Archive for July, 2008

Move No. 6

Our head office is consolidating in London (having been split previously between London and New York). This means that people are coming over from New York to London. This means that I am moving office again.

This will be the sixth move in under two years, back to the office that I first sat in when I came here. Fortunately, it’s the best office that I’ve ever had – so I’m pleased: otherwise, the idea of packing up my books, files and papers, only to unload them a couple of feet away would have driven me into an absolute fit of rage.

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Andrew Davies is a man whose continued success BAFFLES me.

While his early work may have been good, surely one would have to be insane to count his dramatisations of “Sense and Sensibility”, “The Line of Beauty” and now “Brideshead Revisited” as anything but atrocious travesties by a man whose reputation grows as his powers shrink.

But what has really insensed me is reading in this weekend’s Observer that he had re-written the ending of “Brideshead Revisited” to show Charles Ryder return to the Chapel at Brideshead where he blows out the flame in the sanctuary (this from a character whom Waugh shows to have become – after an internal battle that rages the length of the novel – a Catholic himself). Davies airily admits that this is his “own anti-Catholic” ending.

Can you admit his declaring his delight in having suggested an “anti-Jewish” ( let alone “anti-Muslim”) or “anti-Gay” or “anti-Black” ending? How on earth can someone get away with writing something like that and viewing it as in some way smart or even acceptable? It seems to me that “anti-Catholic” is the last acceptable prejudice (even perceived as “smart” in both senses amongst the liberal intelligentsia) – though I wouldn’t be so stupid as to claim that it was the last prejudice. I’m sure that Mr. Davies’ nasty little mind is prey to a few more prejudices than this one, as his salacious and voyeuristic work is making increasingly apparent.

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Wife has been having a fairly torrid time with her photography of late.

There have been quite a few highs: her Private View was absolutely brilliant, for a start. These are not just the words of a proud husband (although there is a fair bit of that), but an objective reaction to her work. In the first instance, she was asked by the course tutors to submit double the amount of work of anyone else; in the second instance, her work was hung in the most prominent spaces in the gallery (facing you as you entered the gallery on a wall that featured nothing else); and in the third instance, listening to what other people said as they reviewed her work (especially her large collage compositions) revealed that she was, and is, a photographic genius. There is also the fact that the work is rolling in: corporate gigs and private commissions have meant that on occasions (such as last weekend) she has had jobs on both days.

On the down side was the fact that last night, as she fired up the Mac to burn a disc of some shots that she was due to deliver this morning, she was unable to find them. Any of them.

An increasingly panicked search through IPhoto, Picture Project and the Desktop yielded nothing – but for some reason, as soon as she opened Flikr, she was able to access the photos in question, download them to the Mac and burn a disc. At this point, she was pretty much beside herself with worry (and frustration: like me, she hates it when she doesn’t understand HOW something works), but the shots are found, they’re great, and they’re going to be there on time.

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Yesterday was Round Two of The Twins’ birthday celebrations: a run that looks set to compare favourably with “The Mousetrap” in terms of enduring popularity (at least as far as Youngest Son and Daughter are concerned). There was cake – in fact, there were two cakes, as Wife had convinced herself that none of the adults would be able to force down the buttercream and Jelly Tots-smeared castle cake that the Twins had specified, so she rustled up a much more restrained option, complementing its Baroque extravagances with an almost Calvinist purity of form and function in a Victoria Sponge – there were sandwiches, scones and tea (what with it being the hottest day of the year thus far). And then there were presents…

Round One of this Bacchanalia had already seen our house visited with a plague of plastic, and Round Two (Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Godparents) was just as promising, with both children ripping into the decorated gifts with all the energy of Rottweilers on a South African farm. And this is where the problems started.

Daughter, who is four in two days’ time (enabling her to enjoy Round Three: Parents and Siblings) has already GOT a dolls’ tea set. This is a piece of information that she (rather gracelessly) passed on to her Grandmother, as soon as she clapped eyes on the one that had been bought for her: a very pretty china one, decorated with roses (my daughter, for no particularly good reason decided that her Christian name should be embellished with a hyphenated second part: “Rose”, at around the age of two, and so has been known as “Rosie” for some time, despite the fact that it figures nowhere on her birth certificate). My mother dealt with it well (better that I would have done…) and said something along the lines of “Well, now all your dolls can enjoy tea together at the same time”), but it reminded me of another occasion…

Wife’s mother died shortly after the birth of our two youngest children, and when she was in the final stages of the cancer that claimed her, we told her that we would like to name her granddaughter after her. This birthday incident, however, suggested some key differences between the two women, bound by one name…

In the early days of my hot pursuit of Wife, I was invited to her mother’s birthday party, and had spent much of the day trying to find a present which I felt hit the spot: unusual, but not freakish; generous, but not vulgar; suggesting an appreciation of her that was friendly, but no over-familiar. Wife (as she then wasn’t) spent the day with me, gently and kindly steering me away from things that weren’t quite the thing, and nodding emphatically as we toured the General Trading Company for the fifth time, to hone the shortlist.

The lucky winning garment was a claret red, devore silk velvet scarf. Perfect.

It was not until the cake had been cleared, the tea had been drunk and the pile of gifts presented that the problem became apparent. Everyone – EVERYONE – had given her a scarf. After four, it was embarrassing. After nine, it was funny. After fifteen (and with mine still to go) I thought we’d all need oxygen masks. More than the disappointment of having served up a truly uninspired gift, what I remember of that occasion is that Mother-in-Law said something spontaneous, appropriate and flattering about every single one of those twenty plus scarves. The woollen one was “Just what she needed for the winds that whip around the garden in Gloucestershire”, the leopard print chiffon one was “Proof that she was still seen as I INSIST I STILL AM – young!”, and mine was “Quite simply, the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen. I adore it!”. What manners, what style, what class.

So, I hope that her namesake picks some of these skills up from her. Of course, it’s early days yet – but let’s be honest: the early signs aren’t great, are they?

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Saying “Yes”

Two new Planners have joined my team – and the difference that their arrival has made has been staggering.

It isn’t so much the workload that I notice (I have got used to, and then got good at, getting through an awful lot in very little time), it is the difference that it makes to be surrounded by people who say “Yes”.

I don’t mean this in the sense of craven agreement with everything that I say, but rather, when I ask them if they’re going to be able to do something by a certain deadline, if everything is clear to them, if they think they’re going to be able to squeeze in an effectiveness paper, they don’t say “I’ll do my best” or “I’ll give it a shot” – they say “Yes”.

The cynics among you (and those of you who know the story of the sons sent to work in the field) will already be thinking “Saying “Yes” is one thing, delivering on your promise is another.” – and you’d be right. But my goodness: it doesn’t half start the day off right when you’re in a world of positivity, rather than a world of painful effort.

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Travesty of All Things Gay returns to the agency on Monday. I am fully expecting a full solar eclipse and the bodies of the dead to rise from the ground and walk again, at the very least.

For three blissful weeks, he has been on holiday (or “vacation” as he cringe-makingly calls it), a Gayfest that began with going to see Bette Midler live in Las Vegas, and has no doubt given him ample opportunity to indulge his taste for outre and awful fashion (the “Kill Bill” yellow jumpsuit, worn with black and white checked knotted neckerchief has yet to be surpassed, although, to be fair that was the stuff of “Now I can die happy”), and when he returns he will unveil a shrieking tornado of panic and discord, like something out of one of the hairier Greek Myths.

The indisputable truth is that when he is not here/not around, things go better: the team works beautifully (even Fembot becomes bearable), the work is outstanding and the Client runs round in excited little circles, handing out briefs like sweets at at party. When he is around, so much energy goes into “managing” him (unless, like me, you simply ignore him) that the job becomes 50% more problematic than it need be.

Anyway, I have good reason to believe that the end is in sight – and so I can put up with his presence for a little while longer…

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I wrote Best Friend an e-mail, and as I pressed “Send”, my mobile rang: it was her.

I was thinking to myself “I wonder how Good Friend in PR is getting on?”, and as the thought pinged into my mind, so an e-mail from him pinged into my Inbox.

I ran into Wise Monkey Planner at Client’s Big Office yesterday, and was greeted by her saying “Do you know, I was JUST wondering why I had never bumped into you here!”

Odd, eh? Of course, as Stephen Fry puts it, it would be just as odd if this kind of concatenation of circumstances never happened too: although I wonder how many of us would be struck by the fact that “X never phones at the very second that I’m thinking about him” – but I thought that three in one day was something worth writing about.

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