Archive for June, 2008

Wife and I have been given carte blanche by my parents to inflict the children on them for a week, so that Wife can find something she has not yet bought, and I can go and see my sister.

This enables me to use the free ticket that Virgin Atlantic compensated me with when they bumped me into Premium Economy (which was pretty fantastic) from Upper Class, as well as to try and understand how my Virgin Air Miles work: so the plan is to go there in late August or early September, if that’s feasible, and if New York isn’t too repulsive at that time of year. I shall ‘phone and check…

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Samuel Beckett wrote a piece called “Play Without Words”. I haven’t read it, though I imagine that it contained stage directions (probably destined for that remarkable woman, Billie Whitelaw) that consisted of “Breath. Pause. Breath. Breath. Pause. Breath. Die.” Anyway, today we all went to see the modern equivalent: a film without actors – “The Incredible Hulk”.

Given that it starred Edward Norton, featured Tim Roth, William Hurt and Robert Downey Jr. it was something more than perplexing that the director had decided that he could do without actors entirely – and given that the script actually showed every sign of having been written, rather than word processed, it was a double loss. There’s a nice edge to the central idea: that Banner became infected with the serum that turns him into The Hulk in a US Government bid to develop a new breed of super-soldier, and that the serum is contained solely in Banner’s body – and the government want it back, with him alive or dead.

It’s probably the project that I’m entwined in at work at the moment that makes me see things this way, but it’s also been written as a more than glancing reinterpretation of The Beauty and The Beast legend, with Liv Tyler filling the role of Beauty more than adequately…

Quite how relevant this was to the three youngest members of the family, I cannot tell. Daughter was content to converse with the screen, asking “Why are you doing that?, “Why are you crying?” and (most often) “Why are you shouting” in a piping, uncontainable treble throughout. Youngest Son decided to bounce up and down, with particular attention being paid to my scrotum, alternating that routine with wild arm-pumping that would shame a WWF crowd. Eldest Son was able to commentate occasionally on how The Hulk compared unfavourably to Ben 10 – which is his current outlook on life, and then to ask if we could see “Kung Fu Panda” and “Indiana Jones” later on in the day. No.

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The first time that Wife became pregnant, we invited our parents, Sister and Brother in Law around to the house for “drinks” (I daresay some of them had guessed why they had been invited). Apparently, Brother in Law had not guessed.

Wife (in an atypically oblique way) made her announcement by asking our guests: “What have Kate Moss, Angelina Jolie and I got in common?” to a genuinely uncomprehending crowd, so adding “I’m pregnant.” Amidst the whoops and the tears of joy, was Brother-in-Law’s surprised question “Is Kate Moss pregnant?”

Anyway: his wife, my sister is now pregnant for the second time, which is fantastic – so there will be a companion to my three year-old nephew born in February/March. This has necessitated a move of quarters: they have now moved two whole floors up in their Manhattan apartment block, to get themselves four bedrooms, all of which was done by their apartment staff, without the hideousness of removal men. They are now echoing around in this big space, waiting for their beautiful new arrival.

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I am spending roughly fifty percent of my time interviewing people at the moment – and not just Planners (though God knows, most of the ones that I have seen are stupefyingly bad), but Account Directors too – and I absolutely detest it.

I’m a terrible interviewee myself. Veering wildly between unwelcome familiarity and the sort of icy, withdrawn demeanour that is such a striking element of portraits of Dante, I have attracted, over the years, such an exciting variety of feedback that it remains something of a shock that I have managed to remain profitably employed over the last fifteen years. With that in mind, perhaps I should have been a little bit more forgiving of the last candidate that I saw.

She was from a big, famous agency (not creatively scintillating, perhaps – but everyone has to pay the mortgage) and had been in advertising for twelve years or so. And yet…

And yet, she managed to talk about advertising without once referring to ideas or creativity. I asked her (a self-described “Strategic Suit”) what the difference was between what she did strategically, and what I (as a Strategic Strategist) did – her answer was that I had more time on my hands to do strategy, as I didn’t have to engage in the business of writing timing plans. That was it for me: the idea that one “does” strategy is all I needed to hear to convince me that she thought that what I had time for was to “do” charts – and my thoughts on that are documented elsewhere.

So, I have just given my judgement (“I couldn’t see what aspect of the job she might be any good at”, if you’re interested) to 80s Throwback Account Guy who seems to be handling the Headhunters, and I look forward to meeting someone who interviews better than I do in the very near future.

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I really hope that I’m not going to have to change my mind again. I am massively judgemental and absolute in my  views on people – and I don’t enjoy having to re-think that position.

However, it turns out that Fembot is actually not just super-efficient and good at her job (which always gets my vote), but she is actually considerate. Just now, as I was deliberating over some point of great strategic import, she appeared at the door of my (glass) office. I thought that I was in line for The Suit Hover, a tactic whereby Account Handlers insinuate their way slowly, but purposefully into one’s office, finally meeting your icy stare with a Heep-ish “I know you’re really busy, but…” (I don’t know why, at this point, they don’t simply finish the sentence “…I simply don’t give a fuck, because I want something.”) – but I was mistaken.

She stood there, in complete silence, and when I looked up and fixed her with my shark eyes (an expression that Old Friend At Work describes as “more frightening than the prospect of Armageddon”), she said “I can see you’re busy. Can I book some time with you at the end of the day?” This doesn’t sound astonishing, maybe, but when compared to (say) Sofa Gonk, who bowls in here and throws himself on my sofa, whatever I am up to (on the `phone, writing, masturbating as I weep), it was a very welcome change.

So the upshot is that I may be changing my mind about Fembot – though where this leaves me with a name for her, I simply don’t know.

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Wednesday sees a big presentation to a big Client.

However, in about one hour, I am off to Madrid (where we are holding the meeting, on the grounds that the agency there is a real-life, honest to God palace, and tends to silence people) to start writing the fucking thing. Frenchman Who Wants To Be Spanish will be there, but seems pathologically incapable of putting fingers to keyboard and therefore expects that if it involves the written, or spoken word, or requires even a modicum of logic then A Planner Will Do It. Anyway, if I can stop moaning for ten minutes, I might, at least get over to The Prado (given that it is less than two minutes from the office) and gawp, open mouthed at Goya’s Black Paintings again…

It strikes me as something slightly miraculous that I can be in London before lunch, and before dinner I can be in Madrid (although that makes me sound a little bit wide-eyed and Pollyanna-ish about everything, which couldn’t be further from the truth): I think it’s because I love Madrid so much (I certainly don’t get this excited, marvelling feeling when I consider a trip to our Prague office, or my frequent jaunts to Milan) and because I love being in our Madrid office (one of our best, which is saying something).

The only thing that I don’t like is the packing: by the time I’ve got all my chargers and leads togethers (and I don’t mean horses and principal actors), there’s precious little room for anything so mundane as a toothbrush – so I probably need a  new bag.

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