to cancel the debit card lost somewhere in last night’s trail between Jennifer Aniston and Bermondsey, headache and a general air of resigned bewilderment.

Recently my friend Gloria was pranged in her car by a Pole. Dealings with him have proven difficult given his lack of English. The other day he resorted to handing his phone to his gurgling toddler to translate. I sympathise with that approach wholeheartedly and should I have an infant of my own that’s precisely what I’d be using them for this weekend and beyond.

According to an article today social anxiety is the third largest mental health issue in the world today. After last night’s sequence of events it’s easy to see where they are coming from.There was no need to read farther than the headline, all one simply has to is look in the mirror and that spoke volumes.

I was texted an image of Matt Wilcock at his desk and he looks more like a hashed attempt at taxidermy than a sentient human being and I hear several people had to be spoon fed their lunch. No wonder we’re all anxious about going out and at this rate social anxiety must be a favourite for the number one spot in time for Christmas.

Apparently tonight’s noble attempt to ‘do something different for a change’ with a Cow trip to bingo has been cancelled due to foreseen circumstances. Judging by the messages I’ve been getting there’s a few people who’d keel over with anxiety at the mere thought of two fat ladies.

This is not to say we’re out swinging from the rafters all the time. Far from it. The absence of blogging has been the result of a good few weeks of early rises, long hours, late nights, conjuring up campaigns and an unprecedented streak of winning new business. It’s inevitable then nights like last night happen so we have to accept collateral damage as a consequence of our victories.

Putting on the radio in a drive out for essential supplies I was greeted by Bad Moon Rising. If only I’d listened to it last night at 5pm and taken the advice on board it could’ve been different. I might have bumped into someone called Jane and struck up a conversation about horticulture or Tuscany.

Instead its picking up the pieces now to plough on with the weekend which will involve a portion of work and something of a return to sanity. Certainly no long run around Wisley Common, nor settling up on the sofa with Jane, but there shall at least be a dubiously earned glass of wine to ease the social anxiety. As I said, number one for Christmas. Put money on it.

From Village East to Guildford West March 1, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends.
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Reflecting on another night of wasted youth (and I use that term pejoratively) in Village East, a colleague said to me today that maybe we would benefit from a change of scene on a Friday night after work. It had to be pointed out to her that it wasn’t so long ago that we decided to go ‘up West’ to the shi-shi bar at The Sanderson and that resulted in one person being thrown out and another carried out. All this reaffirms that we are better off on home soil where the staff know our weaknesses and tend to them gladly.

She had a point though. Yet again I’ve gone for one after work, always declaring that I need to be up early to go to Guildford, only to emerge from her apartment that has the misfortune to be a two minute stagger from VE, in disarray around midday on Saturday looking like a combatant from the battle of Iwo Jima. So frequently do people from work crash there her residence has been named Hotel Trapezaris in honour of her surname.

Her boyfriend is really very tolerant as there can’t be many men who have to endure half a PR agency rushing into their residence every Friday night at closing time in scenes reminiscent from ‘Zulu’. Needless to say, Guildford has so far remained untroubled by my presence and for that the locals are probably hanging up the bunting.

I suppose if he wanted to complain he could try the personnel department, but seeing as that is effectively me, its hardly worth it. Perhaps it’s a matter to take up with the PRCA though I don’t think their remit covers that (we had a direct complaint today from the company above us re. the burnt toast – fire alarm evacuation incident of last week and that’s definitely one for the CIPR, not the PRCA). He’s recently taken the attitude of if you can’t beat them, join them but that is hardly doing him any favours either.

Saturdays would ideally be spent in contemplation and solitary confinement with tea in Wisley House. Yet I had calls and texts from a pub landlord who also happens to be my oldest friend demanding to know what time I was going to show my face in his Hampshire pub to celebrate his birthday.

Even when one’s wits are in full effect, let alone when your wits were last seen flowing down the rain-swollen gutters of Bermondsey the night before, it’s far from easy to placate a shaven headed, ex-marine, publican with an eye tattooed on each buttock when he wants an all night session and a birthday peck on the cheek.

After four hours of procrastination, deep breaths and drafting of excuses ranging from blindness, blandness, alien abduction to human inertia, I found myself in The Bramley Inn, a large vodka handed to me and heard the most dreaded words ever uttered in the English language, ‘It’s karaoke tonight’. Little Voice this was not.

My publican friend, Lee, with whom I’ve suffered over a decade and-a-half of indignity at QPR had got someone in on the cheap and it showed. The ‘DJ’ was an hour late setting up, leaving locals disgruntled and on the verge of violent unrest. After two songs, a Fred West style assault on ‘My Heart Will go On’ (Will it? Because mine nearly stopped) by a toothless drunk, a man to boot, was drowned out by high-pitched, brain numbing, jaw-shattering feedback from the PA that was powerful enough to stun an elephant.

I’ve never seen a public house clear so quickly and I include England’s exit to Portugal in the last World Cup in that. I was also in the Bramley Inn on that occasion and witnessed Lee burst into tears and throw everyone out to close the pub immediately, even as Motty was still eulogising and players swapped shirts on-screen – I was allowed to stay and have privileged access to witness a sport-induced mental breakdown.

On Saturday the only person unceremoniously thrown out of the Bramley was the karaoke DJ. With him went the PA and dreams of a dozen X-Factor hopefuls and that’s about as cruel indictment of Brown’s Britain as you can get. The evening picked up significantly from there with not an aspirant Celine Dion to be heard in that particular portion of Hampshire.

And so alone from my West Byfleet kitchen with the kettle on I look forward to another Friday night in Village East. Not that it will be a late one this week. I have plans to go to Guildford.