Posts Tagged ‘Old Friend at Work’

“Do you fancy coming?” I asked Old Friend at Work.

“To what?”

“Fiona Shaw doing “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.”

“OK. That sounds good – is it just her?”

“No, I think there’s a male dancer in it as well.”


And so it was that I went to the Old Vic Tunnels last night to see Ms. Shaw in the poem on my own – which is fine: there are relatively few people who I am happy to have at the theatre with me, as I can’t really be bothered with either the enforced post performance analysis or (more pertinently) ANY DISSENSION WHATSOEVER FROM MY OPINIONS.

Well: it was great. Not as great as “The Waste Land” – but I think that’s down to the poem, more than anything else (and at the time, the performance of “The Waste Land” at Wilton’s Music Hall was so original as to (probably) have acquired a sheen of brilliance that might be over and above the actual event). Fiona Shaw was – aptly – at her least theatrical and her most focused, and so it was a thrilling performance in a wonderfully evocative location: the smell of water and damp and the rumbling of the trains overhead adding a huge amount to the experience. She was absolutely on her game: no excess, no flourishes – I wonder if poetry, its meter and its bite makes it harder to take liberties that one might with another kind of text (even the parts of Shakespeare that are in poetry)? And – even better – given the nagging worry that Old Friend at Work had planted in my mind, the dancer was equally restrained and focused. Used sparingly and to great effect, rather than (as if thrilled by his mere presence the director had vowed to wring every last atom of meaning, reference and emotion out of him) over-using him, and thus ending up with one of those ghastly University performances wherein one performer (in a lone spotlight – always) earnestly intones “The Smiths” lyrics, whilst another (blindfolded, always) writhes on the floor as if having a fit and then, finally, and to elevate the whole sorry enterprise to the status of art, gets naked.

I don’t know that it will stay with me as “The Waste Land” has, but I was properly mesmerised throughout and will re-read the poem this weekend: which is probably as great a testament to the thing as one could expect.

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Well, it was kind of as expected, to be honest.

There was the carrot of extravagant praise, and then the stick of “Please try not to treat those people whom you think are idiots as if you think they are idiots”. I sort of nodded along with it, but as I was listening, I was plotting my extravagant revenge (the only person who could have done my internal monologue justice at the time was John Webster, if that helps you imagine the scale of the thing).

One of the things that I have to do is visit the people in the rest of the world with whom I work, so now (once the Summer holiday dates are finalised) I shall be planning a global road trip (as long as they’re places to which I’d like to go) with Old Friend at Work, who’s also been given the green light for a world tour at the company’s expense, taking in Istanbul, Singapore, Moscow and Buenos Aires. Could be worse, eh?

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So: after almost twenty months, more Estate Agents than I ever hope to encounter again in the rest of my life, an architect, a team of builders and a deep immersion in the auction houses of London, I am moving into my new house this weekend.

The children have already seen it and given it their unconditional approval, which is heartening, as I chose it largely with them in mind – as you would, of course. When I saw it, I wasn’t completely convinced – in fact, I was quite anti: but the endorsements of Sister, Parents, Old Friend at Work and Best Friend all brought me round and now I am enamoured with it. This is probably due, in no small part, to the fact that it no longer has mahogany floorboards, a black quartz kitchen floor and blue and white tiles in the bathrooms (one of the reasons I have spent so long not living in a house that I have owned for six months is that I decided to bite the bullet, do ALL the work – and spend ALL the money, rather than do it in drips and drabs, which would be disruptive – and I think everyone’s had enough disruption to be getting on with…), and is now exactly as I would want it.

It’s also the first time that I’ve lived in a house of this style: very modern and open-plan, rather than old and self-contained rooms. Again, I am now delighted with this way of living, and it’s also quite therapeutic to be living a new life in a new kind of space, rather than in a version of the houses that I shared with Ex Wife.

So: good times ahead. The children are excited, and I’m excited. If I can put up with the navy blue front door until the Spring, when I shall re-paint it (and there’s more than enough woodwork to be painting in the meantime), then all shall be rosy in the garden. Assuming some cunt hasn’t planted bamboo in there…

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The many Poker players among you will already have scented what my theme is.

I have been advised (a number of times) that I have a set of “tells” which announce a set of different emotions on my behalf.

I have seen this in others, of course. In Best Friend, it is the planting of both feet at shoulder width to announce “You and I are going to fall out, sunshine.”

With Old Friend at Work it is the simple words “Are you joking?” to announce “The next fifteen minutes are going to be the worst of your life – and I shall fill each one of those with such invective as could take the paint off an ocean liner.”

With me, they are as follows:

  • Emotion: “Disregard for your intellect/the content of what you’ve just said”
    • Tell: “It’s like shutters coming down over your eyes” (to quote someone who’s seen it).
  • Emotion: “Warm Anger”
    • Tell: “Lion Hands” (fingers splayed, and bent back into “claws”)
  • Emotion: “Cold Anger”
    • Tell: “Shark Eyes” (to quote Old Friend at Work’s assessment, followed by the qualification – “I would rather be dead than have those shark eyes turned on me”).

In my line of work, of course, it’s the first that’s the most dangerous, as I have to spend a fair (or, as I would argue warmly, an unfair) amount of my time doing my “nodding and encouraging and “I’m sure there’s something in that” face – and yet it is that first tell that I have been advised/warned of most often and most consistently.

I wonder if I was born with it?

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American Diva Planner has left the agency – in fact, she was asked to leave…

Hers is a particularly sad story: not because she didn’t see her demise coming (I think she did), but because she saw it coming and simply couldn’t alter her behaviour in such a way as to prevent it – like being tied to the railway tracks, and watching the engine approaching. She had a very lofty view of herself and her discipline – and once (unfortunately) when asked by someone whom she viewed as her junior for her mobile number, she replied (without irony) “You? You don’t get MY number!”. This wasn’t a one-off: she used not to do things that she viewed as beneath her (which, it must be said, were viewed by pretty much everyone else as absolutely within her job description), and used not to concern herself with actually translating her thinking into creative work (which, for example, Good Friend at Work and I spend the bulk of our time doing) – indeed, when I was talking to her after she had been fired, she actually said “I don’t care about the creative work”.

This disengaged and detached view of Planning doesn’t cut it any more – if it ever did – either with clients or agencies, and her death knell was sounded by being asked off a piece of business for the third time. Eventually, there’s no way to remain employed if clients don’t want you on your business.

So: she’s with us for another couple of months, and I’ll miss her when she’s gone. I’ll still see her, I hope (she’s a lovely, generous and funny woman – and she throws the best parties known to man) and I hope that a life as a consultant, which is what she’s going to do, will suit her better and bring her more satisfaction.

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I’m going to New York the week after next where I’m going to combine some lecturing on Advertising Planning (something which is filling me with so much dread it is only really now that I am confronting the fact that I am doing it – SHITTING HELL!) with an interview at another agency.

It’s a more famous agency than the one that I currently work at, but no better (worse in many areas); and the money is a lot better, but I am almost certain that I don’t want to work there. My work situation at the moment is pretty perfect: I’ve been promoted to the Board, given a pay rise to go with it, and they are really good about my home situation (basically letting me work from home as and when I need to in order to accommodate the children) – so I don’t really know why I’d leave. On the other hand, Old Friend at Work is right when she says that I may as well turn up, specifically if I don’t want the job (which is when I tend to perform at my best), and see it as ego-stroking and practice if nothing else.

Anyway: that’s half the gig. The bulk of it is this lecturing that I am doing (largely in the spirit of “Run towards what makes you scared – and given that, as I run towards this, I can almost feel myself shitting myself, I think I’m embracing the spirit of that dictum pretty well), and that’s three days of lecturing, leading workshops, Q&As and all that stuff that makes me feel like self-harming. The other speakers are all from different areas (screenwriters, film producers, TV executives, journalists) and we’re all speaking on the theme of “Engagement through Story-Telling”, so I am under no illusion that my slot will be the point at which people make their phone calls and grapple with their iPads.

Ah well: “What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger” as terrifying, proto-Nazi Nietzsche coined it. We shall see.

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Unfeasibly Attractive Girlfriend has bought me some ART. In fact, she’s bought me a sculpture. With the sole exception of my three-foot tall bust of William Shakespeare (said by some uncharitable souls to bear a striking resemblance to the comedian, Bill Bailey), I don’t have any other statue joy, so it’s doubly welcome.

It’s the work of an American (whom I hadn’t heard of), who worked with Mark Rothko and in tribute to him cast some of his paintbrushes in bronze. Whilst I don’t believe that these paintbrushes are Rothko’s, what UAG has bought me is a cast sculpture of a large jar filled with artist’s paintbrushes – a hint to follow her dictum that I need to spend more time drawing and painting (rather than trying to get her to take her bra off) – and I absolutely LOVE it. It’s cast in that white, ghostly resin that Rachel Whiteread uses and quite the most beautiful thing: ghostly, timeless but very modern.

I have also been buying art for myself – although UAG was involved again, in as much as I was with her in Madrid (where she spends half her time) when we discovered an auction. Her Spanish is pretty good, mine is virtually non-existent, but we decided to go in and see what was about, and she convinced me that I wouldn’t get so confused by the language spoken at speed that I would end up spending thousands on a pile of newspapers tied up with string. About an hour and a half later, I emerged with an eighteenth century miniature (and I mean “miniature” – it’s about three inches across) oil painting of a ruined landscape, with two women in the foreground. It’s going to look perfect in Daughter’s bedroom (once she has one), and is part of my new arsenal of Things of Unspeakable Coolness, which I have been adding to since Wife absconded with Small Man Who Looks Like Steve Buscemi, and which might well have grown beyond the bounds of any space that I could manage to display them in.

If (when I find a house) this does indeed prove to be the case, and I am unable to display the full extent of my Things of Unspeakable Coolness and Art, then I shall stage a “happening” (perhaps in the Chiswick Catholic Centre) where I burn what’s surplus to requirements, while reciting snatches of The Oresteia.

What shall NOT be making its way into the enclosure of Things of Unspeakable Coolness and Art, is the awfulness that UAG, Old Friend at Work and Newly Befriended Husband of Old Friend at Work witnessed earlier in the week. We went to a private view at the house of an ACHINGLY cool friend from work (she has turned her house over to be a gallery space for a group of three artists), and shuffled our way around the work (none of which had prices attached, which is always frightening), Champagne in hand, and then shuffled out. It was awful. The exhibition, entitled something like “Les Femmes, Elles Ont Des Vagines” was very strong on hairy beaver shots: photos from (I would guess) 1970s porno mags, were juxtaposed with women in full burqa, transferred onto glass with a sepia wash applied, and then a single word, such as “OPPRESSION!” (just to help the particularly hard of understanding) was scratched into the glass. Subtle, it was not. These art school try-outs hung alongside further beavers painted (very inexpertly) onto newspaper in poster paint, and (in a rare case of “Beaver-free art”) some pages ripped from lined notebooks, onto which anatomical cross-sections had been photocopied, and were joined by our old friend the portentous word, in an effort to elevate what might have otherwise seemed like “Testing the Photocopier” to “Art”. So, we got cross sections of eyes with “Invisible” applied over them, and a nineteenth century drawing of the four chambers of the heart with – have you guessed yet? – “Love” sidling up alongside it.

The only thing I was tempted by was a picture that I found a little way off from the main exhibit, and I was getting quite excited about Making It Mine, when UAG appeared behind me, and having listened to my enthusiastic raving about it for a couple of minutes added: “Yes… It’s a Herman Miller. They tend to go for about thirty or thirty-five grand.”

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