The Day Job

Raise the flag. Sound the trumpets. Light the beacons. Put the kettle on. I have returned.

My friends, I apologise for being away so long. Rather than making a start on all the grovelling and forgiveness-begging I am due, I have instead decided to jump straight back in with an actual post. In light of what’s been keeping me stressful in absentia,1 I thought it might be interesting prudent to tell you all about what I actually do.

I am a trained and qualified Graphic Designer. Whenever I tell people this, I get a nod, and sometimes a ‘ah OK’, because whilst everybody has heard of the job title, nobody really knows what it means.

Put simply; it is visual communication. It’s storytelling using pictures. If people realised how obvious this is we would not be able to charge the prices that we do. I am exceptionally lucky in that I am able to exercise my creative muscles on a daily basis and call it a career, and in many ways am really taking the piss by not being content with that and writing a humour blog and a sitcom on the side.

You will be pleased to know, however, that my career is yet another source of crippling insecurity on a daily basis. I have a cycle of worries regarding my job that go a little something like this:

***

 I worry that as a ‘visual person’ I am at heart tremendously superficial.

I indulge my other interests to become a fully-rounded, well-adjusted, multi-faceted, overly-adjectified person: write things, read things, see stand-up, buy records, attract hot babes, etc.2

I worry that I am neglecting my career.

I buy expensive design books and start another ‘portfolio enhancing project’ like a poster series or animation.

 I remember I am supposed to have some sort of social life.

 I call up a friend, they ask what I’ve been up to and I say ‘nothing’.

I take a long look at my life.

I worry I am worrying too much about everything.

I realise I’ve wasted too much time already worrying about worrying about worrying.

I go back to work to make up for lost time.

Repeat ad infinitum.

***

As well as this, design is a thankless job. It’s comparatively well-paying as a career, but this is a fair trade for the endless extra hours you will work (for no overtime) because the client wants it ‘amended’ (changed entirely) and sent back before the end of the day. ‘I’m sorry the display is exactly as dictated the agreed brief but you don’t like it anyway, I’ll just work another eight hours tonight (not an exaggeration) for your benefit for free.’ And yes I’m passive-aggressively hinting at YOU, property magnate in Manchester.

Because the nature of a good chunk of design is ephemeral (so slick you don’t notice it’s there – sometimes I don’t know why I bother) there isn’t a lot of respect for it as a usage of one’s time. My nan doesn’t think it’s a ‘real’ job, and thinks I’m an artist. This is inaccurate, and a little demeaning to both myself and any artists who might be reading this; artists express themselves, whilst designers express things on behalf of other people, and thus are at once creatively active and stifled, like a neutered dog in heat.

That said, I am uncomfortable calling myself a ‘creative’, even though it’s what I do all day every day. It sounds to me like one of those adjectives that is bestowed upon you by other people3, and is increasingly very difficult to quantify. Anyone with an Instagram app will call themselves a photographer, anyone who owns Photoshop will call themselves a designer and anyone who’s been on Cracked.com and read something about fonts will shout ‘Comic Sans! LOL’ and call themselves a typographer.

It’s a shame that these once-respected avenues of expression are being eroded by trivialisation. Typography, as a subject is quite fascinating; there’s so much consideration in making content readable and inflected with the right ‘feel’, and there’s some genuinely interesting things to be learnt.

Gill Sans

You’ve got to draw a line somewhere and it might as well be between your dog and your third daughter…

And whilst we’re on the subject, can we all get over the Comic Sans bashing? It was funny at one point but now it’s just sad. It’s been kidnapped by that odd group of people who mercilessly hate something and pretend it’s taste, like they did when Lynn Truss brought out ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’.

Comic Sans

I don’t really have a problem with Bieber, although his music isn’t my ‘thing’ – he’s very responsible and well-adjusted for someone at his level of fame. What I DO have a problem with is hype. If you’re a Belieber and you’re offended by this message, please consider that any resentment either of us may feel is entirely your fault. So there.

I got into graphic design because, like many of you here, I wanted to tell stories, and one day I hope to get out of it, for the same reason. I love the work – obviously – it’s exhilarating, but it’s a far from easy life, and there’s a reason why I have this other creative outlet here. If you should ever find yourself (and if you want it, I hope you do) in a situation where your income is a direct reflection of the frequency and quality of your ideas, I think you’ll see what I mean.

Allow me to sign off as the ungrateful prick I am clearly becoming. I’m off to have my cake, eat it, then take a chunk out of the hand that feeds. I reckon humble pie will be on the menu too.

Rant over. Bon appetit.


1 Good name for a bad song, that.

2 One of these is a deliberate lie, just to see if you’re paying attention. Answers on a postcard.

3 To illustrate my problem with these sort of words, I’ll use it in a sentence; ‘Oh no, I couldn’t possibly get a job and contribute to society, I am a creative.’

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Here W-Ego Again…

There are two things in this world that I can’t stand: arrogance and pretension.

By the way, welcome back to my awesome blog that’s all about me and and is my superb creative outlet for all my important, interesting problems.

I am here today to apologise for my absence. The Day Job demanded that I give it my undivided attention for six weeks or so, and I obeyed. I logged out of my WordPress account because y’all are too interesting, and hence distracting.1

Anyway, I write to you today in humbleness. This is a problem because I’ve actually spent the last six weeks working on something rather special and brilliant and I’d like to tell you all about it.

Now, I’ve done some comparatively awesome things in my short career. Many of them would be unappreciated outside of the industry, a few of them (TV work mainly) are limited to being impressive in this country, but the one so impressive and intense I’ve had to stop blogging for is for the BBC.

Before you get excited, I was doing visual work for the radio arm of the BBC. My next project will be a nationwide ad campaign for chocolate teapots.2

That said, the work (still not finished, by the way) is currently being very well received and one finished component is circulating the Beeb’s social networking outlets. I made the BBC’s Official Youtube Channel. I feel that this is legitimately quite cool.3

Cactus

This is as much as I can show. This shelved cactus is such a minor feature that it didn’t even get paid an appearance fee for it’s trouble.

***

Now, I can’t abide bragging, but if there was ever a time to get into it, that time is now; however, I can’t really talk about it in any further detail without giving my identity away. My secrecy is something I feel is important to this blog, as I would probably share much less if I thought someone could trace my tender side back to the real me.

What this means instead, is that whilst I want to tell the world that I’ve done something I’m actually proud of, I can’t provide details, and so am limited to saying ‘I am awesome’, which makes my skin crawl. Part of me wants to numb it by instead suggesting that ‘I am quite good at something’, but newcomers to this here blog would still see that as arrogance, as they would not have the benefit of context.

What this work has enabled me to do, aside from enhance my portfolio, pay the bills, and make in-roads towards a career-move to television, is to finally blog about perhaps my biggest overarching anxiety – the fear of being seen as a pompous, self-important prick. It took something awesome for me to be able to say ‘I am awesome, but I only think I’m alright. So don’t hate me.

I find myself going out of my way to appear humble, and to appeal to people’s better nature, perhaps because I have always been a ‘beta male’. I know full well the extent of my talents, and am well aware that I have many faults and failings and have much to learn.4 I can’t look at any of my work without seeing faults, for example. ‘Perfectionism’ is a somewhat dirty word,5 but high standards for oneself are a double-edged sword. I would like to say that I’m my own worst enemy, but I imagine that by saying that I would tempt fate into providing me with a arch-nemesis. Actually, I’d love an arch-nemesis. I’m my own worst enemy.

What I hope you understand, is that I don’t intend to let this success change me. and for all of my achievements I am, in actuality, vehemently uncool. I am but one wisp of a man struggling against the winds of time, and cosmically speaking, I am next to nothing. I am flattered that you all think my thoughts are worth reading, and I that you feedback to me with comments is currently both a cause for delight and burning shame.

***

Fortunately for my schedule/sanity, I never promised a post a week or anything like that, but the thought of not posting once per month is unacceptable to me. I have, however, procrastinated even in this simple act, and am noticeably posting on the last possible day in September, to keep a promise I made as recently as the start of this paragraph. I’m a fool to myself.

I hope to be blogging regularly again by mid-October. I will keep this promise because guilt is my best motivator. There’s a raft of ‘material’ I need to take forward and give structure to, which I’m particularly excited by and hopefully will be lauded to the high heavens as self-indulgence of the highest order ‘good’. I believe this is what’s known as a teaser.

My apologies once again for leaving you in this chasmic lurch. I will respond to any and all comments the moment this work is signed off.

My thanks to the few new folks who’ve followed recently, I’m so sorry for being neglectful, especially as many of you are WordPress heavyweights. What on Earth must you think of me?6 I will read up on blogs old and new as soon as possible.

Please bear with me, I’ll see you soon.


1 That’s right, I referred to you all as ‘y’all’. Evidently interacting with the Americas has its side-effects.

2 The first project I did at University that earned me industry attention genuinely involved selling ice to eskimos. One day I hope to design something sensible.

3 In the interest of full disclosure, the video has four dislikes, which means that legitimate coolness is either not for everyone, or that my work is neither legitimate nor cool, which would be a colossal waste of my time. I hate Youtubers.

4 Whilst I’m not petulant/stupid/a fourteen-year-old enough to self-diagnose myself from Wikipedia, there’s a psychological phenomenon I may be somewhat privy to called ‘The Impostor Syndrome’ which feeds self-doubt into the assumption that you’re actually a fraud, and that your inevitable unmasking is only moments away. This is a tortuously unpleasant way to live your life, and yet I appear to have described it in a manner similar to an episode of Scooby-Doo, which if anything just reveals that this writer/humorist schtick is similarly hokum.

5 Not as dirty as ‘boobies’, though.

6 Probably a stream of profanities according to taste, followed – somewhat ironically – by the word ‘unfollowed!’

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Hello all. I am super-busy with work at the minute, and am likely to remain so for a while, so busy that I am unable to respond to comments from up to four posts back. (Not so busy as to not write a post, eh Mr. Busybiscuits?)

In the meantime, I have prepared this; the post I did about Facebook was a moderately popular one, so here’s another highlight from my personal social archive. It concerns the time I met and did some work for arguably popular British R&B sensation Lemar. It was quite sensational. He’s a sensation. Sensation. Yeah.

If you don’t know who Lemar is, good. The ironic lack of celebrity will make it funnier.

If you look at the bottom, you will notice Comedy Terence showing up two days late with the wrong end of the stick, devoid of grammar, laughing at his own joke, and spelling the key word wrong. As per usual. That man is a stand-up, ladies and gentleman. I realise I haven’t written very much about him, so this ‘as per usual’ schtick is largely ephemeral, but you get the gist.

Anyway, I hope you appreciate this lazy bit of filler candid sneak peak into what minor celebrities get up to, with specific reference to urination. Enjoy, and I’ll get back to you all hopefully this week.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Taxi Banter

My job is supercool. I am in a taxi with a package full of money, on my way to meet a mysterious stranger at an undisclosed location. I feel like a disposable henchman in a Bond film. I wonder how I’m going to be dispatched, and if I’ll have enough consciousness to catch the inevitable tortuous pun…

To spoil the surprise, the money is £500 in pound coins, and I am going to get them photographed. This is even less glamourous than I expertly lead you to believe in the first paragraph because the coins are in a big pink bucket.

The company is currently doing a campaign for a bank, and the posters will feature structures built out of coins, and for that we need to build and take photos of them. We’re literally made of money.

It is about 9:20 in the morning, and I’ve withdrawn this money from the bank and dashed into a waiting taxi. It feels like an elaborate espionage mission and I am pretty chuffed about it.

After the taxi driver takes down the postcode of my rendezvous, he sets off through the city centre.

‘What’s that you’ve got there?’ he asks.

‘It’s a big pink bucket full of five hundred £1 coins,’ I reply.

‘What’s that for? Making a deposit?’

I try to have a joke with him.

‘No, it’s a ransom. I’m going to meet some thieves. They stole my iPhone.’ I hold up my iPhone for illustrative purposes.

‘Oh,’ he replies, my excellent joke falling flat on it’s stupid face.

I opt instead for the truth; ‘I’m a designer,’ I say, ‘and we’re rebranding a bank. These are for a photoshoot.’

‘Oh,’ he replies.’

This is clearly going nowhere. The set of circumstances currently being undertaken in this vehicle are thoroughly interesting, and if you’ve got nothing to say to that, let’s give up and sit in silence.

We pull up at a set of traffic lights, and he turns to me as if to say something. Oh Christ, is he an illegal minicabber, about to stab me for my bucket of coins? Or maybe he’s a kidnapper; my earlier jape accidentally alerting him that I might know too much, and as such must be silenced? Or is he a marketing hating nutter who’s about to lampoon me for all the myriad ills involved in my profession?

Nothing happens. He just looks at me. I think I might have blushed.

It dawns on me that he is probably only craving a bit of company. He seems a sweet, shy, possibly lonely old man, obviously inviting me to start a conversation.

I pretend to do a double take, flash a warm smile and ask him the first question I can think of, which happens to be what time he started, and inwardly flinch as I realise I am now officially as interesting as Peter Kay.

‘Seven,’ he replies, but in a tone of voice that implies he wants me to continue this banal line of inquiry. It’s like blood from a bloody stone this…1

I can feel the shame burning the back of my throat as my voicebox coughs up the sentence ‘What time are you on ‘til?’

‘Two.’

‘Any interesting bookings happening today?’

‘You’re the most exciting so far.’ You’re damn right I am!

‘Any good cabbie stories?’

‘Nope.’

Well, this is supremely awkward. About a minute passes, and I pretend that I can’t hear the uncomfortable silence over the sound of the engine. I get my phone out and pretend to organise a business call but I actually text my friend Luke about last night’s TV. Luke doesn’t text back.

***

I get to the secret location. It is a building. I wave a cheery goodbye to my silent chauffeur and enter. The photographer is a pretty native Scandinavian girl who has just moved to the UK. I tell her that this is but one of my buckets of money, but I don’t think she understands I am joking. This is unfortunate because if she was impressed I would have to withdraw all my savings and put it in buckets to maintain her trust. I shut my face, and the rest of the shoot passes without incident.

On the way back, I have a different taxi driver, who tells me that everyone except him, including me, is the worst word in the world.2

He proceeds to tell me that I’m worth more to him dead than alive, because alive I am only an £8.00 cab fair whereas if I am killed in an accident in his vehicle I am worth £250,000. He punched his sat-nav because he ignored it and got lost. He is not a nice man. I want the old guy back.


1 This may have been a poor choice of words.

2 Runny poo-head.

My Drinking Problem

Part 1: One In, One Out

Hello, my name is Chris, and I have a not drinking problem.

Go back and read it again.

I’ve recently moved to Manchester to start a new job, working as a designer at an advertising agency. I am undergoing a probation period and I need to impress. This is a problem because I am not a drinker.

If you are unfamiliar with this blog, you might not know that I am painfully skinny. My delicate frame just can’t withstand the liver-rotting quantities quaffed by my contemporaries. Alcohol hits me hard and fast, like an abusive husband, and I get drunk very quickly. This does mean my nights out are cheaper than most peoples, but it also means that if I ‘keep pace’, I’ll be floored in record time, a bit like Amir Khan.1

Alcohol also does horrible things to otherwise perfectly nice people, and it’s not my idea of a way to wind down. I own two pint mugs, but no pint glass – that alone should tell you all you need to know.

And then there’s hangovers. I’ve never been a fan of hangovers. In fact, I’d go as far to say I am anti-hangover. They are rubbish. I avoid them as often as possible. Unfortunately, being such a lightweight means I get them without fail, and avoiding them means not drinking. This is fine with me, but society expects me to salve my troubles with blackouts and liver damage.

Why is this a problem? My new colleagues are big drinkers. Employability in my field is 50% personality, 50% talent, allegedly, and apparently, ‘personality’ is a synonym for ‘getting pissed.’ I resent that whilst many people will work to live, slogging through the week to drink themselves unconscious at the weekend, I must drink in order to keep a job.

I had a whinge on the phone to my friend Doctor Harry, who is a professional psychologist, and he immediately tells me to go for it, and to drink and be merry to win friends. Statistically, those who drink and socialise with their workmates get employed – and stay employed. I worry for the good doctor’s patients, if his best advice for me is ‘solve your problems with alcohol.’

***

My colleagues themselves are a close group. They obviously know each well, and I am the outsider in their midst, but my nerves and misgivings about the company are not limited to it’s socialising culture.

Everyone is very good looking and fashionable – of course they are, they’re big city media players – and it’s very intimidating. One client liaison named Rory is even an international model. Not only does he have a jawline like hewn masonry and limpid blue eyes, he’s also quite the brain box, as he alone is responsible for about half our revenue. And he’s nice. This is even more intimidating.

I’ve noticed as well that there seem to be cliques within the company; with some very interesting work for an impressive client being done by a group of creatives under the direction of Jade, the senior account handler. Admittedly, this collective is based solely on aptitude rather than nepotism, but they seem to be a tight-knit group, often going out for a drink once a brief is completed. I have identified Jade as someone to get close to in order to be given interesting work, but she’s very business minded and all the cups of tea she can drink don’t seem to thaw her coldness. I will have to impress her with my work, and for that I need a stimulating brief. Dammit Jade!

There’s been a few occasions where I’ve been invited out for a drink (and it is always ‘a’ drink on my part), but I never stay long, partly because I live so far away, but mostly because I don’t feel I should have to drink in order to socialise, or to keep a job. I’ve been trying to fit in in other ways; letting my talent speak for itself, being convivial and warm to my colleagues and doing all the belittling jobs without complaining. Not in public, anyway. Save it for the blog.

But I am having the last laugh… (Not out loud, obviously. Nobody has the last ‘LOL.’ That would be ridiculous.) You see, whilst I have withered the storm of blank stares and cursory glances, I have been orchestrating an elaborate plot to exact my vengeance on those who have spurned my talents….

I have been deliberately making bad tea!2

GASP! As I don’t fill the mug up to capacity! SCREAM! As I don’t get the most flavour out of the bag! MAKE A SHOCKED INVOLUNTARY NOISE! As I put just a bit too much milk in! LOOK OFFENDED! As I ‘forget’ to offer you a biscuit.

Revenge is a dish (mug) best served hot. Or it would be, but unfortunately I am so good at making tea that even my worst brews are exceptional. Just my ruddy luck.

I also stole a pen.

Despite their chilly disposition and possible alcohol dependencies, I feel my colleagues are essentially good people, but my favourite member of the team is Jez, the copywriter. Jez is fiercely intelligent, and has the sharp wit to go with it, as well as a mischievous streak and a warm, inclusive laugh that add real life to the room. He’s hilarious, welcoming and leaving at the end of the month. What a let-down. Naturally there’ll be a big piss-up in his honour. What a bigger let-down.

Part 2: Lad Banter

It’s the evening of that leaving do I just mentioned in honour of Jez. I am sat with Paul, an account manager, and a new addition to the team, and Andy, a digital designer. Andy has many things is ample supply; bravado, fight stories, a baby and alcoholism to name but four, and Paul combines the physique of an alpha male with the good humour and intelligence of not-an-alpha male. I am intimidated. I stare nervously at the expensive beer in my hand. I resent the pressure to drink it, but equally I want to get my money’s worth. Look what depths the economic recession has brought me to…

The conversation has been centred around the fairer sex for quite a while, and I have been nodding and pretending to be bawdy. Currently, Andy is holding court on the subject of cheating. I hate cheating. It is rubbish. I liked it better at primary school when it was called two-timing, before it got rebranded, and even then it caused a frown upon my tiny face.3

I can’t put it any more succinctly than comedian Jon Richardson, who said on his BBC 6Music Show;

‘I hate cheating, I think it’s my least favourite thing in the world. I hate it even more than wet bread. And I hate wet bread. I could never be a duck.’

Anyway, after Andy starts listing the circumstances that would cause a lapse in his fidelity (he is drinking/a girl is near) Paul amiably concedes to our colleague’s opinions with this throwaway statement;

‘If a girl starts talking to you, you’re not going to turn her away, and if it leads somewhere, so be it. You’re only human.’

NO! This is not an excuse! As humans we have evolved to be BETTER than animals. With our consciousness we have created such notions as ‘chivalry’ and ‘shame’, and failing to utilise these concepts properly is like spitting in the eyes of your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and-so-on exponentially until you’re phlegming in the face of Neanderthal man.4

When humanity developed a conscience, it should have spelt an end for laddish behaviour. Animals copulate because nature says so, but we alone have the power of reasoned decision, and with that power comes great responsibility – so spake Spiderman. With human consideration comes such human traits as courtship, romance, fidelity and evenThe Joy of Sex, as well as, admittedly, marital aids, sexual deviance and photographs of naked ladies; phenomena that separate us from the beasts.5

If your excuse is ‘I am evolutionarily hardwired to stick my business in whatever hole is directed my way’, then at least have the decency to use correct terminology; you’re not ‘only human’, you’re ‘only an animal’. Get it right.

Once again, my needlessly overstimulated brain has neglected to allow my mouth to keep up with my colleagues’ conversation. My silence is noted and I am once again quizzed about my love life. A particularly insecure part of me asserts itself, eager to earn the respect of these real men, and I tell a horrible lie…

I describe a fictional recent girlfriend, a break-up with whom I am still getting over, and hence am not on the market. I name this girl ‘Danielle’, giving her the personality of my friend Daniel and the appearance of my friend Sophie. Inevitably, what with us being bloody blokes, the conversation tends towards the physical, and I have to describe a fictionalised sex life with the uncomfortable amalgamation of two close friends, neither of which would be up for it. Dan is obviously a male-bloke-man, and indeed, sometimes we have shared a proper hug (never in public) but nothing that would infuriate a right-wing fundamentalist Christian. Nothing romantic has ever happened with Sophie either, because she is a homosexual, something that very much would infuriate a right-wing fundamentalist Christian, if she knew any.

I wonder inwardly about the horrible thing I’ve just done. Who is the real immoral person here? Is it my lesbian friend, happy and successful and in love with another beautiful young lady? Or is it my colleague(s), lusting after the merest hint of woman, happy to sow their oats into any receptacle, regardless of commitments to other err… receptacles? Or is it me? The insecure deviant who creates a lie in which he sleeps with a girl with no interest in him in the real world, but who is foisted with the personality of his best mate in order to win the respect of two lads who aren’t his cup of tea anyway?6

My new friends’ curiosity is only sated once I show them a picture of this girl what I maded up. I have to surreptitiously google the word ‘girl’ without them noticing. To this day I have no idea whose picture I inadvertently showed them, but they seemed satisfied rather than appalled, so I presumably had Safe Search on.

As the beers continue to flow, the collective machismo becomes diluted, and the truth comes out. Andy is unhappy in his relationship; an affair of necessity than of affection to support their baby, and Paul secretly shares many of my sentiments on the subject. We discuss this further as I accompany Paul away from the party early to catch transport home. I’m starting to like Paul, and I feel like a fool for judging him too quickly.

As I leave, I say a final goodbye to Jez, thanking him for making me feel so welcome. He lauds my talents and wishes me the best for the future, promising to keep in touch. We shake hands vigorously, and I tell him the agency will be a colder place without him. He replies that it’ll do just fine with people like me there. This is a very nice thing to say, but then again, he hasn’t read this blog.

***

Monday morning heralds another roll call of drunken mishaps and mischief. I learn that Hayley broke a table by dancing on it, that Stan was arrested for lighting a cigarette indoors, and that there may have been some insensitive comments made about race. Jane, our new copywriter, has already put her phone in the fridge, so the week is already off to a good start.

I appear to have passed some sort of ritual, and the invite goes round for the studio Christmas Meal and Annual Piss-Up. I say yes, obviously, because a job hangs in the balance. Perfect: here I am, in October, dreading a hangover I am going to have in December.

On my lunch hour I accompany Andy & Paul to an award winning sandwich shop. As we walk past a XXX Pornography Shop, the owner protrudes, beer belly first, from a seedy-looking PVC strip curtain, leans forward into the street, uses one dirty finger to press his nostril together, and snorts a gobbet of phlegmy snot onto the pavement.

I learn an important lesson about who the worst people in the world are.

Part 3: Getting Merry

The day of the Christmas Party has arrived, just as I knew it would do. That’s calendars for you. Of course, I’m very worried, and have prepared several hangover remedies in advance:

2 x Two litre bottle of water – to dilute alcohol intake, and also to take painkillers with the next morning, should a glass of water not be available.

1 x 16 pack of Nurofen Plus Express – for fast acting pain relief.®7

1 x Two pint carton of milk to line stomach with.

2 x Bread rolls – to initially line my stomach and to give much needed carbohydrates in the morning.

1 x Massive bottle of Lucozade – to replace electrolytes lost in sleep whilst processing alcohol, as well as much needed glucose the next day.

1 x Bag of Ready Salted Crisps – to restore greatly diminished levels of salt.

1 x Teabag – for, when I’m ready, speeding up my metabolism with caffein to process the remaining alcohol faster.

Some might consider this level of preparation unnecessary, but such people were obviously never in the Boy Scouts. Being this paranoid got me fourteen badges, and you just can’t argue with those stats.8

It’s these pre-emptive strikes, as I like to call them, that lead me to being where I am now, doing what I’m doing.

Our office (or studio as we call it, ‘cause we is creatives) shares it’s foyer with another office, which is currently vacant. Either the recession has discouraged new tenants from taking residence in a steeply-rented office space, or people just can’t stand us arty-farty marketing tossers. I guess we’ll never know.

For the time being, however, our agency has appropriated the foyer and it’s enclosed lavatory as an area for visiting clients to call their own, and it is in this lavatory that I find myself during my lunch hour on Friday.

It has come to this; me, huddled in the square meter betwixt toilet and sink, necking a two-pint carton of milk to line my stomach for the night-long binge that’s coming my way. There is absolutely no need for me to be huddled, but initially it seemed appropriate, and then I got cramp and had to stay that way. I take great care to make myself presentable upon leaving the bathroom. It would not do to be seen by a client exiting their private toilet with a milky face… That isn’t how our business is done…

***

Come four o’clock, the team downs pencils for the week, piles into three taxis and rendezvous at a fancy hotel apartment that’s been booked for the specific purpose of having somewhere to trash in a drunken stupor. It sleeps eight, comes with a complimentary dressing gown and pillow mint, and has glorious panoramic views of a
bog-standard carpark. I’d like to be able to say it was a particularly picturesque or beguiling carpark, but that would be a lie, and I only lie for comic effect, to get myself out of trouble, or if the mood takes me.

The early birds have already started, and are downing whiskey on ice. They joke that they’re going to get me wasted. I devoutly hope its a joke. Rory says he’s going to make me do so much coke I’ll think my name is Henry.9

They all laugh, and so do I, but mainly because Henry is my middle name and Rory has been accidentally correct.

Everyone grabs a beer bottle and nips to the bathrooms to spruce up. I do the same, but pour my beer away and fill the bottle with water so that I can be seen chugging. I can almost hear readers screaming at me for wasting alcohol, especially when there’s starving people in the Third World, but you shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach and the Ethiopians have enough on their plate – figuratively speaking – without being peer pressured into boozing. It’s downright irresponsible.

***

After a short taxi ride, which I am allowed claim back on expenses, we arrive at a very fancy restaurant. I eat one of my top three meals of the year. This part of the evening is only marred by our Managing Director getting a bit frivolous and accidentally catapulting a whole desert onto his lap. This is probably a ‘you had to be there’ moment, but rest assured it was very, very funny. The desert was a sweet pear, and it sat there in his lap, juice seeing into his expensive trousers, looking like a fruity, gloopy, misshapen wang. And he’s the big boss man. Oh how we laughed.

There is a moment of camaraderie between us all, but before I have a chance to enjoy it properly I have to neck a glass of wine and follow the group to a cocktail bar…

***

Two hours drip by, and I’ve held steady with just the one mojito, but I keep scooping the ice out so it looks like I’ve drunk more of it than I have. There’s a much more relaxed air of conversation now; I’ve loosened up enough to come out of my shell a bit, and my workmates are tipsy enough to laugh at all my snarky jokes, which is nice of them.

My easy-on-the-alcohol ethos has not gone unnoticed, however. Rory, quite drunk, leans across to me and says how much he respect my ability to say ‘no’ to drinking too much.10 ‘If only people could say no,’ he slurs, ‘how much better life could be without our vices…’ I accept the compliment, and raise my glass to self-restraint, deciding not to point out that an absence of self-restraint has taken Rory to modelling parties all over the world and into the knickers of celebrities you’ve actually heard of.

I also get talking to Ed, another new account manager, as we try and ignore a scene going on to my left. It turns out that Jade and Stan, a designer, are midway through a turbulent love affair, and have decided to showcase a small part of it this evening, for our delectation. As they smooch so gracelessly, Ed confides in me that he is a comedy writer, and is writing a sitcom pilot with his flatmate about the life of a stand-up comedian. Keen to impress, I casually guess at the plot, and accidentally get it right first time. I think Ed hates me.

Off the back of this, Paul’s ears start to burn, (not literally) and before long we’re having an excellent male bonding session made up entirely of Alan Partridge quotes. An hour later and we’ve all gone away promising to check out each other’s favourite shows, and Ed has offered to look through my blog.11

With the rest of the team now too drunk to notice me necking a glass of water, we take two taxis into Manchester’s Chinatown to a karaoke bar. A joyless bouncer asks for ID, and is noticeably disappointed when he is unable to refuse me entry, as I always carry ID because I look about twelve. None of the rest of the group has ID because they haven’t needed it for years, and we have our first big drunk argument of the night, at 10:30 PM. The management have allowed us in simply to appease us, and when I say us, I mean Hayley, who had to be restrained. She really wants to do karaoke…

Hayley sings the beginning of Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’ eleven times because she wants silence for her performance and PEOPLE KEEP TALKING! I make a note of this in my phone because it is funny. A staff member comes to check if the karaoke system is OK and Hayley screams at them and slams the door in their face. Then security gives her a talking to. It isn’t funny any more.

Having previously been so worried about songs, I note with delight that every almost song on the playlist has featured on a ‘Punk Goes Pop’ compilation of my youth, and I know all the words! I patiently wait until I am expected to sing. Under much cajoling from the rest of the staff, Paul and I select ‘Say, Say, Say’ by Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson, myself taking on the part of the begloved moonwalker. I don’t want to seem arrogant, but we nailed it. The King of Pop is dead. Long live Me.

Now that we’re safely in the karaoke bar, and everyone else is too drunk to remember if I make a fool of myself now, I let my guard down and enjoy myself. After all, it’s my Christmas Do too. I drink several expensive beers that the company is paying for, largely because the company is paying for them, and they are expensive. I relax, and begin to see my colleagues as friends…

***

As the night draws to a close, I find myself sat at the back of the room with Jade. ‘This is my chance to get to know her,’ I think, ‘see if I can’t get me some cool work. I’m feeling particularly outgoing, and she’s well out of it.’ I initiate conversation, but before I’ve finished one sentence, Jade grabs my wrists earnestly;

‘Chris, I just want to apologise.’

Eh?

‘I wish your first week had gone differently, because the little I’ve seen of your work has been amazing…’

Ah.

‘Your work on that TV ad was great. I think it’s disgraceful how little good work you’ve been given.’

Ah.

‘You know Jez said you’re a fucking genius. You’d do so well here, but you’d do even better in London…’

Ah.

‘I wish we’d got to know each other sooner. Me, you, Paul and Ed, it would have been so good to have a new team. You’re all so talented! And cute!’

Ah.

‘I do have one criticism, though…’

Ah.

‘You need to make better tea.’

Balls.

Twenty minutes later, against my will, Jade has kissed me in front of an audience of about thirty Chinese people, and dragged me and Paul into a taxi and passed out..

***

I wake up the next morning. My hangover is mild, and will be gone in an hour. I use all my remedies, and even have time for a shower, before heading back home. Once again, I had nothing to worry about.

At work on Monday, the atmosphere is relaxed and jovial. Ed, Paul and I greet each other with a unanimous ‘AHA!’ I make all the tea properly. Jade gives me a little wave. This is what you get for trying to have fun…


1 Can you smell that satire? Wouldn’t like to be him when he reads this! Also, wouldn’t like to be me when he reads this. Good God what have I done!?

2 If this was speech rather than a written piece, I would have arranged for a dramatic sting to be played at this point. Just so you know. Don’t say I don’t think of everything.

3 All of me was small. I do not have an abnormally small face, not now, not ever.

4 You never know, they might have enjoyed that sort of thing back then.

‘Have they invented the Xbox yet?’

‘Nope. Want to spit on my face?’

‘K.’

5 N.B. Not true of all said photographs.

6 ANSWERS: It’s C and/or B. If you said A you can fuck right off.

7 This blog is not endorsed, supported or even acknowledged by Nurofen. That said, they do a bloody good painkiller. Go on, go and buy some Nurofen!

8 Not the sewing badge though, that would be a step too far.

9 I’ve only just realised this might be a reference to Henry the Hoover. Poor Henry, ridiculed the world over for performing a function and having a silly face. I’ll be your friend, Henry…

10 He also said he’s intimidated by my vocabulary, in particular my use of the words ‘requisite’ in ‘zenith’, as well as my ability to use them in a better context than I’m doing now.

11 Hi Ed! BIG SHOUT OUT!

The Award

Good news! In my day job as a designer, a piece of work what I done has been nominated for a prestigious award. I won’t bore you with the details, since you certainly didn’t come here to read about my successes, because success isn’t funny. The ceremony is about a month away, and will be proper good. My invite is in email form and arrive in my inbox with a cheery ‘ping.’ A quick scan-read displays a warm note of congratulations and – hang on…

Everyone will be able to bring a plus one with them to enjoy the evening. We will need to know the name of your guest as soon as possible and also if either of you have any dietary requirements. 

Ah, the plus-one. Cruelest of the social customs, continuously darkening the days of any single person lucky enough to receive one. Nothing else has the same duality of meanings; combining a reminder of your inevitable solitude whilst chiding you about what ideals you should be conforming to.

What to do? Do I resign myself to the disdain of the inviter by telling the truth? Or do I tell a white lie, leaving the option open for me to meet someone and to bring them along? (And I’m well aware this forms the plot of an one of the two episodes of How I Met Your Mother that I’ve seen.)

Also, let’s just take that sentence in isolation for a second; ‘Everyone will be able to bring a plus one with them to enjoy the evening’. What does this imply? That I will be unable to enjoy the evening if I don’t have a plus one? Am I to infer that a plus one is expected of me, and that everybody else there will have a beau-in-tow, everyone in comfortable company, save for me and the staff? Is this how the night will end? Alone, skulking in the shadows, weeping into the vol-au-vents?

The invite is genderless, leaving room for the possibility that I might be homosexual, (I’m not, no matter what the graffiti in the toilet says) but perhaps I could wilfully misinterpret it and bring a friend? ‘Good evening, thank you for this honour, I wouldn’t be here tonight without my friend Dave, who is as repulsively single as I am. He didn’t do anything towards the work, but I did have a plus one, and he was the only person whom I could guarantee wouldn’t be busy necking. I literally wouldn’t be here without him because he drove. Cheers.’ I won’t invite a friend, that would be social death. And if there are any single young ladies there, whichever friend I bring will inevitably be more attractive to them.

I could possibly appease the expectant hosts whilst simultaneously avoiding an awkward romantic experience by being accompanied by a lady-friend. Almost all my female friends are in relationships, mainly with my male friends.1 It would be very uncomfortable to invite a lady-mate and not her beau, simply because a female companion is expected of me. I imagine the evening with the beautiful Jemma, an artist, and long-term girlfriend to my very good friend Adam. She’d get something out of the night as well, making connections within the industry and advancing her own career, but the night would inevitably end with;

‘Well that went well, thanks for coming, Jem.’

‘That’s alright, I’ve hopefully got a few commissions out of it. What happens now?’

‘I don’t know, what do you and Adam normally do?’

‘Go back to the hotel and snuggle.’

‘We aren’t going to do that are we?’

[Long pause]… We totally aren’t friends any more.’

And thus I lose both Jem and Adam.

I spoke to another two of my friends about this dilemma; Martin and Joe. They both agreed that this was the ideal opportunity to invite a pretty stranger to a posh do.

‘How the hell do I go about that, Joe?’ I scoffed.

‘Well’, he replied, ‘you start talking to a girl you like in a bar, get to know her over the course of a few weeks, then casually slip in that you have this cool thing to go to and ask her if she’d like to come with.’

Martin has sadly recently come out of his second two-year relationship, and has a knack for attracting incredibly suitable women. (That doesn’t sound like a compliment but it is; Martin gets it so right it’s almost suspicious.) Joe’s relationship is nearing it’s one-year mark, but prior to his current girlfriend, the lovely Bethy, a five-year relationship became an engagement. These two gentlemen seem to know what they’re doing. Regardless, they piss all over anything I’ve done, and are well placed to offer advice.

That said, Joe is talking out of his arse. If I’m bothered enough to write a blog by an email simply assuming that by my age I would be in some kind of relationship, then I’m certainly not the sort of person to chat a lady up in a bar.

I don’t really go to bars, and when I do, I go with friends and rarely talk to strangers. I find it difficult to believe that relationships spark in bars at the rate they seem to in films, as (1) This is real life, not a sitcom, (2) This is Britain, where such contact is actively discouraged and punishable by a £10 fine and (3) Considering how loud you have to shout to get your order in, it’s impossible for the subtleties of flirty conversation to be heard. If the entertainment industry was true-to-life, all fledgeling romances would be punctuated every other line with people shouting ‘WHAT!?’ into each others ears.

At what point during the conversation do I mention that I’m an award winner? My career choice is important to me; I studied and worked hard to get where I am and I’m very lucky to have as good a job as I do, and this is quite likely to be a key conversational point. Should I bring it up early, and be honest about it, or keep it modestly in reserve? Is there a chance that she’ll be impressed only by the award, and tag along to be able to hobnob with the (design) elite? Should I not mention it at all in favour of establishing a genuine connection? Why doesn’t this paragraph have a joke in it yet? Monkey bollocks.

The ceremony is about four weeks away, even assuming I meet someone I like, four weeks is a short time to get to know someone enough to know if they’re worth inviting. It is however, just long enough for a girl to get to know me enough to learn that no amount of award ceremonies are worth being romantically associated with me.

Also; what if choose wrongly and get chatting to someone with the personality of a flannel, or worse, a rhino? By affirming a plus-one I’m essentially jamming my romantic future into a four-week quest to find someone – the last thing I need is a deadline. What if the search comes to naught and it boils down to ‘you’ll do!’ and what will happen afterwards? Will I have to maintain a rushed relationship? How long before she discovers I can’t realistically keep her in awards ceremonies, posh frocks and all the canapés she can eat?

We are having this conversation over a pub lunch. I glance around to see if there are any candidates. There are two pensioners enjoying a cooked breakfast, a businessman treating himself to a surf & turf and numerous rough looking men with the glazed eyes and enlarged capillaries that suggest they’ve been reserving their seats for lunch all day, every day, so to speak, and that if I asked them to dress up all fancy-like and accompany me to an awards do I’d get exactly the kind of beating I deserve.

I ask my friends how they managed it. ‘Outrageous flirting in a library’, says Martin. ‘Just slimed my way into her bed’ says Joe. ‘She was up for it, and I was in the bedroom anyway,’ he hastily adds. ‘I am not a sex criminal.’ It’s true, he isn’t, and I know it’s true ‘coz he said so.

I consider following their examples, but Joe’s seems very dangerous. I’ll either come out of it with a romantic liaison or – much more likely in anyone’s case – a court summons for breaking and entering and at least sexual harassment. That, and I’d probably have to abseil in, and the nearest I have to a grappling hook is a paperclip chain, which won’t hold even my weight. To recap; Joe’s methods results in: success/criminal record/broken stationary and/or legs.

Martin’s method seems a safer alternative, but I’m not sure how one flirts outrageously in a library, notoriously a place of absolute silence. I assume it’s all suggestive walks, furtive glances, come-to-bed eyes and obscene hand gestures. This seems manageable, and resolve to give it a try the next time I am in a library, hoping that it coincides with that of a pretty young lady, rather than a typical librarian. However badly it goes, the worst that can come of this endeavour is a library card.

They are right, however, that I could invite a lady friend to the ceremony, impressing her and treating her well, showing her off to my contemporaries, and coming away several steps closer to a relationship. This will not work because I do not know any ladies.

***

Anyway, a week has now passed since the invite cheerfully pinged it’s cheery way into my life, cheerfully reminding me of my failings and cheerfully causing more stress than it was to actually do the damn work that won the award in the first place. Another cheerful ping sounds; a second email from the committee, containing (among others) these sentences:

I’m really sorry to chase you, but would you be able to let me know your guest’s name?  And if either of you have any dietary requirements?

Anus! Look what my dithering has achieved! I have already let down the hosts by failing to respond quickly! I flick open a reply and type out my acceptance and dietary needs, and then stumble… What to say?2

I type and re-type my reply, searching for the right words to show a smooth nonchalance, or more accurately trying not to sound as chronically single as I actually am.

‘I don’t have a guest to bring.’

Too matter of fact, sounds a bit emotionless, or worse, someone begging for pity.

‘I’ll be attending alone.’

Contrary to what I think, this does not make me sound like a spy. 

It makes me sound like an indefensible bellend.

‘It’ll just be me attending, thanks.

Too informal. A job could be at stake here.

‘I won’t be bringing a guest, thanks. (She can’t make it).’

No. No white lies. Rather the withering gaze at my lack-of-companion than endless questions about a fictitious lady-friend.

‘I used to go out with a vegetarian, but we broke up so she’s not coming.’

This is not funny enough to bother with, and is also out of date by three years. Irrelevant and not funny, a two-nil defeat.

‘I have no dietary requirements but my fictional girlfriend only eats bees.’

For God’s sake don’t send this. No one wants to be ‘that guy’.

‘What are you doing that evening?’

God no. Wacky and/or presumptuous and TOTALLY unprofessional. And really not my style, as there’s no irony in text form. As we all know, my ‘style’ involves admiring from afar, then writing a snotty blog, or, should I stumble blindly into a relationship, panicking like a graceless trellis. Anyway, the email is from a ‘Zoe’ and a ‘Bob’. I will no doubt end up chaperoned by Bob. And they’ll both be there because they’re the hosts. Fuckwit.

***

In the end I type;

‘I will not be requiring a plus one, thank you.’

and press send.

Maybe I will meet someone there…

I will definitely not meet someone there.


Parties are fun – couples invariably get the beds whilst singletons shiver under a coat on the floor in the hall. You’d think there’d be some sort of compensation – ‘Well we can at least share body warmth, and as you have so little to be happy about you can have the bed. Maybe if you cry into the pillow enough the duvet will feel like a hug. Anyway, goodnight.’

Not literally stumble, if my fingers literally stumbled the email would read like this. ‘I’d love to come, and have no dietary requirementsnsnfklawef gregmfsdklg;.sdfg.’