Sunday, May 29, 2005

  Playing away

Lookie! Lookie!

No, not here, I'm over there today.

Read me and many others.

(Oh, and do get back outside and enjoy the sunshine. I am.)
Tuesday, May 17, 2005

  Descent into disgrace, part 5 (the finale)

"Jahhhhh babbeeee!" purrs the lady-of-the-night sitting next to me. "I rilllly likes dis vun!"

A bad Eurodisco song infests my ears. As had the one before. And the one before that. And that.

The light dims, though apparently through malfunctioning rather than any intended effect. Through the smoky haze I can just about make out the barmaid leaving the establishment's only other customer at his stool. She changes the jukebox, completely unnecessarily, as it starts up yet another bad Eurodisco song.

"You vill luv da dancer" my lady nods towards the empty stage.

At that moment, an old cleaner in pink overalls walks out in front of the stage, totally obscuring my view.

This annoys me, so I grimace towards my lady. But she just nods back again towards the cleaner, and raises her (badly painted) eyebrows.

It's only then that I notice the cleaner's pink overalls complemented by feather boa, fishnet stockings and stilettos.

I realise that the old lady standing before me is, in fact, not a cleaner at all. She is the main act.

"See?" my lady smiles for my approval.

I'm too shocked to say anything. I'd been Rooney'd.

Clearly stoned, Strip-o-Gran attempts to gyrate seductively to the relentless Eurobeat. Alas, she possesses the finesse of Martin Johnson combined with the grace of Thora Hird. She slowly peels back her boa and unceremoniously tosses it to the side. She struts peacock-like from one side of the stage to the other, gripping the pole like a chair-lift banister. She kicks her stilettos forcefully against the jukebox.

"She's nice, jah?" asks my lady.

"Totally amazing" I reply, thereby technically avoiding lying.

The next few minutes tick by like hours. I've reached my trough of disgrace. The bad Eurodisco track beat stretches out, on an apparently relentless loop. But when it does eventually come to an end, I'm the first to applaud. In fact, spared of S-o-G's nakedness, I am clapping thunderously. My lady claps. The other customer claps too. Even the barmaid claps.

The whorehouse is full of clap. We are all clapping. With S-o-G basking in her unexpected glory.

Pausing only to swig my beer to facilitate a hasty exit, another bad Eurodisco track starts up, and S-o-G ambles back onto the stage.

This time, she fixes my gaze and beckons her index finger for me to join her.

Too embarrassed to decline, she encourages me to undo the tie holding her brassiere together, which I do with shaking hand.

I retire back to my seat to find her flicking her brassiere without a care against the table-leg beside me. I flinch. She stares at me again, this time slowly removing her G-string, which she slips down her leg before, without warning, throwing underarm with such gay abandon it grazes my forehead as it flies by.

"Great, jah?" asks my lady.

"Jah" I reply, nervously finishing off what is left of my beer, and my dignity.

I make my farewells, flag a cab back to my hotel, and lock the door securely behind me.
Sunday, May 15, 2005


Like a shining beacon amidst this shameful disgrace, you'll find an altogether more wholesome post from me over at A Picture's Worth - a nice site hosted down under built on the impressively simple premise of inviting disparate individuals from across the globe to pen a few words about valued photographs.
Saturday, May 14, 2005

  Descent into disgrace, part 4

Bruised from the previous night's rejection and battered from the day's ear-bashing, I meander alone through unfamiliar Stuttgart streets.

I decide to join the strangers I see swarming into a small restaurant.

I'm hungry. I'm depressed. I'm up for a good night out.

The atmosphere's frenetic, which makes the service very slow. My rusty O-Level German manages to mis-order both the starter and main course, my native Englishness preventing me from saying anything about it.

"That was lovely" I compliment my waiter, rubbing my stomach over-enthusiastically to compensate for my lack of conversational language skills.

Outside, I decide to venture round. The mix of historic architecture provides a welcome contrast to the cold industrial buildings that housed me during the day. The toll of the old church opposite das Rathaus cements my arrival in an underappreciated destination. But it is the buzz of a small bar playing Champions League football which soon attracts my attention.

Some beers later, I venture some more.

I soon find myself surrounded by flashing neon signs: "GIRLS", "TABLE-DANCE", "PEEP SHOW".

I believe I have inadvertently found the dodgy part of town.

Fuck it, I think. Here I am: a single man, overworked and grievously pissed off, abroad. I deserve to buy myself a just a teeny weeny little booby-and-minky dance. Where's any harm in that? Even the new Pope would agree.

I wander up to the lady in the nearest establishment and she accompanies me into the bar.

"So, how much for a dance please?" I open negotiations. I am not stupid, I think.

The lady stumble-speaks pigeon-English, drawing various figures into the table, which I haggle down. I am no gullible tourist, I think.

"That still sounds expensive for a dance" I complain, assertively.

"But you stay with me" the lady replies.

"Yeah" I agree, dismissively, "Of course I'll stay with you. It's just rather expensive for a quick dance."

"No" she replies, touching my leg, "you stay with me, jah?".

I audibly gulp. I realise I've mistakenly wandered into a whore-house. This wasn't what I'd planned at all. Especially after being brought up as such a good boy.

"Oh, I-I-I didn't realise" I stammer, nervously, "You're very nice, n'all. But I was just hoping for a quick, y-y-y'know, dance."

"No" she replies, assertively. "You buy champagne, stay with me. Ve hav good time."

I gulp again. She is willing to fuck me, but not dance for me. I start to make my excuses.

"Let me speak to vun ov the other girls" she concedes by way of compromise, "You vill luv her and she luvs to dance."

Result, I think, comfortably clinking glasses with the lady.

I sit back and wait in anticipation.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005

  Descent into disgrace, part 3

It was a difficult, difficult meeting.

It'd been a long time coming: long before I'd started working there, that's for sure.

Like the professional that I am, I'd sat upon proceedings: Prioritised, progressed, chased.

But at the end of the day, this contract had been a time-bomb waiting to go off. And it was about to go off.

"You guys" complained our German client, as I sat between my boss and the CEO, "you guys are on your last chance."

There was no shouting, but the violent intent had been clear in what was said. The body language. The demeanour.

It was a bleak, bleak day.

No matter, though, as I'd been unable to book a flight owing to it coinciding with a German public holiday.

"See you later!" I waved my beleaguered boss and CEO into the taxi.

I was on expenses, and determined to have a good time.

So I went back to the hotel for a little nap.

Reinvigorated a couple of hours later, I feel compelled to check out some culture. But despondent at the previous night's rejection, and the day's utter berating.

"Alte Stadt, bitte", I beckon to the taxi driver outside the American-themed hotel. (That's German for "old town". I'd heard it was very nice there. I am very clever.)

The taxi driver takes me down towards the old town. The industrial surroundings make way for a suburban conurbation just outside the city. The suburbs make way for a meandering drive through the emerging gentle hills. The hills paving the way for an actually quite beautiful traditional town.

"Efharisto" I thank my cab driver, having established during the journey him to be not German but Greek.

I step outside into the cobble-street twilight, and head into the nearest bierhaus to grab some food and watch the football.

The night is young, and I'm feeling younger.

Little did I know Old Lady Disgrace was just around the corner.
  Descent into disgrace, part 2

"You feeling better after that?" asks my CEO.

"Yeahhhh" I murmur, rubbing my eyes to wake up.

"Look like you needed it" he observes.

I had needed it. I'd fallen asleep before take-off. And slept through until reaching somewhere above Belgium.

It'd started out as a simple enough plan. I'd prepare for today's meeting, then swing by the exclusive London member's bar for a swift drink at the marketing professionals singles night. Before an early night.

"Tonight's going be really, really awful, isn't it?" I'd emailed my Incredibly Tall Recruitment Consultant. "Only stopping by quickly - early start."

"I'm sure it'll be fine" she'd replied, "Besides, you'll know me. Hope to see you there."

On arriving, she looked resplendent in power-red dress, and in fact looked rather pleased to see me:

"Glad you're here" she greets me, gesturing looks of discomfort towards the gaggle of media men surrounding her, "Can I get you a drink?"

"Yes please" I reply, dropping my work bag to the floor, "Really need to unwind."

She buys me a double-rum and coke. It's obvious she's trying to ply me.

I partake in some polite mingling among the assembled crowd. Pleasant enough: some nice, most annoying. But my heart's not really in it. I return to the safe company of Incredibly Tall.

"Good grief" she complains, gesturing towards the slobbering amorous bald man a couple of feet away, "I just can't shake him off."

"I know what you mean" I empathise, gesturing towards the space that had been occupied by the woman I thought was still standing next to me.

"Actually" she divulges, leaning towards me, "I've just started seeing someone. By rights, I shouldn't really be here."

The shocking brutality of this truth crushes me. I'd allowed myself to get my hopes up, and wasted literally minutes dashing across town to attend. Then suffered the humiliation of allowing her buy me strong drinks. All for nothing. Nothing.

I ask polite questions about her blooming relationship, and return to mingling.

Disheartened, I find myself cornered by a dull self-employed ginger minger, and drowning my sorrows for longer than intended. Finding the venue deserted, Incredibly Tall long gone, I shuffle home. Overlooked. Rejected. (Except for a dull self-employed ginger minger.)

Four forty-five am, my alarm awakes me to remind me three hours sleep really wasn't enough. So on the plane find myself struggling to rise to the challenge of my CEO's pre-meeting brainstorming.

"You were right" replies Incredibly Tall when I phone her to complain about the double-rums. "Last night was really, really awful."

Depressed and in Germany, I was oblivious of my disgrace to come.
Monday, May 09, 2005

  Descent into disgrace, part 1

"Tomorrow?" I exclaim, "TOMORROW?".

Alas, tomorrow it is. Mere hours after returning to work from the bank holiday weekend, my support is being sought at a crisis meeting with our client in Germany.

This is bad news.

"But I'm supposed to be going out tonight" I moan professionally, "to find myself a wife."

My new boss laughs, disbelievingly, but I patiently explain I'd been invited to a singles night comprising of rising marketing professionals such as myself.

Most excitingly, I've been invited by my long lusted-after Incredibly Tall Recruitment Consultant.

(Sorry. I'd intentionally labelled her my 'financial advisor' when first mentioning her almost a year ago, for fear of revealing my then secret job-hunting on my then lackey. Cruel to be kind, friends, cruel to be kind. A white lie, if you will.)

Fancying your recruitment consultant is dangerous territory: a high-risk strategy that risks not so much just shitting on your own doorstep, as biting the hand that feeds you. So instead I've meandered the safe path of maintaining professionalism, becoming friends, but no more than friends. But the fact still remains, it was with no little excitement when I accepted Incredibly Tall's invitation.

Which I was looking forward to, until my Germany meeting is surprisingly sprung upon me.

"Your cab's arranged", announces one of my new lackeys, "Pick-up, 5:30am tomorrow morning."

"Five-thirty am?" I exclaim, "FIVE-THIRTY AM?"

My day's spent preparing and collating for the hastily-arranged meeting.

Nine-thirty pm, running late, I hurriedly leave to hail a cab into town for a quick drink at the venue.
Friday, May 06, 2005

  Numbers up

Tuesday morning: the staggeringly depressing return to work following a long holiday weekend.

I trundle up the steps of Knightsbridge tube station.

Trundle, trundle, trundle.

A hundred like-minded commuters trundle alongside, shoulders hunched, as we make our way upstairs above ground.

Grey cloud greets us above the permeating air of downtrodden desperation.

Until, as I cross the street, a vision appears before me.

Number One is but a few steps ahead.

A vision of wonder. A vision of splendour. A vision to brighten the dankest, darkest of days.

Walking my normal pace, I shorten the gap between us. But am too shy to immediately break conversation, so pull back for fear of appearing to stalk her. But already my hunched shoulders become broadened as my trundle becomes a bound.

She walks through the spinning doors. I walk through the spinning door immediately behind.

She greets the security guards: they smile. I greet them: they grimace.

She steps onto the escalator, and ascends. I step on, she is just above me.

She walks into the empty lift. I follow right behind.

She is trapped.

"HELLO!" I exclaim, a little too enthusiastically, overcompensating as if to give the impression I've only just noticed her.

"Hiiii!" she replies back, thankfully almost as enthusiastically.

The doors bleep to close, and I'm in heaven.

But before moving, we are joined by another.

At first I don't quite recognise our new joinee. She looks familiar, quite fit in fact, but I don't quite recognise her.

"You've had your hair done!" exclaims Number One to Number Two.

The doors close, and I'm in Deluxe heaven. My two current infatuations in such close proximity.

"Yeah" replies Number Two. "Not sure it suits me", in begging-for-approval girly style.

"What?!" replies Number One, reassuringly, "You look LOVELY!"

Number One was right. Number Two did look lovely. But I was hardly going to say that. There was too much at stake. For a start, most bloke fear, however irrationally, adverse response when paying even the simplest, most straightforward of compliments. And to do so in the presence of others risks additional humiliation. Overlay onto that scenario the other being another subject of infatuation and you have yourself a complex Game Theory matrix in weighing up the pros and cons of saying anything at all.

So I say nothing.

"I'm sorry" continues Number One. "I'm sooo hot and sweaty having walked all the way in from home" she explains as she peels off her jacket.

I still say nothing, instead checking my watch to check it isn't my birthday.

As I stare ahead, Number Two to my surprise starts lezzing up with Number One. "Going down?" I ask in a bad Swedish accent. The lift breaks down, and the girls ask me in purring, giggly voices if I have any big tools to help them out.

The doors open, and I snap out of my bad porn daydream. I walk into the office chatting politely with my Two Favourite Numbers.
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