Monday, 22 December 2008

Merry Xmas To All, And To All A Goodnight!

Ohhhhh, I'm broken and in desperate need of a detox, both financial and physical. December is like heroin - it's addictive and it damages your body but it's so good you just can't get enough of it. Office parties, pub lunches, massive price cuts in the Christmas sales....they all kill your health and bank balance, while inducing the kind of high usually reserved for a turn on the Cobra (rollercoaster at Ratanga Junction in CT).

I am shopped out, drunk out, grazed out and out of money. And there are still 10 days left of the month.

Plus, just to ice the cake of downward spiral, due to a cock up by HR I didn't get paid this month. I am hoping (read: threatening at gunpoint) that they can fix this before I go on holiday on Wednesday.

We're off to Broadstairs, a tiny seaside resort on the East coast of Kent near Canterbury. Yes, of the Canterbury Tales. It's one of the places in England I've always wanted to visit, and I'm excited to finally see the home of the father of the English language (English Lit was always my favourite subject: why learn about atoms and trigonometry when you could read books?).

Shoes and I will be staying in a 5 roomed cottage along with Eyes, Scarf, OJ, Penguin, Barbie and Barbie's boyfriend, The Beef. Amidst the inevitable eating and drinking, we're going to spend a day exploring Canterbury and take long walks along the white cliffs of Dover in wellies and thermal underwear. We might even borrow an Olde English Sheepdog from a local farmer - we want to be as authentic as possible.

I'll be signing off for now then, and bringing you more of the random in 2009. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you - be safe and have fun!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Dear Boots

Dear Boots
I am writing to complain about the customer service I received when using your online ordering system. May I start by saying congratulations to you for having online ordering in the first place. With a Boots store on pretty much every single corner in London, you wouldn't think one would be necessary - in fact, you have now expanded to the point where you are rivalling the pubs for pavement space.
However, I was most grateful for your technological advancement when I received an e-mail from you advertising the new FCUK overnight bag on sale at half its original price. Like most women in London - and indeed everywhere else in the world where consumerism has become a sport - I lose my mind a little when I see bags on sale. It doesn't really matter what they look like, nor what features they have. If it is a recognisable brand at a low price, I am all over it like a rash. So it was with great delight that I logged into my online account to place my order for this coveted product.
Imagine how much more elated I became when I saw that not only was the bag on sale, but it was also filled with FCUK products. Then imagine further still, how the shopping endorphins in my brain kicked into crazy mode when I saw that all your gift packed products were 3 for 2. Obviously this meant I had to buy another two gifts - I mean, I am a woman and powerless to resist the lure of sales. You know your target audience well, Boots, and for that I must extend further congratulations.
I'm on a shopping high here - can you feel me? Right. Well, imagine then how devastated I was when my computer crashed as I placed the order. The potential for diaster was monumental. What if someone else snapped up MY bag because the stupid computer failed to do what I told it? I therefore did what any self respecting woman would do - I immediately went back in and placed the order again. Without checking whether or not it had gone through the first time. Let me pause here to explain: sales wipe all reason from a woman's mind. But you know this - in fact, you prey on it. Hence I cannot be held responsible for my impulsive action here.
10 minutes later, I was mildly concerned to note that in my inbox were two receipts for two orders placed with you - order 62293163 and order 62293121, to be precise. Obviously my computer was not as stupid as I first thought. Briefly I considered keeping them both. Two FCUK overnight bags, two No 7 cosmetics cases and 2 gorgeous Soap and Glory toiletry cases all stuffed full of goodies would not be considered a bad thing in any woman's diary, not to mention the free gift of a No 7 clutch bag filled with yet more treats. However, I did have to consider the wrath of The Boyfriend, and decided to cancel one of the orders.
This is where my complaint comes in - if you thought I have been side-tracked enough reliving my perfect shopping moment to forget the purpose of my letter, you're wrong. When I called your customer service helpline, I was informed that you would not be able to cancel the order, and that I would have to wait until it was despatched from the warehouse before cancellation was possible. I thought this strange - after all, if you're going to cancel an order, would you not save yourself the hassle of despatching it and then hunting it down for return once it was already on its way? Anyway, mine not to question why, mine but to shop or die.
I waited the 2 days that I was told it would take for the despatch notes to be e-mailed to me, and called up your customer services once again. This time I was told that as I had elected to pick the goods up in my local store, I would have to get a refund in that store. Again, I thought this strange. When you have an online ordering system, is not customary to handle all online issues through a central office? Never mind.
I went along to my local Boots in Kingsway yesterday at lunch, and explained my situation to the manager there. He handed me my first order, which had been delivered that morning, but said to me he didn't think he could give me a refund as the second order was only due to be delivered on Friday (note: 2 identical orders placed literally seconds apart, get delivered 3 days apart? Houston, we have a problem). Immediately on my guard, I explained that I was not going to leave the store until someone somewhere told me how the hell to get my refund.
The manager kindly offered to phone your online customer service and sort out the situation for me. 15 bloody minutes later, he finally got off the phone and came back to me - surely you can afford a few more call centre operators? According to the person on the other end of the phone, the only way I can get a refund for my second, accidental order is to - wait for it - WAIT three days until it arrives in my local store, make another trip down there (because in case you have forgotten, I already made a trip today to pick up order no 62293163) and request a refund upon seeing the order.
Ok, back up. Do you mean to tell me that, with all the technological advances in the world of retail, with all the foresight and research that has gone into making online shopping the method of choice for women across the world, with all your money and power and sway over the helpless consumers in the UK, you cannot hire ONE PERSON to do refunds from a central point for all online transactions? Do you honestly expect me to believe that everytime a consumer needs to cancel an item ordered online, she must high tail it across London, through the wind and the rain, to an actual Boots store, to launch an aggressive attack about refunds upon store managers who don't even know how the process works? Are. You. MAD??????????????????????
I cannot believe that in this day and age, I as a customer have to freaking run around after my own money, all because YOU cannot implement an effective online ordering support system.
I'm not writing because I want freebies (although should you want to send me some, I would accept them gracefully - my address is in your database), nor am I writing to try score points on my Boots card (although I would welcome the addition of the points I should have recieved today for my first order, as the store in question did not have the facilities to add them. Seriously? I mean, of all the.... seriously?????)
What I want is for you to refund me as any other company in the world would - by using the debit card details I entered into your system, and cancelling my collection with the store. It's not hard people, come on.
Make it happen. I know you can. Don't make me wear out my River Island stiletto boots walking 0.73 miles to your store for the second time on Friday. It's unethical, it's cruel, and most importantly, its unprofessional. You're better than that. Don't let me down.
Yours sincerely
Note: this letter refers to an actual event, and has been sent verbatim to Boots Customer Services.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Ready, Set, SUNSHINE!!

Aaaarrrrgggggggghhhhhh! Ok, I feel better. I just needed to get that out of my system. You see, Shoes and I booked the first of our two trips to Cape Town last night. As much as I have made peace with the idea of going home twice in one year and giving up our *choke* trip to Thailand (it's still hard to say that), I always feel a bit sick after booking flights to Cape Town. Think about it - we just literally spent one month's salary on getting to and from SA. And we'll be doing it again come December.

Why, you ask? Bloody good question, I've asked myself this a lot. Because we're good friends and we value our friendships above *choke* trips to Thailand. No, really. If I sound strained it's only because I have a tic in my fingers.

We're returning to our beloved shores to witness the joining in holy matrimony of my best friend and her boyfriend of 10 years (April), and Shoes' sister and her boyfriend of 18 months (December). All I can say is, ladies if you're reading this, I forbid you to ever get divorced after our monumental sacrifice (Thailand *choke cough choke*) to witness your vows!!!

No, I'm only kidding - I'm really looking forward to being there for both Schmokkle and BlackVelvet's special days. There are 3 weddings that we always said we'd come home for - those two and that of my sister, Mini-Me. Mini-Me has been threatened under pain of electric shock torture to abstain from getting married for at least another 3 years, so we can be sure we'll be in the country at the time.

So while we'll be forgoing the beaches of Phuket... and the insanely cheap shopping of Bangkok..... and the 5 star resort hotels where we can live like kings *sob*....oops, tangent. Sorry. While we'll be forgoing all those things, we'll be spending more time with our families and friends in 6 months than we have in the last three years combined. And no matter what we have to give up, that is something too precious to be valued. It's easy to go for a good length of time away from home and think you're doing alright, but then you go back and realise just how damn much you miss everyone, and how getting that fix of home is the only thing keeping you strong enough to live so far away.

Everybody wins, really. Except the Thai tourism industry. But just wait, people of Thailand, we'll be gracing your islands in 2010 and I promise to shop you all out of house and home. Honestly. Don't test me - I am more than capable.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

She's So Lucky She's A Star

I just have to take a moment today to bask in the total satisfaction of fulfilling a lifelong ambition: I bought tickets to see Britney live on her Circus Tour of London next June!!!!! Damn it feels good to say that!
My Britney obsession is well known amongst my friends. Since the first time I saw the video to Baby....One More Time, I've secretly wanted to be Britney Spears. She was just so pretty, she danced like a demon and man, she had abs that made me want to actually want to go on a diet and work out 7 days a week - for about 5 seconds. Then reality came crashing down (7 days a week? In what lifetime?) and I hit on a much better idea: follow Britney's every move like a stalker and live THROUGH her. That way I'd be part of the global phenomenon, but could enjoy her life from the comfort of my couch, potato chips in hand.
Since then, I have adored her from afar for pretty much her entire career, give or take a few episodes of umbrella-wielding crazy and a head shaving incident or two (and even then I followed the madness religiously, so she never lost my loyalty; just my respect for a short time). I say pretty much her entire career, because there was a brief spell in my first year at Cape Tech where I became too cool for Britney Spears.
I'd recently met Shoes, and he was into house, back in the day when the scene was still referred to as "rave".I very quickly immersed myself in the club scene, and suddenly I found that the only kind of raving I could do was with glowsticks and lots of shiny lycra; raving about Britney Spears was very much frowned upon. We were far too cool to listen to "commercial" music.
So I denied my Britney obsession for all I was worth, and instead listened to electronically manufactured beats with soaring female lyrics about peace, love and chasing the rush. To this day I still love club music, psy trance being my particular favourite. But it was always on the cards that I was going to give in to my guilty pleasure and return to the pure pop paradise that is Miss Spears.
I was one of the millions who watched in horror as one of the world's biggest ever celebrities paid the ultimate price for superstardom, and one of the loyal-to-the-point-of-dementia fans sitting tight in her corner, cheering her on as she seemed to pull her life back from the brink. In my heart of hearts, I will always think that Brit Brit is a little piece of crazy, but that just makes her more interesting. I'm glad for her that she's got things back on track, partly because, hey! she's human and deserves to be happy, just like the rest of us.
And partly because on 4 June 2009, I will be watching in awe as the Queen of Pop throws down for London's O2 arena. It will be one of the highlights of my concert trips: fire jugglers, live animals, lip synching and all. The only difference between then and now? With the wisdom that comes from experience, I would now much rather be Lopz than Britney. But I will never get tired of dancing to Baby...One More Time in my room, hairbrush in hand!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Recipe For Success


1 x hungover girlfriend (a wide range of cocktails should be guzzled the previous evening to achieve full effect)
1 x irritatingly bouncy boyfriend
1 x smallish shopping centre just a five minute bus ride away


Put boyfriend and girlfriend on bus. Girlfriend should be clutching stomach while trying to hear boyfriend's conversation over pounding in her head. Complaining is not permitted - no escape routes should be presented to boyfriend at any time. NB: Enthusiasm may be false - watch out!

Walk around centre at top speed, zipping in and out of individual shops like slinky springs down the stairs. Boyfriend should remain annoyingly upbeat; girlfriend may be slightly cheered at sight of massive shoe sale. Sulking inevitable when boyfriend takes girlfriend's hand and forcibly drags her in opposite direction.

Enter suit shop. Try not to act intimidated. Stride around with sense of purpose, carefully avoiding smirks of sales assistants. Browse through rail upon rail of suits of all sizes, cuts and prices. Act like you know what you're doing. Turn down offer of help from smug sales assistant - you know you will end up buying something you don't like just to get rid of him. Unite in confusion - leave shop empty handed.

Girlfriend to remain sulky. Boyfriend to sigh and tut loudly, but due to inexplicable good mood, eventually gives in gracefully. Boyfriend should take girlfriend to shoe sale and buy her a pair of metallic stripper stilettos. Girlfriend miraculously recovers and outdoes boyfriend in enthusiasm stakes.

Exit mall. Begin browsing shops along main road. Boyfriend's spirits begin to flag; girlfriend to will them both on through euphoria produced by new shoes. Enter final suit shop. Demeanour should be be cautious yet hopeful.

Find fantastic luxury black suit marked down to half price. JACKPOT! Also find FCUK thin long sleeved hoody. Boyfriend ecstatic - well, as ecstatic as men can get when shopping. Buzz heightened by type of booty collected: 1 practical item (essential for men to feel they are not being frivolous) and 1 coveted item.

Arrive home 3 hours later. Girlfriend should now be 100% back to normal, and still on a high which is only increased each time she gazes upon the perfection of the stilettos. Boyfriend to immediately plant himself on couch, crack a beer and put the footie on.

Balance is restored.

Serves 2 full portions of satisfaction.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (it's right under your nose, you ogre)

Wow, so it’s been a while! I decided to take a bit of time out to get my job situation sorted, seeing as how during my job hunt last year I spilled every detail on my blog, and eventually realised the pitfalls of putting your hopes and dreams out there and then having to admit you failed. There’s no shame in it, but it’s twice as bitter a pill to swallow when it feels like the whole world is watching (ok sorry, I had a momentary Britney-complex there; I meant when my small but faithful group of readers is watching!).

So I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that it is 100% sorted now, and I start my new job at an awesome Commercial Media Group, which owns some of the most popular radio stations and magazines in the UK, on Monday. The role is a newly created one, and I will be PA to the Commercial Director, supporting both him and the main sales team and also assisting with the co-ordination of company events. Pretty much all I was looking for wrapped in the attractive packaging of a young, trendy and very sociable crowd. I am pretty pleased with myself!

In the few remaining days at my current temp job, I am interspersing the boring complexities of dvd planning with the infinitely more exciting sales on Ebay. My current obsession is historical fiction, and I’ve been buying several series that will hopefully see me through the long cold winter here in London. Also, shopping on Ebay releases the endorphins my brain so desperately needs to concentrate on the menial tasks at hand. Never has a job ever been less “me”.

Speaking of my need to shop, on Saturday I had to take Shoes on our bi-annual Clothes For Him Hunt, otherwise known as The Shopping Trip From Hell. Even for one who is as addicted to shopping as I am, this is a challenge unlike any other, and I don’t mean that in a good way. To get the perfect formula for this event, one should have the following:

1 x deeply reluctant boyfriend
1 x falsely cheery and extremely determined girlfriend
1 x mall of reasonable size – do not attempt the latest airport sized shopping centre boasting 987 shops, an entertainment complex and a food court to rival a country fair. Doing so will spell certain death for the already fragile relationship.
1 x book of Reasons Why You Should Buy This, memorized word for word with lightning recall ability. This is important: you will have only seconds in which to seal the deal – know your arguments!

Take the deeply reluctant boyfriend and the extremely determined girlfriend and put them in the mall. Have the girlfriend map out the quickest route to all Man Shops, avoiding any or all of the following: shoe shops, underwear shops, women’s clothing shops, any shops selling teddy bears or schmaltzy cards and, most importantly, any signs screeching 50% OFF SALE – TODAY ONLY!!!!! Unless the sign is in a Man Shop, in which case, plan your route around it.

Have the girlfriend lead the boyfriend on the planned retail route, stopping in each shop for a quick once over (remember, men are experts at quick once overs), asking him at each stop whether he sees anything he likes. He may not answer no to more than 2 shops in a row – this is known as the Covert Cop Out, in which the boyfriend pretends to hate everything in order to cut the trip short so he can go home and play on his Xbox.

When he expresses interest in something, however vague, the girlfriend should encourage him with compliments, such as “This would look great with your eyes.” It is important to note that the compliments should be in direct proportion to the kinds of compliments she normally gives him. Saying “Saints alive, you look so hot in those jeans I want to rip them off you and do you against the wall!” when you normally don’t even look at what he’s wearing, will not only incite suspicion on the boyfriend’s part, but will probably result in the compliment becoming an actual event (he’s a man, he’s not going to say no), getting you both thrown out of the mall and forcing you to start the whole Shopping Trip From Hell all over again elsewhere.

The girlfriend must gently guide the boyfriend through the labyrinth that is the floor display, remembering at all times to make any selections seem like his choice, even when they’re obviously hers. She should not attempt to dress him – this infringes on his manhood. There is a pearl of wisdom that all women should know: men are afraid of shops. Shops confuse the shit out of them. Where we see oceans of possibility, they see great white sharks coming to drag them into the murky depths of endless queues and mystifying choices. When he picks out something, she should quietly - but not manically - congratulate him.

Once several items have been purchased the boyfriend will begin to make unhappy noises about tired feet/grave hunger pains/severe boredom/the unfinished game on his Xbox. Note: sometimes this phase occurs after only one item has been purchased. In this case, the girlfriend should redouble her efforts and if necessary, entice him to keep looking by making absurd promises that she has no intention of keeping, such as a whole day of uninterrupted Xbox magic with all his mates.

The girlfriend will know how far she can push her boyfriend. She must gently but firmly use every feminine wile in the book to ensure that he stays in the mall as long as possible, so as to maximise the output of her efforts. Remember, you do not want to do this again any time soon. It is important to note as well that tantrums will not achieve the desired effect. Trying to force a man to shop will only result in the most passive form of resistance possible – he will literally plant himself down at the closest eatery that serves beer and refuse to go anywhere unless you hand over the car keys.

Once the trip is over and the now slightly more even-tempered boyfriend and the extremely exhausted girlfriend are back at home, there is only one rule: What happened at the mall, stays at the mall. All bets are off. Promises made are empty, threats may not be carried out. The couple should agree to put the trauma of the trip in the past, and neither may mention it again until 6 months later and it is time for another.

How lucky for me, then, that last Saturday was so spectacularly unsuccessful that we have to do it again this weekend.

The photographer took bullshitting to new levels.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Back To Basics

I’m back to where I was 2 years ago. It’s like déjà vu, except I don’t feel like the new kid on the block this time – more like the ratty old fart in the corner who drinks 3 cups of tea every day at exactly the same time. In other words, I feel like part of the furniture. The part that people don’t bat their eyelids at, even though you’ve been doing 2 more years of living since they last saw you.

Today I started my new temp role at the media company I previously worked for, and I’d already broken every rule in the book by 11am through opening gmail, facebook and my blog. The most important thing they teach you as temp is to never use the internet whilst on assignment. I don’t think I have ever managed to follow that rule.

It was nice walking in here this morning to some familiar faces. Not much as changed, although I remember the layout of the office as being different, and at least half the women I used to work with are off having babies. There must be something in the water here – every woman bar one in this department has either had or is about to have a baby, all in a period of 2 years. Please let me not catch this virus. Can you imagine; I work here for a couple of months and next thing my life is over because I have a sprog on the way. Heaven help us all. I can see myself buying weekly pregnancy tests, just to double check.

So I don’t have anything to do right now, as I’m waiting to get set up on the systems I need to start on the project they’ve given me. One thing is for sure, where I used to blog occasionally about funny work situations, I will now have to blog exclusively about my personal life. This is just not that kind of place.

I woke up an hour before my alarm today, and didn’t sleep very well last night. I felt like a piece of me was missing this morning when I passed Leicester Square station on the tube instead of getting off to go to work. I miss my old company so much already, and imagining all my mates going in this morning to gossip around the coffee machine about Friday night’s party makes my stomach feel hollow. I know it’s normal and that it will pass. I just wish it would hurry up and do so.

Friday night was a great night, though. A fitting end to a fantastic run of 10 months of truly enjoying my job. It’s rare to look forward to going to work everyday, but I did, and I will try to remember that feeling fondly rather than with bitterness at having to move on. But back to our big leaving do….. we partied from noon on Friday to around 4am. I got home at 5, and woke up again at 8am. Suffice it to say my weekend was a write off. My hangover on Saturday was of epic proportions, and I think my lowest moment came when I had to walk around Wimbledon in the rain for an hour because I thought if I got back on the bus to go home, I’d throw up. Good times.

Let’s see if this new role makes me any wiser.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

All Hands On Deck

When things in my life turn upside down, I am quite capable of carrying on as if nothing has happened. While the winds of change gust around me, I sit in the eye of the storm, leisurely sipping on my drink, contemplating whatever curveball life has thrown me with a degree of detached fascination. Life really has to kick up a shit storm to ruffle my feathers.

For example, visa issues ruffle my feathers considerably. I merely hear the words ‘visa’ and ‘problem’ and I turn into a quivering wreck. Likewise, last year’s traumatic job search also had me at the end of my rope. Other than those two specific incidents, I can’t remember the last time I got majorly flustered by something. However! This premise exists only for my conscious self. My subconscious self has other ideas altogether about how to cope with change or stress.

My last day at my company is this Friday. I have been completely cool, calm and collected about being made redundant and being thrust into the world of unemployment in London, a city which the current markets have not just affected, but have decimated. I have gone to see recruitment agencies, applied for jobs online and refused to panic when nothing really promising reared its head straight away. As a result, I have been living in my bubble of calm and enjoying my last days at my company, rather than running around like a headless chicken. Whether as a result of my determination to see this through with aplomb, or because everything happens for a reason, I now find myself hooked up with a temp role at a Media giant starting on Monday next week. Amazingly enough, I have temped for this company before - in exactly the same department, with the same team and in the same position! I am massively relieved that the pressure is off, even though I didn’t feel a huge amount to begin with.

Which brings me back to my subconscious self. Although I thought I was doing fine, the fact is no-one is impervious to change. For me, any reaction manifests itself at night. I either have very broken sleep, or I sleep through but I have awful dreams. I have reacted to stress in this way for as long as I can remember. In the darkest period of my life, I regularly dreamed that my family members and close friends were butchered in a variety of ways that would make Quentin Tarentino flinch. So I was completely unsurprised to be caught in the grip of a nightmare last night. What did surprise me though, was that Shoes reacted to my telling of the dream with complete hysteria. Looking back on the dream now, I can see why, but at the time I was very upset!

I dreamt that I was on my way back from a trance party when I noticed a green discolouration around both my wrists. I thought nothing of it – surely I was just dirty. Later on, I was at my parents’ house with all my friends when someone commented on my green skin. It had spread all the way to my elbows, and when a friend tried to grab me by the wrist to get my attention, a spongy piece of green flesh came off in her hand. Everyone recoiled in horror, and that was when I noticed that my left hand was gone. As in, I just had a spongy green stump – my hand had fallen right off. It seemed to be a type of gangrene. Everyone was freaking out; I was frozen in a state of utter shock. At that point my dad came home and started shouting at me for being careless enough to lose my hand (it was at this point that Shoes started sniggering). I was still struggling to get my head around my spongy stump arms and the loss of my hand, when my dad came back from a trip to the back room freezer brandishing a new hand for me (cue outright cackling from Shoes). Unfortunately, it was another right hand. It was also a gimp – the ring finger was scrawny and short, like it belonged to a baby’s hand (by now Shoes had lost it completely and was in convulsions of mirth). My dad attached the hand to my still decaying stump, and there I was, a freak with 2 right hands and mossy, spongeskin arms. I was horrified.

Then I woke up, and frantically checked that I had both normal arms and hands intact. I suppose though that if imaginary gangrene is all I have to suffer as a result of my current state of affairs, I should be grateful!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

No Love In This Club

Hello my minions!

I apologise for my extended absence; I have been negotiating my way through my very own Fortnightis Horriblis (to borrow liberally from the Queen). No, I exaggerate - it hasn't been that bad; I've just been a little too preoccupied with things to blog.

To bring you up to speed, I have less than 2 weeks left at my company. My last day here is 31 October (Halloween - if I were superstitious I'd be having a field day right now). I don't want to bore you with the details, but this is all a result of the takeover of my company by another radio giant that led to my boss leaving and my position being made redundant (for background info, go here). It's been touch and go for the last couple of weeks as to whether I'd be able to stay, but I finally have a clear perspective on the situation, and I am confident that my decision to leave (it was voluntary redundancy) is the right one. As calm and clear-headed as I am being about all this, it is not without difficulty that I leave behind the fantastic friends I have made this year. I am gutted to be going, and I know next week is going to be a tough one. I don't have anything else lined up just yet, but I went on a recruitment agency blitz last week and am applying for jobs online everyday for as long as I can stomach it. I'll be sure to post about future developments as and when they pop up.

For now, let's talk about something amusing. This is the story of Friday night, The Worst Night of Clubbing Ever.

The Plan: a Friendz boat party followed by an afterparty at resident clubbing giant, Ministry of Sound.
The People: absolutely everyone in my crowd of friends who does the clubbing thing.
The Problem: read on....

It all started with Scarf and myself agreeing to help out Neutrino, who was organising the boat party, with promotions. We thought we were going to be handing out free champagne and chatting to people, which is what we were briefed. When we got on board the boat, however, we discovered that ResidentDJ, Neutrino's co-party-organiser, had forgotten to clear the free champers with the bar staff, who adamantly refused to allow it (something about taking money away from the bar). So Scarf and I ended up manning the cloak room. Fun times. Because we had to give people's jackets and bags back at the end of the party as well as take down the decor, we had to stay relatively sober.

At about 9:45pm, the boat docks to let one of the djs off, as he's playing the opening set at Ministry. As it docks, the power goes out. So there we are in pitch darkness with no music, and people start thinking, hey screw this shit, we're getting off the boat. So of course they want their jackets and bags. Scarf and I are suddenly mobbed by people trying to do a runner, and we end up crawling around on our hands and knees, in micro minis and boots, looking for people's stuff by the light from our mobiles. After 15 mins, the power comes back on and the boat leaves for the last hour and a half of the party. By now, we all just want to get off and get to Ministry, which is when the real party is going to start. Then at 11, I suddenly realise we'd told Mandz to meet us at Embankment station at 10:45pm, as we'd previously thought the boat party finished at 10:30, not 11:30. Cue major panic as we try and fail several times to get hold of Mandz, who eventually cusses us out for making her arrive an hour early when we reach her.

Eventually, after what seems like years, the damn boat docks. We FINALLY get to Embankment and then we wait another 15 minutes for Mandz and co to get to the station. In the meantime, the clock strikes 12 to bring about the Queen of Melodrama's 29th birthday. He spends his first minutes of birthday heaven on the platform in the station with no booze in sight.

We're all tired and a little cranky by the time we get on our way. We get to Ministry about 12:30pm. Back track a bit with me: when we first boarded the boat, we had to show text message tickets to prove we had paid. We also paid for our Ministry tickets through Friendz, but the two parties had different promoters and different rules, so when we boarded we were given paper tickets for Ministry. Shoes picked up my Ministry ticket for me as I was already on board - Eyes did not do the same for Scarf. So we get to the end of the boat party, ResidentDJ has left, and Scarf doesn't have a Ministry ticket. Major drama. Neutrino phones ResidentDJ, who says Scarf must go in on the guest list as Shelby something. He doesn't tell us that the guest list closes at 12.

So there we are outside Ministry, and those of us with tickets go inside. Meanwhile, Eyes and Scarf are outside, trying to explain the fuck up with the tickets, after having found the guest list is closed. Ministry doesn't want to hear their story. An hour and a half later, they finally make it inside after having to buy a brand new ticket for Scarf, who has now paid double for her night's entertainment. At the same time, Mandz is outside with Paddy and their friends Wes and Eve. Mandz has an actual ticket; Paddy, Wes and Eve only have receipts to confirm they have paid (don't know what happened there). Ministry refuses to accept the receipts. The three of them end up paying full price - again - to get in the door. They get in an hour later, and Wes has an anxiety attack and promptly leaves. Eve of course goes with him, and Paddy decides he can't abandon them, so escorts them home. They paid £30 each to be in a club for 10 minutes.

After that, things went fairly smoothly for the next three hours, but to say no-one was really into the whole experience was an understatement. I think the only 2 people who had any degree of fun were Mandz and I, who got on the dance floor and had to be forcibly dragged off at the end when the others wanted to leave.

Note to self: we are too old for back to back to parties. Stick to one - the fruits shall be sweeter.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Bangers and Cash

At lunch today, I joined some of my friends on the Network team, along with many more spectators, down at the pub for the Great Sausage-Off.

What is the Great Sausage-Off? It's when two people - the big-mouth ("No-one can eat more sausages than me!") and the challenger ("Wanna bet?") - spend a lunch hour consuming as many hot dogs as they can until one either bails out or is sick.

The rules are simple:

*Every last bite of sausage and roll must be consumed to count. There are two sausages on each roll, with optional onions and sauce (courtesy of the dodgy pub round the corner).
*For every three sausage rolls consumed, the competitor must drink one pint.
*Failure to comply with either of these rules results in disqualification, and the one left chewing wins by default.
*Puking, long periods of resting (3 minutes or more) and passing bits of your sausage roll slyly to your supporters for consumption results in instant disqualification.

In the red corner, we had Gos - the grumpy 39 year old Australian lead singer of Wood / The Taliban. Greatest asset - big mouth. Greatest weakness - age. In the blue corner, we had HotGuy, teammate of Gos and newbie to the group (he only started 4 months ago). Greatest asset - youth (he is only 23). Greatest weakness - none identified.

Bets were placed. £2 each eventually netted you a return of £3,38, which was calculated in proportion to how many more sausage rolls were consumed by the winner.

On your marks, get set, go.....

The first 3 went down without any drama. Gos and HotGuy were taking their time, neither trying to outrace the other. Just a leisurely meal of sausage rolls between friends. The fourth one was decidedly less pleasant. Halfway through, Gos let out a huge burp which resulted in a little mushed up roll dribbling onto his chin. Cue much jeering and catcalling. 45 minutes later, the consumption of number 5 resembled a vegan tackling a pork chop. Gos was visibly flagging, and turning a little green around gills. HotGuy was slowing down considerably, but his eyes flashed dogged determination.

Halfway through number 5, Gos attempted to quit. The loud boos drove him to another bite, which was only kept down through sheer force of will, and the potential embarrassment of chundering at his colleagues' feet. HotGuy continued his steady chomping, and did away with the last of his roll.

As he was ceremoniously handed number 6, Gos said, "If he takes another bite, I'm out."

Cue dramatic Chariots of Fire music as HotGuy raised the sixth sausage roll to his mouth, look Gos square in the eyes, and took a bite. Gos surrendered, and HotGuy finised the entire number 6 to loud cheers.

I won £3.38; HotGuy won the conveted title and Gos won weeks of ribbing and e-mailed jokes about sausages.

I will really miss these guys when I leave!*

*Another post for another day.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Downtown Girls

I just had the most girly weekend ever.

Shoes was in Chippenham visiting G-Days (who has to live out in the sticks due to engineering jobs being scarce in London - tough times for him!), so I decided to make the most of my singledom and live it up with the chicks.

It all kicked off on Friday night with Chicks Night out. We went to Henry J Beans in Wimbledon, a pub known for its overpriced cocktails and cheesy music, but revered for it's two for one happy hour specials and permission for all kinds of drunken behaviour that would get you kicked out in Central London hotspots. It's also very close to home for everyone, so we can stagger home unassisted by our usual escourts (the equally drunk but belligerent men).

It began with the standard procedure of any chicks night: a large bottle of champagne, cocktail swapping and much high pitched squealing. When I look at this objectively, I can't help but wonder what reduces our voices to the decibels of 10 year old boys on nights like this, but in the moment it is just contagious. One chick squeals with delight as a friend arrives, and before you know it, all are squealing like stuck pigs in various states of excitement or hilarity. I don't know....but it's fun! The night was carnage. Scarf and Penguin has to be packed into a cab at 11pm as they were just to wasted to be seen in public. Neither of them remember getting home or what they did when they got there. I stayed with the others til then end, and got home about 2:30am. I was very drunk, make no mistake, but held it together well enough to a) remember everything and b) not cause any major scenes (just a few minor ones, which can't be helped - it's Chicks Night after all!).

To my abject horror, I awoke from the dead at the hour of 8:15am, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't fall back asleep. This is normal for me, as is waking up early after a night of heavy drinking. Unfortunately for me on this occaasion, I had promised Mandz I'd spend the entire day shopping with her. I must say, with more than just a hint of pride, that I am a trooper. Dogs may be man's best friend; I am clearly woman's. I trekked through to Camden with Mandz for a mammoth 8 hour shopping spree, that included just one brief stop at Starbucks to rest our weary feet. Since I had already bought 2 pairs of shoes, a pair of jeans and a top the previous week, I was on a No Spending Spree. £60 later and the dust was settling on my lofty goal. At least I now have TWO pairs of fabulous jeans, and enough tops so that I can wear a different new one every day this week.

Saturday night I crashed on the couch and didn't leave it until I fell awoke from falling asleep in front of Lord of the Rings. It's an excellent movie to dos through - long enough so that your nap feels quite revitalising.

Sunday was spent on the couch again with TheArtyOne and Scarf, watching America's Next Top Model, Lipstick Jungle and PS I Love You. I am so chicked out I think I might need to go on a Guys Night to lower my oestrogen levels!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

I'm Not a Girl, Not Quite a Moron

I am useless today. A complete waste of space. A weak link that lowers the gene pool standards by its mere existence.

I am hungover.

With not just any hangover, but a red wine hangover.

I don't normally drink red wine when I'm out on the piss. I drink white wine, or quadruple vodkas, like anyone who prefers not to wake up to find the Sahara Desert inhabiting their mouth and throat. Because this, among other catastrophic effects, is what happens to me when I drink red wine. I also get headaches that would floor an elephant. I am sick to my stomach for pretty much 12 hours after opening my gorgeously bloodshot eyes, and my brain does this awesome thing where it ceases to engage before I open my mouth. Or write an e-mail. Or climb the stairs. Or just about anything. I trip and stumble. I babble gibberish that I try to pass off as colloquial Souf Efrican. I attempt to string words together in a sentence and find all the indefinite articles are missing. And this is all AFTER the pissed effect has worn off.

The effects of red wine during the actual being pissed phase are even more alarming. I feel more high than pissed, for one thing. I get giddy and erratic. I flit all over the place like a hummingbird on speed. I talk at people, and I laugh manically. And I'm funny. Oh my sainted aunt, I am so funny. I could headline a comedy world tour after a few glasses. Chris Rock would be opening for me. (Appendix: I have never asked my friends the next day if I am really funny or just tragically pathetic. I fear they laugh either at me, or to disguise the real pain my funny self is causing them.)

Last night when I hit the Cellar Door with TheArtyOne, her brother PJ and a group assorted friends, I was already a few drinks down and red wine was just my stairway to heaven. The Cellar Door is a tiny converted public toilet (yes, you read that right!) that is now a jazz/live music bar in Covent Garden. You can squeeze about 60 people in there at a push. Trashed Tuesdays is open mic night, with musical theatre junkies, queens and old timers reliving their glory days on stage in front of the miniscule - but very appreciative - audience. Hosted by Champagne Charlie, an absolutely gorgeous gayface with an alluring voice and a penchant for quaffing champagne, the night is smooth, silky and increasingly madcap as CC's champagne quaffing picks up speed and the singers' inhibitions are lowered by the fine selection of wine and cocktails. It's a gem - if you're ever in London, make a point of stopping by.

But back to the red wine. I was cruising at 100 miles an hour, totally rocking the joint. Flirting with the gay singers. Telling complex and involved stories (which were so funny, obviously). Laughing like a hyena (some might say drain, but I feel that is just unkind). Proclaiming my deep-seated desire for superstardom - if there is a stage in the vicinity when I am mainlining red wine, heaven help the population of the bar. I was just drunk enough to announce my intent to do my Britney Spears impression, when the mic was switched off and the PA system turned on. I scolded Champagne Charlie, who gamely told me I could go first next time. I woke up this morning so grateful for his refusal that I could kiss him. Or not - I could get one of my hot male friends to do it for me.

I also woke up with the ghost of Britney shadowing my drunken stupor. Hit me baby, one more time, I thought, as the red wine sledgehammered me over the head.

Score: Lopz - 0, Red Wine - 1 big fat self-satisfied grin.


Monday, 29 September 2008

Communication Science 101

Three PAs sit in a haphazard row opposite our CEO's office: myself, Sammy and K. This situation occurred this afternoon at precisely 12:27pm:

Sammy: Lopz, don't you have the 8th floor booked for Client Development Manager's meeting with (Major TV Company) at 12:30?

Lopz: Yes, why?

Sammy: Oh, well, Group Strategy Director is in there now with Senior Management, and he'll be in there til 2 o' clock.

Sound of silence as ticking heart suddenly stops beating.

Lopz: (usually excellent English reduced to stutters of terror)

Sammy: Did you book the room?

Lopz: (eyes are saying FUCK! but mouth cannot engage)

Sammy: You better check with K what's going on!

Lopz: (turning to K with a mouthful of bitter trepidation) K, does Group Strategy Director have a meeting on the 8th floor now?

K: Yes.

Lopz: So it's not booked out for Client Development Manager?

K: No.

Lopz: (speechless at visions of 20 suits down in reception tapping their watches and frowning)

In a blind panic, I drop what I'm doing and rush around the corner to Client Development. I'm already running through a list of Plan B's in my head - none of them adequate.

Can we take the execs to the canteen? Maybe we can give them bacon butties to smooth over the situation, while I get IT to hang up a sheet in lieu of a big screen on the canteen wall. What about goodie bags? I'm sure I can get Marketing to whip some up..... we'll even throw in some branded pens. Or maybe.... we can say we're going green this week, and take them down to Leicester Square to do an open air presentation, complete with paper handouts. Surely Engineering have a microphone cord long enough to stretch for several blocks?

I run smack bang into Client Development Manager.

Lopz: ClientdevelopmentmanagertheroomisbookedandIdon'tknowhowthishappenedI'msosorry

Client Development Manager: What?

Lopz: TheroomisbookedandIdon'tknowhowthishappened -

Client Development Manager: (interrupting) Lopz! Slow down! I can't understand you.

Lopz: (deep breath) The room is booked - 8th floor is booked! Someone's in there! And (Major TV Company) is in reception and we have nowhere to take them! I don't know how this happened, I booked that room for you.... I'm so sorry, this is all my fault!

Client Development Manager: Oh, didn't I tell you? That meeting has been cancelled. I told K on Friday and she released the room for me.

Lopz: (shoots daggers from eyes)

Why don't people TELL me things?!??!!??!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Super Groupie

On Friday I talked about my status as Head Groupie for my friends' band, Wood / The Taliban (we still don't have final confirmation on the name - at this moment there is much infighting going on between the factions).

I happened upon this great honour by pure chance. A couple of months ago, I was walking past Mills and Gos' desks (those two are on the same team, while the other two hail from around the corner), and heard them discussing when they were going to have their next jam session. I stopped what I was doing immediately (ie I stopped walking) and pricked up my ears. "Band?" I asked innocently. "Did I hear you guys say you're in a band?"

Mills and Gos looked at each other uncertainly. "Well," said Mills, "we're in the process of FORMING a band. It's not quite the same thing."
"Rubbish mate!" growled Gos (he always growls, never just says). "We're a group of guys who make music. Of course we're in a band!"
"Have you actually had a jam session yet?" I asked.
"Well..... not yet. But the first one is set for this weekend." They both looked at me in askance. Would this be enough?

"Awesome!" I responded. "Can I be your Head Groupie?"

And that is how I became Head Groupie. Apparently no-one else had asked for the position, so it was agreed that I could have it on a simple first come-first served basis (the concept of which was then discussed in lewd, graphic detail). Like most people, I am fascinated by tales of rock n roll excess. Some of the stories you can find through google about groupies and their exploits are compelling in the way that rubbernecking at a car crash is compelling. The results are horrendous, but the act of drinking in the details macabrely satisfying. Or perhaps I am just deviant, which works in my favour as Head Groupie anyway.

We have come up with a rough outline of what my responsibilities as Head Groupie will be. They are, in random order:

1) To build and manage the fan club. This includes ensuring that all members of the band get an equal number of erotic letters, nude photographs and various pieces of lingerie sent to them every week. If the number of deliveries is not equal, I must change names to make it look as if it is. In addition, I must constantly reassure each man that he is the one getting the most fanmail. It is very important to stroke each band member's ego by making them believe they are the most popular member of the group.

2) Organising hoards of screaming girls to show up at gigs. These girls must be ready, willing and able (for what purpose is entirely at the band's discretion. To be safe, I should make sure they are a bunch of slutty fetishists). These girls must be loud, enthusiastic, scantily clad and hot. Very hot.

3) Acting as wardrobe mistress. A corollary to Point 2. I must ensure that they are dressed appropriately at all times, ie in clothing that is very short, very tight and very see-through. Or in black leather. Or not there at all.

4) Managing back stage activities. I must ensure that there is always plenty of alcohol available for the band and the groupies, specifically Cristal champagne. Apparently it impresses the girls and will get them out of their skimpy clothes more quickly. Similarly, I should have several dealers on speed dial and mountains of coke piled on silver platters, which several girls who are not quite hot enough to be groupies will ferry around the room. I must also have a list of questions that I have to ask each girl as she is brought backstage by security. If a girl answers 'no' at any point, she is to thrown out of the concert venue and banned for life.

5) Sex. This is an obvious part of the groupie heritage, but we are currently divided over whether or not I should have to partake in activities, with the band being for and me being against. Fear not though, I will win this one. As I keep saying to them - if I'm doing the dirty with one (or more) of them, how am I going to co-ordinate all the other aspects of the party?

Now all we need is for them to actually get good enough to play a gig. Watch this space.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Going To The Chapel

My best friend has set a date for her wedding! Schmokkle will be getting married on 4 April next year. She's been e-mailing me all morning, and we've been talking about venues and cakes and gift registers.... I'm nearly jumping out of my skin with excitement! It's so sweet, when I said we were coming down, she couldn't quite believe it. She said she felt it was way too much to ask, but as I said to her, I wouldn't miss her wedding for the world, and I'd move heaven and earth to be there if necessary. I would even sell my wardrobe for flight money. Ok, so I'd be admitted into a clinic for depression shortly afterwards (how very Hollywood of me), but I'd do it if I had to.

So now Shoes and I can get on with planning this holiday. We'll probably fly home on 27 March, just in time for my dad's birthday, and stay in SA for two weeks. We always have to divide our time between our 2 families when we go home, as mine are in Cape Town and his are in Jozi & Creighton. Shoes' sister only recently moved to Creighton, so it will be our first time visiting them there. It's a tiny farming community, as far removed from London life as we could possibly get. I'm so looking forward to acres of open space, clear blue skies, no traffic noise and the kind of neighbourly trust that means you don't have to lock your cars at night!

The longer I live in London, the more South African I feel. I find myself focussing far more now on what's happening back home than I did when I lived there, and I feel every disappointment, setback and triumph of SA as a nation so much more strongly. I am holding my breath along with the rest of the world - ok, maybe just the rest of Africa - in anticipation of what is going to happen now that Mbeki has stepped down. Unfortunately, I think things may very well get worse before they get better. But if there's one thing that my 3 years in London have taught me, it's that South Africa is not reflected by its leaders, despite what the international press might have us believe. I know there is a sense of disillusionment among people at large at the moment, but there is also an incredible resilience that characterises South Africans. I'm no political expert, but I am a South African expert**: I think growing up there and being a part of the patchwork quilt of change in recent history qualifies me to this category. So I would like to offer my expert opinion in the face of this current adversity: South Africa rocks, and Zuma and Mbeki can't take away the basic awesomeness of being South African, no matter how hard they try!

**I'm also available for public speaking engagements for a small fee....might as well hop on the gravy train and scam people for their hard earned cash while everybody else is doing it!!! (Disclaimer: I am all for positivity and hope, but I think both are better served with a healthy dose of irony.)

Friday, 19 September 2008

I'm With The Band

My friends at work are starting a band. Actually, they have already formed a band and had a few jam sessions - they have just not revealed themselves to the anticipating public yet. There are 4 of them, all guys between the ages of 30 and 38.

Out of the 4 of them, only one of them looks and sounds like what you would expect a musician to look and sound like - Len, the bass player. Len lives and breathes rock n roll. He wears a t-shirt to work that says "I listen to bands that don't exist yet" - a two salute fingered to anyone who dares to challenge him on music knowledge and trends. He has a wild mop of curly black hair, skew teeth and pock marked skin, but he handles a guitar like a dream. Mills is the lead guitarist. He is the kind of guy who you'd never imagine would play guitar, but once you find out he does you're like, oh, but of course; every band has a mild mannered good guy. He is an absolute sweetie, known for not holding his liquour very well. He gets clumsy and giggly, and tells all the girls he loves them; it's very un-rock n roll. Ricky is the drummer. He has an Irish accent, big blue eyes and a way of talking you into doing things you wouldn't normally do - an ace trick when you're hoping for masses of screaming groupies. Finally there is the lead singer, Grumpy Aussie, or Gos for short. Gos is a gem of a man. He's Australian. He's grumpy. He's a horny bastard, despite being happily married. And he is the perfect definition of a bloke's bloke. You don't ever speak to Gos about chick flicks, "spirit coolers", emotions, love (he is very much in love with his wife but will never discuss it, lest it lose him his horny bastard tag) or anything else that does not involve sex, beer, music or sport.

This rag tag bunch are in the process of deciding on a name. Top of the list until last week was Wood. I'm sure I don't need to expand on this, but for your amusement I will.... here, in random order, are the reasons why they think Wood is a great name:

1) Groupies shouting "I love Wood!" or "I want Wood!" or "Give me some Wood!"
2) Introducing themselves: "Put your hands up if you want a bit of Wood tonight!"
3) Creative photos and fan letters. The name gives that added bit of incentive.
4) Album covers. For example:

So the name Wood was very nearly a sure thing. And then someone - Mills, I think - came up with an alternative. The Taliban. Because they can:

1) Play gigs with turbans on their heads
2) Cause havoc wherever they go - something every rock star aspires to do
3) Get into fights with people who are anti-Taliban (ie everyone)
4) Get arrested (another pre-requisite for being a rock star)

In the midst of the moniker madness, I got a delightful surprise. I have been named Head Groupie of Wood / The Taliban! This is a great honour. I shall discuss my duties and expectations in detail next week.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Made For This

I have had a brief moment of respite from the boredom that is my "job" today. In an unexpected and rather wonderful turn of events, Shoes got paid today. 5 days early. Not only is this fabulous because we literally had no more money for the month (as in, we're eating sandwiches on week old bread for dinner on Sunday and Monday night), but also because I got to relieve my boredom by SHOPPING!!!! Had to use capitals to convey my extreme pleasure. I feel energised and full of hope for the future - it's a total 180 degree turn! Shopping should be used as therapy for men hell-bent on starting wars. I challenge any testosterone overloaded male to go on an unlimited spending spree in wihch he can buy whatever he wants... with all those ferraris and speed boats at his disposal, why would he want to waste time getting mucky in the trenches? I choose to ignore the slight logistical issues of poverty and the fact that men by nature do not like to shop. This is my fantasy world, if I say they must shop, they will shop! And be happy about it!

I have personally spent a few awesome hours deliberating over which mp3 player to buy, and finally settled on the very latest Creative Lab, with 4GB of delicious space just waiting to be flooded by the latest in cheesy pop. For the iPod army out there, I'm sorry but I choose to support the underdog (ie I don't have enough money for an iPod, so could the peanut gallery please be quiet!).

I hate to cut this post short, but I am in the middle of buying some sunglasses for Shoes, and after that I'm off to purchase a digital frame for my dad - oh how I LOVE pay day!

Monday, 15 September 2008

I Have Nothing

I'm bored. BORED. B.O.R.E.D. Even the spelling of the word bored is boring. I have been bored now for one week and counting. I'm starting to wonder if extreme boredom could lead to a life-changing epiphany, or if it will merely drain me, slowly but surely, of all enthusiasm and lust for life.

The reason for my extreme boredom is the departure of my boss 2 Fridays ago, which I've neglected to write about as I was too busy crapping on about Mallorca, which now seems like it happened in another lifetime.

As I mentioned ages ago in a previous post which I can no longer find, my company is in the middle of a takeover. Not a merge, but a buy-out by a smaller but wealthier company that is trying to take over the world. Oops, I mean the radio industry. Except you'd think it was the world, the way they're approaching it. My boss, having decided to leave the ruthless new regime for greener pastures, has left me stranded and directionless, like a boat without a rudder, only with all day internet access. And thank god for that, otherwise I might be in much worse shape. It is only the endless stream of gymnastics news and youtube videos that keeps me sane these days.

The only reason I have not been pink-slipped and sent packing is because we are in the beginning stages of the restructure, and right now no-one is being let go until they've decided exactly what positions will be available to us. Over the course of the next few weeks, we are all expected to interview for our jobs, at least 60% of which will be contested by the employees from our competition. Sorry, new employer. After that, the firing of our asses will be begin in earnest.

So I am effectively being given a free pass... a few weeks of being paid for nothing while they decide whether or not I have what it takes for their new super power company. It sounds great on paper, but in practice it is like Chinese water torture (aside: why Chinese? And why do we call that awesome but really silly game, where you stop at a traffic light and all jump out the car and swap places, Chinese Fire Drill? Did the Chinese really invent these things, or are we being racist? You see what is happening to my brain.)

I have imbibed so much gossip and celeb news that I feel sick to my stomach when another picture of Britney at the VMAs flashes across my screen. I can't read anymore 'adult news' as my brain is unused to this amount of seriousness, and is in rebellion. I am tired of googling random things. I can't listen to anymore new music online - it clashes with the radio playing on my desk. I can't muster up the desire to do anything except watch reruns of old gymnastic meets, which is difficult as my screen faces, like, the whole world, and watching videos at work is piss taking of the highest degree. In short, I am considering developing a tropical disease halfway through this week, so I can at least be bored out of my mind at home, where I don't have to minimise browser windows every 10 seconds.

Any suggestions on how to combat the boredom would be welcomed.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Walking on Sunshine

Mass e-mail on Friday:

From: Radio Presenter

Sent: 05/09/2008 15:01

To: Everyone

Subject: Have you got.....

Dear Everyone,

Have you got a hamster type cage, a black wig, some mice or a headscarve lying around your desk???

If so please let me know asap .... we need to recreate a rock and roll moment for the show today.

Nice one

Radio Presenter x

Probably best not to ask.

On Friday night Shoes took me out for dinner to celebrate our 8 year anniversary, which was on Monday last week. 8 years. 8 YEARS. I don't know if I like the sound of that. It not only makes me feel old, but it is really burning the old ball and chain image on the back of my brain. Not that I'm not happy - I'm very happy actually. I'm sickeningly happy and in love, and even more content with my relationship now than I was in the honeymoon phase. Need a barf bag yet, or should I continue? I'm not a cynic when it comes to love, really. I'm quite romantic most of the time. But I generally take offense to people gushing on about how happy they are. Not because I don't think it's a good thing, but because I'd rather talk about stuff that's interesting. Good sex is interesting. Rambunctious behaviour out on the town is interesting. Grey's Anatomy is interesting (in a melodramatic, soap opera kind of way. Also, on that note, Izzie and George and their perpetual teenage angst (at age 30)? Not interesting. Writers take note.). How much you love your partner, and how you leave little notes for each other on the fridge - that's not interesting. The way you can speak to each other using only your eyes - that's not interesting either. Not even for a die-hard relationship girl like me. Cute, maybe. But about as interesting as catching flies with chopsticks.

Anyway, where was I? Dinner on Friday. We went to Babylon at the Roof Gardens, Richard Branson's restaurant on the 7th floor of a Kensington (posh area) High Street building. It comes complete with fabulous views across London and a garden built on the rooftop. Ordinarily, guests can stand on the rooftop terrace and overlook the garden with the London skyline as a backdrop. However, as we chose to go on the night that Winter heralded her arrival with torrential rains, flooding and a blanket of darkness by 7pm, we actually saw nothing but the outlines of buildings through the haze of precipitation. Still, the evening was fantastic. We drank far too much wine, talked about anything and everything and - prepare for a gush - remembered why we always have so much fun as just the two of us. Puke. Sorry. Pedalling away from the OC storyline.

I haven't quite finished telling the story of my holiday yet. You've traversed the dusty roads at Boom, been bussed through the sights of Barcelona; but you haven't yet heard about my favourite part of the trip - Mallorca. So here's my great Mallorca story...

We lay on the beach for 5 days straight.

Yep, that's about it. Oh wait, one day we skipped the beach and took a train trip through the mountains to Soller. But the other 4 days were spent pretty much flat on our backs on the sands of Illetas or Platja de Palma... or on lilos floating in the bathwater-warm Mediterranean. And when we weren't lazing on the white sand or dreaming our troubles away on the gentle swells of the ocean, we were tucked away in quaint little bars in Palma drinking cocktails made by hot Spanish men. Or dining out al fresco on seafood, seafood and more seafood....did I mention seafood? Food poisoning? Bah! We laughed in its face.*

It was relaxing, beautiful and pretty much my idea of a perfect holiday. We had some minor clashes within the group, as is inevitable when you travel with friends and certain people are, shall we say, more incredibly difficult (read: up their own asses) than others. But we managed to have an amazing time regardless.

Instead of crapping on about how tanned and skinny I was when I got back (the one good thing about dysentery is that you really can eat whatever you want and still lose weight - yes, this is not a healthy way to view an illness, I know!), I will just say this: Mallorca is possibly my favourite place in the world after Cape Town, and I plan to go back as often as I can during my time London. It's pretty damn close to perfect. Go if you can.

*But we stopped once we found out what we had. When we arrived back in London and Eyes and Shoes went to the doctor to get tested, the tests came back positive for the shigella virus. It's the nasty cousin of E.Coli and Salmonella - a killer in its worst form. It causes dysentery (which we'd pretty much figured out), and apparently you are supposed to see a doctor immediately if the symptoms persist after 7 days. Is it wrong to say we cheated death? We think it sounds quite brave.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Games People Play

Mass e-mail today:

{In response to a message explaining the prizes for our company lotto, including a trip to Sandy Lane - an exclusive resort in Barbados}

From: Interactive Account Manager
Sent: 02 September 2008 15:44
To: Commercial Department
Subject: RE: Commercial Lotto Prize Draw


Sandy Lane is soooooooo exclusive, they have Jesus as a waiter!!

From: Planning Manager
Sent: 02 September 2008 15:47
To: Interactive Account Manager; Commercial Department
Subject: RE: Commercial Lotto Prize Draw

Good to see you've got Windows live messenger open at work, Interactive Account Manager. Part of the 'interactive' role is it?

From: Interactive Account Manager
Sent: 02 September 2008 15:44
To: Planning Manager; Commercial Department
Subject: RE: Commercial Lotto Prize Draw

Of course - instant messaging with clients is the way forward!

Try it.....

Can you say BUSTED?!?!?!?

Today is for reminscing about Barcelona, but I don't really have very much to say. I enjoyed the city, but I've been to cities both more magnificent and more exciting. To be fair, on our 2 day hop on-hop off bus tour we were hopping off a lot more than we were hopping on, courtesy of the food poisoning, so that might have something to do with it. I wasn't feeling great at the time, and we were also all exhausted from the trance party. AllI I really wanted was to get to the beaches in Mallorca and laze around soaking up the sunshine.

That said, I do like Barcelona. The people are exceedingly friendly, the food is good and there is plenty to see, even if it reminds me more of Cape Town than a typical European city. It has a great feel to it - a modern, very self-sufficient city with strange architecture and sculptures (Spanish architect Gaudi seems to be responsible for building prettty much the whole city in his unique style, which pays homage to the elements of nature) and the people have an obvious sense of a pride in their culture and achievements. I particularly enjoyed seeing the site of the Olympic stadium and pool hall of the 1992 Barcelona Games.

We visited the beachfront as well, which I had been told was rather shite, but it actually turned out to be decent for a man-made beach. We stopped off at one of the beach bars for cocktails, and I had what is probably the best pina colada I have ever tasted, so that alone made the trip worthwhile!

I think overall I will never be gushingly enthusiastic about cities, because I am a beach girl through and through. I visit cities because they're nice in small doses, and there's always points of interest that are worth seeing. But I will take a beach holiday over a selection of the most amazing cities in the world any day. Sightseeing simply can't compare to acres of soft white sand, sparkling blue oceans and panoramic views across an island. Tomorrow I'll tell you about my favourite part of our trip.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Boom!

I've already taken you on a mini tour of Boom. Dodgy guts aside, it was a really good trance party - by the far the biggest we've been to, and definitely the most spectacular in terms of preparation. For weeks before the event, there were videos going up on the Boom website of all the construction they were doing to get ready. Many of the contributors don't get paid for their input - they do it out of love for the music and the ideology behind festivals such as this one, which is basically to promote 'oneness' through peace and love, along with a little campaigning for saving the environment. If it sounds very hippie, that's because it is! Whereas the trance scene in Cape Town is a lot more mainstream, with many people going more for the camping and partying than the music or the message, European trance parties attract crowds of true hippies, people for whom this is a way of life. They don't see acid as a recreational drug, for example; they see it as a means of altering one's consciousness in order to communicate more effectively with the universe and inspire greater creativity and understanding.

While I and the majority of my friends are by no means hippies, I can't help but have genuine affection for the ones we meet at festivals. They might be a bit spacey, and they might seem far removed from what I call reality, but they're a lovely bunch of people who truly care about each other and the environment, and who view doing their bit to promote global consciousness about these things as very important. They bring their kids along with them and make it a family affair; something which I am not really a fan of as I don't believe kids should be raised around drugs, no matter that it may be a way of life for you. But outside of the ethical issue, I can't deny that their kids are raised with a sense of belonging and an unparalleled freedom, the kind that many children never experience today. They are as at home playing outside from sunrise to sunset as most other kids are with their video games.

Having said all that, I think next year when we choose another party we will go for something slightly smaller. I loved this one, but as amazing as it was to be on a dancefloor with 20,000 other people (just take a moment to think about that... it really is a spine chilling experience), I generally prefer parties where you might actually see a person that you meet a second time, and where you don't have to walk for an hour to get from one side of the festival to the other.

As always, the crazies came out of the woodwork for our amusement, and here, in random order, are some of the strangest things we saw:

*A big polystyrene fish floating in the middle of the river. No-one knew whether it was meant to be there or if it had gotten there by accident. People had hours of fun trying to climb up on it and get photos taken.
*2 guys attempting the trance party version of an Evil Knievel stunt. One crouched in the shallow water with a piece of wood laid across his back like a ramp. The other hopped on a bicycle and tried to ride up the ramp. He made it after several attempts, and came very short on the other side.
*A life-size, remote controlled bergie (vagrant) pushing a supermarket trolley. He had a full beard and was dressed in purple tie dye, and at first glance looked like a human being. He walked and pushed his trolley, stopping occasionally to turn his head and stare at someone. No-one knew who was controlling him.
*Girls on stilts in all sorts of fabulous outfits. They'd appear anytime and anywhere from 7am to 12pm with full make-up and dramatic colours, and they'd dance for hours on these stilts. When you get a good look at how tall the stilts are and how small these girls are, it's an act that seems to defy gravity.
*Freaks on the dancefloor. There is always at least one in any session. They might be dressed strangely, wearing face paint or have faces / words shaved into the back of their heads. They may climb things (poles, people) or just run around shouting loudly and making faces. My favourite was Hat Guy, who tagged on to our group and proceeded to make everyone swap hats and accessories over the next hour. It was like playing pass the parcel in Claire's (British jewellery chain store).
*A very enthusiastic hippie stripper jumping on stage and whipping it all off. Then playing cat and mouse with security as they attempted to remove her from the stage, while she shook her booty for the crowd's entertainment.

My favourite part of the party, besides some of the mammoth sessions on the dance floor, was chilling by the river in the sun and people watching. As you can imagine, you are never short of entertainment at a trance party when you settle down to watch the world go by. By the time Sunday evening rolled around, I was tired and thoroughly tranced out, but satisfied we'd had the best party possible. I was ready to leave the world of peace and love behind, and dive headlong into the culture of Barcelona.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

I Know You Like To Think Your Shit Don't Stink

I'm back bitches! Sorry, I've just always wanted to say that - now I take it back. I'm not really back. Haha, ok I am, but you're not really bitches! ;-)

I really am back, after what has been the most amazing holiday ever. Over the course of the next few days, I'll share a few of the highlights, lowlights and flashing lights with you, and hopefully you'll feel a little bit like you were soaking up those rays on the beach with me.

So today's story is about poo. Yes, you did read that correctly. I must apologise in advance for the topic of conversation, and for the inevitable bad puns that are going to ensue, but this story is very necessary for you to understand how my holiday was.

Rewind with me to Saturday night - the end of our second full day at Boom Festival in Idanha a Nova, Portugal. Shield your gaze through the clouds of dust being churned up by 30,000 feet on the dance floor. Keep going, your eyes skimming the reflection of the sunset in the river; past that cluster of tents with the scaffolding of twine holding up the multi-coloured trance awnings. Do you see the row of food stalls, and slightly to the right the rows of tables and benches where everyone is sitting down to supper? You can see us there, perched on our fisherman stools in the patch of ground in the middle. We're the ones all holding the big, fat, juicy burgers, inhaling them like they're pure oxygen. As you can see, we're quite hungry - it's our first meal in a good 6 hours. If you look closely, you'll see Neutrino has already finished his - he is always the fastest eater in our group.

Now fast forward with me to Sunday evening, 6pm. Where are we, you say? Don't panic, it's not a stampede - you're only in the middle of the dance floor for the festival's final show. 6 hours of non-stop dancing, incredible lasers, firedancers, hula hoop acrobats and light sabers. Incredible, isn't it? See how stoked everyone is. There are 20,000 people on this dance floor right now. Can you feel the vibe? The energy feels like a living thing. But if you look down to your left; you see Penguin sitting on her stool, a lone figure bent double in the midst of the heaving masses. She's not feeling well. I'm going to leave you here while I take her to the loos; there's no need for you to see what comes next. Now we're back, and she's feeling a bit better after throwing up, but not much. Look, she's leaving to go to bed. Fast forward again, just 5 hours this time. It's 11pm. The firedancers and acrobats are in full swing, jumping and tumbling and lighting up the stage like Christmas trees on speed. But I'm sitting down this time - over here, next to you. I'm feeling a bit funny. Scarf and I are going to leave now and go to bed - I know it's just minutes before the finale and end of Boom thank you speech, but I don't feel strong enough to stay.

And this is the point in my journey where I stop taking you with me, at least for the rest of this story. We woke up on Monday morning at 6am, set to leave by 7 so we could catch our 11am flight to Barcelona. Before we could bundle ourselves into the car though, we had to make a trip past the loos as every one of us had seriously dodgy stomachs. At this stage we all thought it was a combination of too much sun, too much booze and not enough healthy food. It can happen to anyone, especially at a trance party.

So we didn't think anything of it when, just half an hour later, we had to stop at a petrol station so we could all go again. Or when we got to the airport, and the first thing any of us did was rush for the toilet. Or when we touched down in Barcelona and did the same thing. But by the time we'd dropped our bags at our apartment and headed out for dinner at a local tapas bar, we'd started discussing the possibility of a stomach bug. When Eyes left dinner early to go home as he felt so bad, and I found that even though I was hungry I was struggling to find anything I felt I could eat, we knew something was definitely wrong.

To cut a very long story short, we got through the rest of our holiday by keeping these key pointers in mind at all times:

1) Never, EVER go anywhere that does not have a loo, either in the establishment (apartment, restaurant) or nearby (beaches, public transport).
2) Carry your own toilet paper with you, just in case.
3) Don't bother to take: the anti-cramp meds, the diarrhea stopping pills or the painkillers. None of them work. The paracetemol does help control the fever, though.
4) When you get up for the 6th time in the early hours of the morning to drop off friends, expect to meet a comrade either going into or coming out of the bathroom.
5) In afore-mentioned situation, the rule of thumb is, whoever's doubled over the most with cramps gets to go first.
6) Leave window open in bathroom at ALL times. It doesn't matter if the people in the flat opposite get a glimpse - it's preferrable to the alternative stench.
7) It will take at least 2 hours to get everyone out of the door in the mornings, as each person must visit great white telephone between 3 and 6 times before leaving.
8) Eat what you like, drink what you like - you think it will make a difference if you eat dry toast and drink water, but it WON'T. (Eyes finally made sense of this only in the last 2 days of our trip).
9) When the fever hits, there is nothing you can do. You must call up your inner reserves of strength and ride it out. Try not to steal the entire blanket from your partner / throw the whole thing on top of them.
10) Fresh air does not help.
11) Lying motionless on the beach in the sun is the only thing that will make you feel mildly better. Do not upset the delicate equilibrium once you find it.

Scarf and G-Days managed to avoid whatever "stomach bug" Shoes, Eyes and I had caught. We deduced that we got it in Portugal, as texts from Penguin, who was back in London, told tales of the shits from both ends. Neutrino was feverish for a week. The only one untouched was Scarf (G-Days joined us in Spain but was not with us in Portugal). It made sense when we found out on our return that it was food poisoning, as she had thrown up on Sunday morning after a particularly bad hangover. She basically got rid of the bad bacteria before it had a chance to do its damage. For the rest us, we had those big, juicy burgers on Saturday night to thank for our newly intimate associations with all the toilets across Spain & London.

As of today, we have been sick for 11 days and still counting. I'm at work; Eyes and Shoes can't face it and have been kept home by their cramps. I am on the whole ok, if you count a complete lack of absorption of food, weight loss and no appetite or energy as ok. But I'm soldiering on in the face of adversity, comforted that the nearest loo is but 10 steps away. I know because I counted.

I had an badass (sorry, I warned you!) holiday, despite the small bump (large pile of crap) in the road. What would my travels be without a little drama hey!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

There She Goes

Mass e-mail to Commercial Departments at all stations:

From: Account Manager
Sent: 12 August 2008 15:22
To: Commercial-Everyone

Please bring night shirts or pyjamas for tomorrow. You could wear them to work or get changed here. Up to you.

Any blankets you have at home will help also to create the scene.


From: Planning Manager
Sent: 12 August 2008 15:26
To: Commercial-Everyone; Account Manager

I perhaps we should do lunch first Account Manager.
Planning Manager

I am counting down the hours til we leave for our trip to Portugal and Spain; it is now 11:15am and there are exactly 18 hours and 15 minutes between me and the most anticipated holiday of the year. I am so tired today I am seeing spots. Last night (or this morning, if you live in China) was the team final of the women's Olympic gymnastics competition. I don't think I need to mention my obsessive love for gymnastics again - I'm sure I dedicated a post to it some time ago. Suffice it to say that I have been in ecstasy ever since the opening ceremony last Friday. I watch anything acrobatic related: gymnastics, diving, synchronised swimming (I don't care if it's not a real sport!), tumbling, trampolining and swimming. Ok, this last is because I am in perpetual awe at the anatomy of male swimmers, but I digress. The BBC has fantastic coverage of the Games. They have 6 interactive streams dedicated to 24 hour live coverage, and when there are no events taking place, they show highlights and news packages. However, the coverage on other stations, such as British Eurosport, is usually reduced to roughly half the actual event time. So in the case of the women's team final, Eurosport has an hour of highlights coverage later this evening, whereas the BBC's live coverage is over two hours. One small flaw in the BBC Master Plan - you cannot record interactive TV.

As I simply can't settle for anything less than the maximum gymnastic overload, it follows that I had no choice but to watch the full two hours of competition. At 3:30. THIS MORNING.

I set my alarm to wake me at that ungodly hour, and for a split second considered doing what a normal person would do - rolling over and going back to sleep. But the pull of my most beloved of sports was too strong, and somehow I rolled out of bed, blind (which I am without my contacts), deaf (I still had ear plugs in to shut out the drone of the fan) and dumb - no way was I going to speak and risk enraging Shoes anymore than necessary. To be fair, I had offered to sleep in the lounge to preserve his beauty sleep, but he felt sorry for me and said it was ok if I woke him up. So far I have not had any complaints, but he shot me arsenic-in-a-look this morning when I didn't get up to make his sandwiches and thereby made him 15 minutes late (15 minutes to make sandwiches? I guess this is why mothers and not fathers generally make their children's lunch).

It was completely worth it in the end. It was a drama-filled battle for gold between China and the USA, and I lived every second of it with the gymnasts. I would have been on my feet with the tension of it all, had I been able to rouse myself from my coma-like state on the couch. But let's face it, there are limitations as to how involved one can get at that hour of the morning. It was enough that I could see past the sleep in my eyes to root for my favourite - which kept changing from China, to USA, and back again. I would have been happy for either to take gold - both teams are absolutely phenomonal this year.

So I haven't exactly started my countdown to holiday on the best foot, considering sleep is minimal at a trance party at the best of times. However, despite my fatigue I feel strong like bull, and I reckon if I take last night as my first party night and go non-stop from now til Monday, I should be ok!

I will be loving and leaving you then until Tuesday 26th, when I return from my quest to chase the sun. Just to remind you, we're spending 4 days at the party in Idanha a Nova in Portugal, then flying to Barcelona for 3 days of sightseeing, and ending the holiday with 5 days on the beaches of Mallorca. I'll tell you all about when I get back!

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Boy Next Door

So.... those firsts. I have another one I'd like to share with you.

Nope, not "my first time" - let's just say that's never all it's cracked up to be, is it?

Instead, it's the first time I had my heart broken.

I was 11, and in Standard 4 (Grade 6, for those of less advanced years). I was in love with the boy next door. His name was Ryan, and he was just gorgeous. He was also one of the popular kids, and completely unattainable to a semi-nerd like me.

My best friend at the time, Elke, and I used to spend hours climbing trees outside his house and spying on him over the wall. He had an older brother (a free pass into the realm of Coolness), a dad who let him do what he wanted and no visible female presence in the house, unless his brother had brought one or more of his girlfriends home. In which case we'd also spy on the ethereally beautiful girls as they sunbathed by the pool in impossibly tiny bikinis. His house was the like the Holy Grail of Cool.

One time, we were perched in our usual position, waiting for (stalking?) our quarry to emerge in the backyard, when the most exciting thing ever happened. Ryan came out wearing shorts, and proceeded to strip them off next to the pool, leaving just a pair of white underpants between his boyhood and our virgin eyes. Then he dived in.... and to our tangled dismay and excitement, those wet white underpants suddenly revealed a whole new world. It was my first real glimpse of the male bum, and I think from that moment on I always knew I would be a bad girl. We never got a clear look at the front, but it didn't matter - our illicit thrill was more than complete.

The memory of the clingy white underpants only served to enhance my crush. I was obsessed. I would daydream about how he would tell the whole class he loved me, and we would walk down the corridors together holding hands. I would listen to him playing his music super loud (his family was known in my family as The Noisy Neighbours for about a decade) - Rush Rush by Paula Abdul and I Touch Myself by the Divinyls - and imagine Ryan was secretly sending messages to me over the wall through the songs.

Elke and I, together with another friend and my little sister, hatched a plot to get his attention. We invented a girl called Llem - an acronym of all our names. We wrote him letters in disguised (read messy) handwriting saying how Llem was a girl who lived near him, and who thought he was really hot. We described our virtual self as being a stunner with long blonde hair and blue eyes (clearly the influence of Barbie still held much sway).

It worked. Ryan brought the letters to school with him, and soon everyone was discussing the mysterious Llem. Since the field of girls Ryan knew who lived near him was narrow, the day came when he asked me point blank if I was Llem. I almost died from sheer joy at having him talk to me, but managed to keep my cool long enough to deny it. I even speculated with him on who it could be, and this opened a previously impossible channel of communication between us. Sometimes he'd pass me as we walked to school in the mornings, and he'd always smile and say hi. Once or twice he even walked with me.

I was in heaven. I finally knew what it meant to fall in love, and I knew it was only a matter of time before he went public with his feelings. It didn't matter that he had never told anyone he liked me - the only acceptable way at age 11 to let a crush know you're interested. I knew. And I was convinced that he did too.

The day of our school fete dawned bright and clear, and I was stricken with nausea from the combination of nerves and excitement. One of the most anticipated events of the day was the Dedication Booth. It consisited of a table with a PA system, and cds of the latest chart hits. The idea was to go over, write a dedication to someone and pick a song, and have the MC for the day read your note out over the microphone before playing the accompanying song.

At age 11, I did not have the confidence to make the first move. I would wait for him to dedicate a song to me - I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it would happen. My heart was a-flutter and my hands were clammy. When he walked up to the booth, I stopped breathing. I watched as he wrote his note and flipped through the cds, his mates gently jeering and egging him on.

He walked away, laughing coyly. Time stood still. A few other dedications were read out, a few songs played; I remained motionless and unhearing, frozen by hope. And then it happened.

"And this next dedication is from Ryan Watts, and it goes out to......"

I squeezed my eyes shut....

"Mandy Smith!"

My world stopped turning. For the first time, the sound of my heart shattering into a million pieces rang in my ears.

I vaguely remember dashing to the bathroom, tears stinging my eyes. My friends were concerned, but I hadn't told them of my lofty expectations for that day. I might have said I didn't feel well.

I will never forget how much that moment hurt. Of course, my heart has been broken since then, in far more cruel and adult ways. But there is something uniquely intense and bittersweet about your first.

Ryan never knew. But everytime I hear a Paula Abdul song, I think of him.