Friday, 27 April 2007

Repeat mantra: I love my clients. I love my clients. I love my clients. I love my clients!!

Thank FUCK it’s finally Friday. My God it’s been a busy week. I seem to have a ton of business that’s converting at the same time and it didn’t help my workload any when Mr. Bossman came over yesterday to ask me to work on a new business pitch. In response I reeled off the 5 clients I am already working on, without any junior support, and my bottomless list of to dos - drowning not waving - hoping he'd agree I'm too busy and tell me he'd ask someone else. Ha, I should cocoa. His response? "Oh but I'm sure you could manage a few hours this week couldn't you?"

A few hours this week? It was already chuffing Thursday!!!! So that's a few hours I’m supposed to add to the 12hour days I'm already working then? Was I naive to hope he would be reasonable and realise that my having 6 clients without any support serves no-one well? Pshhhhh I’m starting to reconsider the offers I've received from other agencies.

Not only has work been completely bonkers, but I've generally had a lack of sofa time this week. Monday evening I was being a good friend to Francesca, under suspicion of leaking information about a pitch to the current incumbent agency purely on the basis of her friendship with a woman at the incumbent. The client was not happy that news had got back to the incumbent and dropped Francesca's agency from the pitch. Incumbent woman claimed someone 'senior' at Francesca's agency was responsible for the leak, but refused to say who, which led to Francesca's boss telling her that 'all fingers pointed to her' based on her friendship with incumbent woman and the seniority of her position. Francesca, of course, strenuously denies any wrong doing. I was worried she might be fired when she called to tell me the news on Monday, but she said her boss had told her there was never any question of F being let go, although as she said, it's hardly likely she'll be promoted her now if they don't trust her. Drama!!!

Fortunately things have calmed down since Monday and Francesca’s been told the agency will 'stand by her,' but that’s hardly a comfort since they clearly don't believe she didn't do it. Understandably she’s not at all happy, but planning to stick things out for the time being as if she resigns she'll owe them the legal fees for her greencard - approx $11,000!! Urgle!!

Hopes for a relaxing evening at home on Tuesday following Pilates, were dashed when around 10pm my neighbor, Semi, my “Turkish mother” - 'hello my daughter I loorrrve yoooo' is how she always greets me - rang my doorbell in tears after a big fight with the twenty-something woman she rents a room to, Semi is in her 60s, and rents out the room to help with the rent.

Roomie is an Israeli girl in New York on a work placement and, according to Semi, is very aggressive towards her, continually complains that the apartment smells of cooking (err hello, you live about a restaurant), is supposedly less than fastidious about her own hygiene – her room smells like a homeless person is living in it is how Semi described it, is generally untidy, never does any cleaning and leaves her leftover takeout on the kitchen counter, inches from the bin, for days unless Semi moves it. How smashing of her.

However the real dealbreaker is the windows and the way she insists on leaving the kitchen and bathroom windows wide open - often all night. Semi will close them, Roomie opens them, Semi closes, Roomie opens, and so it goes on, really upsetting Semi who’s worried about someone coming into the apartment, an idea Roomie scoffs at given the apartment is on the 5th floor. Clearly a woman who didn't live here during the brief reign of the 'Spiderman rapist' - seriously the man scaled walls as high as the 5th floor, and not via the fire escape. I heard he was a delivery man which is how he knew there was a female living alone - not to mention the opportunists who come down the fire escape from the roof.

Have to say I am siding with Semi on this one, and yes, I may be biased because she gives me huge hugs each time she sees me and plies me with Turkish milk pudding (Yum!!), but it sounds as if Roomie is being more than a touch disrespectful don't you think? Semi was so upset on Tuesday she asked me to come up to her apartment and keep her company for a while. I don't think she wanted to be with the Roomie alone after the argument.

I went up and Roomie was firmly locked away in her room, although I saw the evidence of her untidiness including a bloody paper towel rolled up, tube-like and about 3inches long. Seriously it looked as if the woman had left a dismembered finger wrapped in a napkin on the counter; I was in two minds whether to call the police, although admittedly I'd just watched an episode of Law & Order where kidnappers sliced off a guy's ear and posted it to the police, so my imagination could have been running slightly rampant.

Hopefully Roomie will get her marching orders sooner rather than later. It’s not worth the stress of living with someone you don’t get along with and dreading coming home.

Wednesday was another late one, self inflicted this time, so have no sympathy. I worked until 7pm, and then went to dance class for a couple of hours followed by a jaunt to Room 4 Dessert with Megan and Jacqui. A place I've wanted to try for a while since so many critics have heaped praise on the place and chef/owner Will Goldfarb's dessert genius.

Oh, I so wanted to love it, but I am disappointed to say it was just okay. Definitely an interesting place to try, but I would not go back nor recommend to visitors, since I only liked about 50% of what I tasted – we shared the 3 plates we ordered, each with 4 sample portions of different desserts along a theme - apples, India, chocolate, you get the picture - and if I’m honest, ‘liked’ is probably too glowing a term. I just didn’t get all the powdery bits, such as the dried coconut milk powder, and the basil brioche just needs to go, so greasy.

I suppose I just don’t have much of an appreciation on the finer points of molecular gastromy, foamy things, xantam gum and what not, to have enjoyed it, and I was REALLY unimpressed that the woman preparing and plating the desserts kept touching her hair and licking her fingers. Ugh, completely revolting!!! Megan was thoroughly appalled, she's been in culinary school a few months - training to be a pastry chef and expanding my muffin top by bringing the fruits of her morning labors into the agency every afternoon where she’s working part-time - said she'd only unconsciously made that mistake once and was severely rebuked by the chef.

I got home around 11.30pm, so not *too* late for a school night, but my brain was whirling with work thoughts - or maybe it was all the sugar coursing through my veins - so it took a couple of hours for me to relax and it was after 1am by the time I got to sleep. Not great since I'd set the alarm for 6am to get into the office early and get a head start on work.

I had a voicemail waiting for me when I got into the office, from the head account guy on one of my clients asking me to call him about my experiences working with one of our clients. Head Account Guy rarely calls me so I was intrigued to find out the reason for his call. I later learned the aforementioned client had blown a gasket and gone off on a 10minute phone rant to our fabulous AAE for what he perceived as the agency’s ‘incompetence’ - some nonsense or other about it taking 5days to traffic a particular set of banner ads - and how ours is the "worst fucking agency" he's ever worked with. Charming, not to mention ohhhh so professional!!

I was stunned to hear he went a bit Alec Baldwin on our AAE as I've never had a problem with him and he's always been fairly good natured and generally like working with him even though he can be demanding. He's one of those clients that expects the agency to jump everytime he clicks his fingers, and doesn't recognise that many of us work on multiple accounts and that we do our very best, but requests take time. I get so tired of working my arse off only for them to turn around and say it’s not good enough, that I should have done more. This particular client pays for 25% of my time, technically 10.5hours a week, but in reality I end up spending more like 25hours a week on the account since I work wayyyy more than the 8hour day the rate is calculated on.

Naturally we are not going to stand for this sort of treatment of our amazingly hard working and lovely AAE by the little nasty little pinhead so the issue has been elevated to his superiors.

Making Thursday even more of a thrill was the ton of kids running amok in the building for "Take Your Children To Work Day," such a great contraceptive. Well, okay...there were some cute ones, but there were some precocious little darlings too. I walked past one group and overheard a girl of about eight say to the employee volunteer looking after the group "Do you KNOW who my father is?" Ahh yes, the Big Cheese's daughter.

I was positive after my early start on Thursday that I'd get to leave by 6pm and finally have my night on the sofa, eating the last of my Walnut Whips and catching up on everything that's piled up on the DVR. Unfortunately work intervened and I didn't leave until 9pm. And what was I working so hard on? Oh I'm so glad you asked. Well, I was working hard to complete our weekly status report which we present in a conference call to one of our clients - a colleague of Pinhead - every Friday at 10am, and guess what...she didn't chuffing turn up. No phone call or email to say she would be late, or that the meeting would be cancelled, she just didn't turn up. Does she think we have nothing better to do than hang around listening to the lovely supermarket style hold music? This is the 3rd or 4th time she has done this. I could've gone home at a reasonable time yesterday and worked on completely the report today had I known. Pardon my French, but what a cheeky bitch!!!!

I love my clients. I love my clients. I love my clients. I love my clients.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Sex & The City My Arse

I read a story on the BBC website this week about a shoe fetishist recently at large in London, Apparently, Omar Abd-el-Gowd suffered from such an out of control obsession with shoes that he would creep up behind innocent women and steal the shoes from their feet. FROM THEIR FEET!!! Can you imagine; the absolute cheek of the man. Why didn’t he just go to Payless and buy his own?

Luckily for him he operated in south-east London since I cannot imagine the well heeled women of New York are to be trifled with when it comes to their footwear. Anyone attempting to steal the shoes from my feet is likely to find themselves on the wrong end of a stiletto. Not to mention my teeth, I’m on the petite side and will use any means necessary to defend my footwear. Well, of course I say this, but in reality I’m likely to wee my knickers in fright, should I have the misfortune to come across a foot fetishist intent on stealing my favourite plum suede D’Orsay cut pumps.

These are my favourite pair right now. I love them so much I splurged $350 on a navy blue wrap dress in Searle to wear with them. A dress I have only worn ONCE to go out for posh nosh at Gordon Ramsay at The London. I am ashamed of myself. The shoes were a bargain by comparison, although admittedly the wrong side of $200 for a girl from Yorkshire with working class roots, but on a cost per wear basis they’re an absolute steal, down to about $5 by now I’d say.

My shoe fixation is a relatively recent development. I blame/thank New York. I was never like this when I lived in London; in fact my shoes were decidedly on the dull side, functional and comfortable rather than fashionable. I was 25 and shared an attitude to footwear with my eighty year old grandmother; I really don’t know what was wrong with me.

Shoe love is about the only thing I have in common with the women of SATC. I am definitely lacking their skills in the dating department, as it seems are most other thirty something single women I know. In fact if one more out of towner sidles up to me acting all ‘nudge nudge, wink wink’ and asks if I’m “living the Sex and The City lifestyle” I may have to smack them upside of the head - I don’t know what’s wrong with me today I’m showing a distinctly violent side, biting, smacking. The audacity of Omar the shoe fetishist stealing shoes from women’s feet has me really riled.

No, I haven’t dated nearly enough men to qualify for the SATC lifestyle. I’ve been here almost seven years and I’ve dated two men, TWO. It’s embarrassing. I was celibate, although not by preference, for my first 2 years, very much to the surprise of friends back home that seemed to assume that, American men would so bowled over by a British accent that I’d garner dates galore with hunks to rival George Clooney. Not remotely true, although it’s occasionally a conversation starter, usually with people asking “so, where are you from, Australia or New Zealand?” Duh!!! An error most likely due to the fact that Americans equate a British accent with the likes of Hugh Grant’s cut glass enunciation and not my flattened Northern vowels.

I’m far from alone in having so few notches on my New York bedpost since almost every thirty something woman seems to be in the same boat. In fact I’d say there’s a near epidemic lack of dating going on among thirty-something women in this city. Our brunch conversation is much more likely to be about the latest show on Broadway than the latest performance in the bedroom of apartment 5C. Carrie and friends would be soooo disappointed by us.

I know a couple of twenty-something women at work who are out of dates every night, but the thirty-something women…love lives as arid as the Gobi desert. It’s not that we’re reluctant to date, we’re just rarely asked. It’s true; it’s a common complaint among my friends that men in New York just don’t particularly act like….well, men anymore. They do a lot of looking, but they’re a bit impotent when it comes to the asking, with actual straight forward requests for dates as rare as hen’s teeth, and as for online dating…well the ‘kid in a candy store’ mentality is all too pervasive for it to be a good way to meet anyone who's serious about dating.

Gloria Cahill summed it up perfectly for me when she was quoted in a 2005 article in New York Magazine on dealing with changes in her life following a dramatic weight loss. “Men notice me more now…..but the thing is, when you’re obese and relationships don’t go well, you could blame it on, well, nobody loves a fat girl. If you’re thin and can’t find a boyfriend, what do you blame it on? A friend of mine set me up on a date with a terrific man recently. We got along wonderfully . . . and yet I never heard back from him…….Before, I was never any good at recognizing men who were interested. But now, when I think I recognize men who are interested in me, I’m completely flummoxed, because they don’t do anything.”

Welcome to my world Gloria, welcome to my world.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

No wonder French people are thin!!!

I’m going through a bit of a self improvement kick at the moment; it’s like a delayed reaction to New Year’s, or maybe it’s a form of spring cleaning, who knows, but there’s definitely room for betterment so it’s all to the good.

As part of my efforts, I’ve traded my, soon to be expired, air miles for a subscription to the Financial Times, subscribed to the Motley Fool’s champion funds and joined an investment Meetup group, all in a bid to be more financially savvy, stand on my own two feet and not rely on some man etc. I’ve also been hitting the gym with renewed gusto, a move initially prompted by my pulling on a pair of favourite, freshly dry cleaned, wool trousers last week only to find some shrinkage had occurred around the leg area, leaving me with thighs like Cumberland sausages!!! Seriously, they were so tight spandex loving hair bands would have snapped me up had I worn them in public. Sooooo not attractive!! Thankfully they loosened up to their pre-dry cleaning state after I did a few lunges while wearing them in the privacy of my apartment, however I couldn’t shake the memory of the sausage thighs so I was straight to New York Sports come lunchtime. I’ve been every day since. I’ve also been making an effort to eat better, lots of salads for me at the moment and ensuring I get enough protein, and last, but by no means least, I’ve decided I need come cultural improvements, so I’m combining this with an effort to be more social, meet some new people, and so signed up for a group that runs gallery tours, wine tasting, museum trips and the like. Yes, mark my words; I’ll be a rich, skinny, culturally savvy bitch in next to no time. Ha ha!!

As part of this new plan I went to a wine tasting on Saturday. It was pretty good; very educational for me as I know almost bugger all about wine, since while I no longer pick wines by the prettiness of their labels as I did in my mid twenties, I don’t think I’ve progressed as much as I would have liked in the last decade. I’m especially befuddled by reds, but, as luck would have it, red wine was the focus of the tasting, which was a comparison of old and new world wines, plus a Wine Director on hand to guide us through the tasting. Marvellous, I signed myself up as soon as I saw it offered.

I wasn’t quite feeling brave enough to go on my own, so I coerced Melissa into coming along too, although it didn’t take a great deal of arm twisting since, as she freely admits, she’s never met a wine she didn’t like, plus it was a good opportunity for her to put her newfound knowledge to the test having recently completed the Intermediate Certificate in Wine at the International Wine Center.

All in all it was a fun event, I was sandwiched between Frank, "hello I'm Frank, I'm a doctor" - I think he was hoping my knickers would just fall right off upon hearing the 'Doctor' word – who immediately made a beeline for me – a short man spotting the only short woman in the group, and Daniel, - "I'm getting the aroma of dryer sheets from this wine, what do you think?" – an illustrator, who was gay - and yes Miles, I DO know for sure he was gay and wasn’t just making assumptions based on him being more in touch with his feminine side. No, I am absolutely certain of the fact because he made several references to his boyfriend.

Daniel, Melissa and I appeared to be in the minority, being among the few who’d actually signed up for the event hoping to learn a little something about wine, maybe meet a few nice people, but certainly not because we were hoping to hookup – as the kids say today. Many of the men were quite aggressive in their pursuit of a date and hardly discerning. If they received the brush off from one woman they quickly moved onto the next. I half expected to be clubbed over the head and dragged back to some cave by my hair, which was over was a bit of a turn-off, I prefer to move at a slower pace and let things evolve with someone who seems nice rather than shagging someone senseless who I’ve only known a matter of hours – yes, I am one of those ‘relationship girls’, I wait a few weeks before senseless shagging. I can’t help it; I’m slightly old fashioned that way.

In hindsight maybe a wine tasting wasn’t the best event since I'm not particularly looking to date at the moment. I’m more focused on appreciating the single life, having only just started to feel as if I’ve fully recovered from being dumped by Gobshite back in autumn. Yes, okay, I KNOW it’s been 6months already and I really should have moved on long ago, but I didn’t, okay, some of us just take longer to get over these things than others. Valentines didn’t exactly help either. I think being among couples that day set my progress back at least a month. Shudder!!! Admittedly I was also anticipating GS might call, since it’s been the experience of most of my NY female friends that ex boyfriends suddenly make a reappearance approximately 6months post breakup. Had he called wanting another chance I am not sure if I would have cautiously agreed to give it a go or told him to go f—k himself, although when I’ve imagined the conversation it always started out with my being very mature and composed, but quickly deteriorated into me fantasizing about giving him a swift kick in the bollocks. Clearly I still have some residual anger issues to work through.

Anyway this is a moot point, since obviously I never heard a peep. Exes never call when you want them to do they, no, they only call when you are about 95% over them, but there’s still a smidgen of feeling left that makes you think it might work the second time around. Ex-boyfriends seem to have some sort of sixth sense for the optimal moment to f—k you over emotionally and it's only then that they'll call.

There were a couple of nice guys at the wine tasting though who were seemingly there to learn something about wine and meet new people - or were, at least, less aggressive in their quest to meet women, including Nigel, a fellow Brit with such an upbeat attitude and heavy East London accent he was almost a parody of the cheeky chirpy loveable cockney chappy à la Dick Van Dyck’s character in Mary Poppins; although he's an Associate Creative Director, not a chimney sweep. We exchanged information. He swing dances and seemed interested in dancing in general, so I thought he might be good to know if only as a friend and occasional dance partner.

Saturday’s wine tasting rounded off a couple of days’ indulgence, which kicked off with a Friday dinner at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the Four Seasons hotel with Melissa and Francesca, a celebration of sorts for Melissa’s promotion, Francesca’s upcoming 36th birthday and me getting my green card – FINALLY. It only took 3½years!!!

Deeeelicious food, hands down probably the best I’ve ever tasted, but the portions were TEENSY. MINUTE!!!! We ordered from the menu of small tasting portions, and admittedly the waiter recommended we order three to five dishes, although at prices ranging from $15-$39 we couldn’t afford to go too crazy and we were hell bent on having a $17 dessert, so we decided to go with two courses each plus pudding.

Naively we’d assumed these courses would be appetizer sized and we’d be able to taste each others dishes, but when our first course arrived and Melissa had a single, beautifully presented, but lonely, langoustine resplendent on her plate, all thoughts of sharing went straight out of the window.

My first course, L’aubergine, was a 1½inch wide, 3inch high stack of slow roasted vegetables layered with buffalo mozzarella which I followed with Le Homard - Maine Lobster in turnip ‘ravioli’ – a morsel of lobster salad in a pillow of finely sliced turnip about the size of a….well, about the size of a typically pasta ravioli. My serving was two of these ‘raviolis’ for the bargain price of $24, $12 each for the mathematically challenged. I kid you not. Who was this food intended for? Barbie? Seriously Monsieur Robuchon, I’m no pie eater by any stretch, I’m 5ft 1 and 110lbs, and I fully appreciate your culinary genius, as I said, hands down the best food I have ever tasted, but at those prices would it have done any harm to have popped another couple of raviolis on the plate? Thank God they were generous with the bread basket. Oh and why is it that dessert at high end dining establishments is always a normal sized portion?

We rounded off the evening with a celebratory martini in the bar next door, served on a silver platter with your own personal cocktail shaker and a dish of dried cherries. Not to mention the mixed nuts, olives and crackers they placed on the table, all in all a larger amount of food served with your drink than you’d be likely to get for an entire meal next door.

We were halfway through our drinks when in stromped five women in very tight outfits, necklines cut to their navels and dizzyingly large breast implants – it was cleavage central. “Working girls,” murmured Melissa knowingly. They joined the three men at the table next to us, the table that I unfortunately had my back to. I’ve never seen female prostitutes up close before, and my eyes ached from their attempts to escape around to the back of my head and have a better look. No joy. Instead I had to make do with frequent trips to the loo to sate my curiosity, although I made sure I only stared through my eyelashes. I wasn’t risking one of them catching me and challenging me to meet her outside for a punch up. Yes kids, its good people watching at the bar at the Four Seasons, but my illusions of it being a classy hotel have been well and truly shattered.

I was starving when I woke up on Saturday morning; no wonder French people are thin!!!!