Reading a Wiseman
Rachel Stevens. Ally McCoist. Gaby Logan, with Andy Townsend.
We were in good company in Heathrow's departure lounge.
My first choice of book, 'Black Box' (perhaps not the most appropriate choice prior to flying) having been rendered unreadable thanks to a hastily-spotted misprint, I reached for my second choice: Professor Richard Wiseman's 'The Luck Factor' (perhaps not the second most appropriate choice prior to flying).
Yet it was most certainly an enjoyable read.
Enjoyable not least to empathise with those more unfortunate than myself. Such as Susan (34) with her date breaking both legs en route to their rendezvous, the next breaking their nose walking into a door, and even her wedding-day church being burned down by arsonists two days before.
"Interviewing unlucky people like Susan often made me feel sad." writes the Professor, perceptively, "The situation was quite different when I spoke to lucky people."
But enjoyable mainly to laugh at the Professor's dubious theories: Lucky people, the Professor proposes, "maximise the chance opportunities in their lives by building a 'network' of luck". Citing sociologists' estimates that we, on average, each know 300 people on first name terms, he claims that by introducing yourself to a new person (again called Sue, but age not stated) at a party, you're only a handshake away from her 300: creating 90,000 new possibilities for a chance opportunity.
The Professor's hypothesis was, to me, patently rubbish. Because it would surely not only rely on you providing Sue with sufficient information from which to "maximise your chance opportunity" but for Sue to then tell all 300 first-name-termed friends, and for all 300 to potentially remember and act upon your information which Sue forwarded on. Which, if Sue were so diligent and proactive with every
stranger she met at a party, would soon guarantee Sue's 300 friends would dwindle to a mere handful. And if Sue were the same Sue as Susan (34), she would most likely get some information room thus rendering the whole transaction meaningless.
Despite my cynicism, I found myself pondering the Professor's suggestion we each meet someone new each week as the plane descended. And, upon landing without so much as a jolt on Munich's ice-covered runway, considering whether his words were rubbing off on me after all.
In the arrivals hall, we spotted Terry Venables pensively chatting on his mobile trying to locate his ITV Football co-presenters. (Stevens was unfortunately nowhere to be seen.)
Clearly exasperated, the perma-tanned ex-England manager then took the bizarre decision to run up the 'down' travelator to greet them. Age overtook determination as his sprint slowed to a stroll, much to our amusement.
Alas my English reserve prevented me from introducing myself - but also thankfully made me resist the temptation to just shout sarcastic encouragement.
It doesn't matter, I thought: I'll meet someone new later.
Spoddy question follow-up
, I appear to have replicated the plummeting-sidebar problem, and to have resolved it - albeit in a cackhanded way.
Is your sidebar now at the right-hand side, like?
Little steps, friends, little steps.
Flitting back to my desk between incredibly important meetings, my mobile signals a text message has arrived.
Probably a friend trying to catch up, I think, or the network trying to persuade me to upgrade my tariff.
But it's not from a friend. Or the network. It's from someone - two people, actually - from whom I've never received a text before.
Astounded, I open it:
"Hello unlucky. Hows it going."
Honoured and emotional, I forgive the grammatical errors to read on:
"hope you are ok"
The poetic close almost brings me to tears:
"xx love mum and dad-xx"
This is a first. My parents have learnt to text.
"Just trying out the technology" they proudly announce in an unnecessary follow-up message.
I call them to congratulate: "Well done! How did you manage that?"
"We asked our hairdresser" they reply.
“They want this
?” exclaims the Creative Director, pointing at the piece of paper I’d handed her.
“Yes” I reply sheepishly.
My first briefing on my new contract isn’t going well.
“They always do this” she complains, “Asking the earth for yesterday and with no money. When we’re already up to our necks with half the staff off sick.”
“Can we do it?” I ask, sympathetically.
“I don’t know how” she replies, “but we’ll try to find the time.”
Having somehow rebuilt my first bridge, I return to my desk.
Half-hour later, I see her across the office, and grow suspicious.
“She’s responsible for online
, right?” I ask one of m’new lackeys.
“Yes” m’new lackey replies, “Why?”
“Because she’s ‘busy’ painting different colours onto big sheets of paper.”
Returning to the office after lunch, I find the walls lined with samples of the painted paper.
At that moment I realise that top priority has been given to testing new colours for the upcoming refurbishment.
Just as well they delivered on my brief, otherwise they’d have been hell to pay.
First day on contract, I meet the account director I’m replacing.
“I won’t beat around the bush with you” he introduces himself, “I’m leaving after only a few months because frankly I’ve had enough…”
“The client’s a nightmare.” he continues, “Causing everyone on the account to leave…”
I nod again.
“…The creative team are all new, so just don’t understand the brand…”
I nod twice this time, to keep the conversation interesting.
“…And the support team have all been made redundant. Consequently,” he sighs, wearily, “the few left have no idea who’s doing what when.”
I nod just once again, not wishing to overnod, and should by rights be feeling completely daunted.
But thankfully my concentration has been distracted by something much more important.
Though listening (and nodding) to his words, I’d spotted a distinct likeness which I just couldn’t quite place.
“Well, I’m here to help” I interject – or something similarly inane.
Then it hits me! Will Young! He looks like the live reality popshow winner Will Young!
(An observation later cemented on learning someone had drawn a huge arrow from his Polaroid snap on the ‘new starters’ board to the Will Young poster adorning the wall next to it.)
“Good luck” continues Will, handing me a bunch of papers, “I’m off later this week”.
Clearly Will could take no more, so had decided he’d better leave right now.
I, on the other hand, have a mountain to climb.
I've received reports that my recent site redesign which I worked SO HARD to achieve does not look as fine and dandy as it does on my PC on others.
Specifically, what should be the right-hand sidebar, plummets down to the bottom of the screen.
And, being a perfectoinist, this simply won't do.
So I'd welcome a straw-poll sample - lurkers included, please do come out of your "all take, no give" closets - for you to comment whether it looks ok or not; and if the latter, what browser setup you're using.
Alternatively, if Someone Who Knows What They're Doing can tell me exactly what's wrong with my template, that'd be splendid. I do not really understand these things. And whilst on the subject how do I get my post headings to align nicely with everything else?
Apologies again for recent elusiveness. I'm off to Germany for a few days, but have a backlog of things to tell you. So will see if I can get these posted to you during the week.
Thank you - as always, I love you all.
PS "Perfectoinist" was my little joke.
The Great Escape
(Continued from yesterday)
Eleven hours without food, sleep, proper drink: the only stimulant, in fact, artificial light.
That was my nightmare. But I'm not prepared to give up just like that.
Stranded up on the fifth floor, I realise I at least have access to the bathroom, so could subsist on water overnight. I am empathising with that David Blaine.
I knock on the window in case I can gain any unlikely attention. I don't, so walk my palms against it making pained faces. I am behaving like that Marcel Marceu.
I descend to the fourth floor, but have the same problem. Third, same again. Second, expecting the bar to be open, find it closed. So go down to first.
At first, the door opens. So presenting me with a dilemma, because the door opens into the mailroom. What if the door shuts behind me? Subsisting on a diet of bathroom water I could tolerate, but a diet of manilla envelopes and elastic bands I could not. Unless forced to. I am resourceful like that Bruce Parry.
Taking the plunge into the mailroom, I see a distant silhouette. Its size increases with the show shuffle of feet. The shuffle is so steady, so heavy, as to carry the arrogance only exhibited by security guards.
"You a temp?" he asks as he unlocks the door.
I nod ashamedly.
"Happens all the time" he replies.
I'm wandered back to my desk, and escorted outside to the cold, unforgiving welcome that is Knightsbridge at night.
It'd been another long day, so I'm itching to get out.
But I still have a lot to do. Keen to make a good impression, I'm trying to get on top of things. Strategy documents, project charts, contact reports. I tells ya, it ain't easy bein' no marketer.
Dovetailing from a website meeting through a corporate audit to updating the status sheet, my bladder is bursting, but I've set myself targets to complete before allowing myself even this small relief.
My voicemail bleeps. It's another friend suggesting a drink. I still haven't got back to others suggesting drinks, a book launch, a gig, even one who's getting married. I'm not proud how I'm letting friends down. But right now I have my important status sheet to finish.
Seven o'clock passes, as does eight, and before I know it nine, until I'm just about put finishing touches to my document.
After this, the 'print' button is very quickly followed by the 'door release' button as I rush to relieve my bladder.
Relaxed, I stroll back to the door and wave my security pass against the detector which flashes green as usual.
But when I push the door, it doesn't move. Won't budge. Static.
I'm trapped on the fifth floor, with no other soul in site.
It's all a buggery load of baloney, isn't it?
I mean, we shouldn't have to be told
when to be romantic. Whore ourselves to commercialism. Remove all spontaneity. Enforce ourselves to feel loved, and feel ourselves loved.
Yet most of us still feel innate pressure to do something
. If in a relationship, purchase Valentine's gift to the value of £10 raised to the power of seriousness of relationship (= maximum of number of years minus two, or five). If not, wallow in unmitigating self-pity.
So last year, I didn't bother. I spent Valentine's night cleaning out my oven, listening to the sombre tones of Lambchop. It seemed somehow more fitting. And in a small yet significant way, I enjoyed it more than sitting in some dressed-up restaurant eating their overly restrictive set menu at a red-checked table decorated with wilting red rose, cheap candle, and cheaper date.
This year, I attended Highbury, where the Gunners wiped Palace's arses 5-1.
"We're moving on!" beckoned the Tallest Recruitment Consultant In The World after a couple of hours rubbing shoulders with London's marketing glitterati. "Fancy joining us?"
Finding the focus of my life suddenly thrust from socialising back to work, it was ironic that the main engagement I didn't have to cancel this week was a 'networking' do.
I did want to join them. A night out was just the tonic I needed after three whole days hard work.
"Just be careful," she whispered, pointing, "of that pissed Australian girl."
Sipping back a manly Bellini in a private members bar, I attempted to make pleasant conversation with the Pissed Australian Girl: "So, what do you do?"
, y'know…" she slurred, "Dynamic… power….buzzy…stormin'…y'know?"
I didn't know what she meant at all. She was babbling.
Thankfully Tallest waded in to save the conversation. She emotionally recalled how due to her father's senior military background a strong childhood memory was the routine precaution to check underneath the family car for IRA bombs prior to any journey.
It was appropriate, I thought, to respect this admirable honesty by listening politely.
Pissedgirl did not. "Ugh
…" she interrupted, this sound already irritating me, "I really support the IRA."
Seeing Tallest's horrified reaction, I quickly tried to intercept some diplomacy by explaining how sympathising with a cause was different to condoning extreme action employed by some of its supporters.
My efforts fell on deaf Australian ears. "Ugh
…" she continued relentlessly on her tactless rant.
"I really think we should change the subject" suggested Tallest, drawing from her cigarette, "If I've ever learnt anything, it's to never discuss religion, culture, sects…"
Pissedgirl interrupted yet again, this time with a tale so meandering it was unclear what her point was.
Until with each conceited "Ugh
", I realised, she'd misunderstood. Really misunderstood. Really, absolutely, horribly misunderstood.
Her pointless story was eventually drawing to a closing punchine: "and then - Ugh! Hah! Hurgh!
" she guffawed, "… my friend ended up having FULL LESBIAN SEX!"
"Very interesting" I lied, "but I think you may have misheard the word 'sects' ".
I sipped on my Bellini, taking in the sumptuous ambience, as Pissedgirl remained oblivious to reason.
No sooner had I finished whinging last week than I was summonsed to a job interview this morning.
The interview didn't end as such, instead I was invited to join a subsequent meeting. So take not being asked to leave since as a promising sign.
Bedlam would be an understatement for the situation which greeted me. But which is after all why my services as a moderately successful professional marketer have been procured. Above-average success, or abject failure, beckons.
Unfortunately, the likely continued long hours means I'll be only posting sporadically, at best.
But before you think things have taken a turn for a change, rest assured that unluckiness is never far away:
Friday night, after a good evening: return home to find a grown man urinating against the wall. Next to where the young boy had pissed.
Monday morning, on my way to the interview: open my door to find a fresh steaming turd. Though no expert of faeces, I detected this as not from human, yet too large for dog... more likely a small horse, but bigger than a Shetland Pony.
I blame the insurgents.
Back when I can: I love you all.
"In the post"
Three weeks before the gig, my tickets haven't arrived, despite having received tickets for two other gigs ordered that same week.
I telephone, eventually making it through the myriad of touchtone, voice recognition and telepathy: "Hello, my tickets haven't arrived?"
"We can't tell whether they've been sent."
"Why not phone back a week before?"
"Is that the best you can do?"
One week before the gig, my tickets haven't arrived so, as advised, I telephone again:
"Hello, my tickets still haven't arrived?"
"Well, they've been sent."
"Well, they haven't arrived."
"No. When were they sent?"
"We can't tell."
"Recently, or a while ago?"
"The system doesn't say. Why not phone back in a few days?"
"Before the gig, I assume... Tuesday?"
"That sounds good."
"Is that the best you can do?"
Makes the gargantuan booking fee worthwhile.
Not working nine-to-five
So I find myself at home, again, resting - 'between contracts'.
It was a conscious decision to put myself in this situation: quit my job; obtain freelance work; explore opportunities; to hopefully, eventually, travel.
And finding employment for most of the couple of working months since I did so, with Christmas in the middle - perhaps the stupidest time of the year to make such a move - is no bad start.
But I sit here today doubting slightly. Not regretting. I don't regret quitting my job for a second. Not one to let situations stagnate, I believe in forcing change every now and again. I've done it before, and things have worked out, so I'm sure I'll do it again. And I'd prepared myself for the waiting, the rejection, the uncertainty. Being knocked back by illness last week didn't help, that was for sure, but better to happen then than just after starting a contract. So gaining an interview the very next day I got back on the phones was encouraging. Even though they decided to recruit a more senior role, it's all good experience, right? Right. Ultimately leading me to the conclusion that this will
come good. I will
get work, and will
fulfil my ambition to travel again. But today, it feels like just that: an unfulfilled ambition, an unrealised dream. Because today I feel that nagging doubt, which I guess is only human, as to whether things will work out at all. Whether I've made the right decision? Or a terrible mistake?
Which is why, aside from harassing recruitment agencies, I try to fill my days with achieving at least one meaningful task: either productive, or culturally-enriching. Admittedly, Monday's cleaning of that young boy's urine from my front door fell squarely into the former category. But I finished a book Tuesday. Visited the Tate yesterday. Have taught myself some guitar chords today. And hope to visit a museum tomorrow.
I'm enjoying a period of my life I won't often have the privilege to enjoy, precisely because of this choice I've made. Having taken the precaution to save enough to live like this, albeit frugally, for a few months, the alarm bells aren't ringing yet, and it's still only a couple of weeks since I last worked. Yet it's important for me to sustain my hope and confidence, my sense of purpose, which I know will find more work. Soon. But, in the meantime, enjoy not working.
Which is why I'm going to make a coffee and watch another 'West Wing'.
Drinks with Bookseller - my first alcohol in over a week - we're trying out a new bar in Camberwell.
A pissed blonde girl drapes herself over a seedy looking Italian.
Barstaff exchange looks as she giggles excitedly wrapping her legs over him as he does little to discourage this undignified behaviour.
Minutes later, she staggers towards the exit which she misses completely instead flip-reversing and crashing against the wall from which she beckons her lover by brazenly fondling her breasts.
By this time the central attraction of the bar, the Italian coaxes her towards the narrow swing-door exit, which she rapidly falls through into the busy sarf-Landan traffic.
It's only nine o'clock, on a Monday evening, and I feel ashamed for her.
I won't be getting pissed for a while.