Thursday, April 24, 2003

And now, the end is near. And so I face the final phone call. My brief yet oh-so-glamorous career as a receptionist comes to an end tomorrow. Which is probably just as well, since my fingernails are now filed down to frankly dangerous levels, and there are really only so many copies of Marie Claire a boy can read.

It's been a whirlwind* of activity though. Not just upwards of five, sometimes six telephone calls a day, but a whole multitude of errands too - why, in the last week alone I've been out to buy milk, some shelves (v butch), flowers (not v butch) and have even travelled halfway across London to pick up some cakes, bearing icing inscriptions to 'Norma' and 'Betty' - which is either the MD being nice to elderly relatives or having some sort of rather disturbing double-octagenarian affair. And I've faxed some things.

Next week I shall be taking a well-earned rest in order to recover.

* In the sense of...actually, no, not a whirlwind at all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

I can't tell you how nice it was to be out drinking in the sunshine in Soho on Thursday evening. Or how Friday was spent lazing on the Heath with good friends and good food, how great Substation South was on Friday night, how much fun Saturday night's party was, and how extraordinarily good Sunday's LA3 extravaganza at the Electrowerks proved to be.

Nope, can't tell you, because I wouldn't know. I can, however, tell you the entire ingredients of Night Nurse, backwards, without looking at the bottle. Precision Flu, specially devised to wipe out all four days of the Easter holiday while causing no collateral damage to the working weeks either side of it. 'Annoyed' does not begin to cover it.

Attempts to make the best of it did not go entirely well. Sunday evening, for example. Switch on radio in hope of entertainment. It's Dance Anthems on Radio 1. In which the records are interspersed with an endless stream of limited-vocabulary halfwits desperate to tell the world about their 'blinding weekend mate' or how they're 'off to 'ave a large one at Lorraine's in Chester-le-Street' or some such other exotic destination. Normally, this is just irritating, but today, I'm actually envious. Retreat to the safety of Heart FM where at least the pinnacle of most callers' weekends will have been taking the mother-in-law to the garden centre.

TV, meanwhile, is not an option. Have you seen the Sunday night schedule? BBC1's 'highlight' is yet another cosy rural drama series called 'Born and Bred' for which even the trailers '..remember the good old times?...when entertainment was spending time with the family...and everyone had a sense of community...' are enough to bring back your Sunday lunch.

An exercise in cynical marketing so thinly veiled they might as well say:
'Stuck in the past? Over 90? Isn't everything dreadful these days? All that bad language! Then watch our utterly bland nostalgia-fest, cynically especially designed with you in mind. Look! It's set in a nice country village somewhere – in the north, if you like! - back when they used to have a village post office and everything. Really slow-moving plots so you can't get confused about what's happening (not that it will stop you). And look! It's got that nice one in it, you know, him, the one who used to be in that other thing that you liked - ooh, what was it called again? - that one about the vets - ooh, I've forgotten now, would you like a butterscotch dear? We've even put it on at the same time as Heartbeat on the other side because we're banking on you being so fucking stupid you won't realise you haven't switched over until near the end, and by then you'll want to find out if it really was Mr Perkins who let that sheep out of the gate, so you'll keep watching anyway, because that's how lame-brained and easily pleased we're relying on you being. Let's face it, we could put on Angela Rippon reading out a knitting pattern for three hours and you'd be happy so long as there was none of that awful swearing they do nowadays. So, just you put your feet up and wallow in some imaginary golden age, while we go and do some more charlie in the toilets. Love, the BBC.'

So, instead we settled for a meal, a video, and a sober (and therefore short-lived) visit to the RVT on Monday. Not quite the planned holiday then, but huge thanks to Kelvin for patiently suffering along with me and indulging my self-pity (often with the aid of chocolate) - of which there was rather a lot. As you may have noticed.

I hope your holidays were better, people.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Tarnation. You're looking forward to a long weekend, the sun's out, you've got four days of uninterrupted party time, picnics on the Heath, drinks, gatherings and clubs a-plenty lined up - it's going to be like a real holiday! So it is, of course, precisely at this point that you will go down with some mysterious cough/temperature/dizziness thing which, while by no means severe, is potentially enough to fuck up the whole thing.

Were I a sort of up-to-the-minute, latest-fashion sort of person, I'd be in no doubt I've come down with that newfangled Sars thing. As it is, with me there's more chance of getting that Hawaiian Flu that was going round in the eighties. Or was it cats that got that?

Going to home to sleep as soon as possible and if it doesn't bugger off sharpish, I'll!...I'll!...
...come back to work on Tuesday really, really miffed.

Still, Happy Easter one and all - and as my old gran used to say, may your eggs be plentiful and not melt in the sunlight, forming an unpleasant goo which may be difficult to explain away later. I think it was a nursing home thing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

I'm not sure I'm quite cut out for this bar work lark. Sure, I can pull a pint - even bloody Guinness (a drink surely invented as some sort of April Fool's gag on bar staff everywhere), given half an hour or so. But I'm not getting this whole tips and the '..and one for yourself' things right at all.

Twice on Saturday night I stupidly turned down kind offers of drinks, only to regret it minutes later when handing over yet another nice cold beer that wasn't mine.
'Are you new at this, by any chance?' came a conspiratorial whisper.
'Yes, just my third shift'.
'Thought so - even if you don't want the drink you can still take the money and have it later on, y'know.'

Which I should have done, having made a grand total in tips of - drum roll - eighty pence. Granted, it's not the sort of place where anyone tips a great deal, and things might improve over time.

But even so, this is not good. I suspect I need to concentrate less on the job in hand and more on the banter with the punters. Of the flirtatious variety, ideally. Trouble is, I've barely mastered flirting with people I do find attractive, let alone faking it (which, with no offence intended to the residents of Hampstead, I might just occasionally have to do).

An offer of a slightly different kind at the end of Wednesday's shift, meanwhile. A smart-ish gentleman and large-ish lady of around forty appeared at the side of the bar.
'Excuse me...are you single?'
Now I'm not sure why, but for a fleeting and rather worrying moment I was convinced they were a long-wed couple, about to propose spicing up their marriage with a good old-fashioned game of bang the barman.
'...because our friend over there really likes you.'
A palpable sense of relief. Just the old 'my mate fancies you' routine after all, the school-disco saviour of the tongue-tied and terrified (like, er, me on at least two more occasions than I care to remember...)

Naturally, this also had to be declined. Still, time was when being offered two pints and cheap sex with a total stranger constituted a good night out. Now? Just bring on the eighty pence. I promise not to forget my friends just because I'm loaded.

Friday, April 11, 2003

It's not been all work, fortunately. Although there were no less than three Saturdays in March which involved nary a club among them. Unemployment's a bitch.

Those that were good, were good though. The month started, by way of a change, in Birmingham. Or more precisely, with our good friends Paul and Rob at their cosy country cottage in a sleepy hamlet somewhere in a remote corner of northern Worcestershire. Not, you might assume, the sort of place that would turn into a hotbed (and I use the word advisedly) of champagne-soaked excess, sex, drugs and shameless debauchery for the best part of four days. And yet, with a little help from the fourteen? fifteen? sixteen? people invited back from The Nightingale on Saturday night, it certainly did. I'll gloss over the finer details but suffice to say the Daily Mail would have been utterly apoplectic from start to finish. Which, I think, is always a sign of a good weekend.

Question, for no particular reason: does it qualify as a foursome if there are, for instance, two people, say, in the same bed as another two people, but not actually, like, 'involved' with them? Just wondering.

Club-wise, a big thumbs-up to the aforementioned Nightingale (which somewhat disturbingly elicited not the slightest spark of recognition from me, despite having been there only last June) and Sunday night at DV8, with which I was most impressed - great venue, big, contemporary, and with deeply funky music indeed. In fact, not a million miles from London's DTPM, one of my two very favourite late-Sunday-night venues, to which we managed to pay a visit the following week (unemployment, though a bitch, has its advantages - principally not having to get up on a Monday). As luck would have it, my other favourite post-RVT event returns next Sunday, one of the LA3's special nights at the Electrowerks in Islington, which remains one of the highlights of last year in my hung-over and befuddled memory.

Sometime after Birmingham came Action's Black Party, which reminded me why I never wear those heavy leather trousers on occasions when I will be dancing for six hours, but was much fun. And throbbing away up the rear - as they would no doubt say in one of their smut-laden ads - last Saturday's 'last ever' Love Muscle (until the next one).

Since my last visit the good ol' Fridge has had something of a makeover, with a much smarter bar, new floor, and quite astonishingly powerful sound and lights. Plus, somewhat amusingly, the 'backroom barracks', in which you find a row of military-style bunk beds, fully made with crisp, fresh sheets. In case you need a lie down after all the dancing, presumably. One can only pity whoever is responsible for laundry at the end of the night.

Full marks for effort though - all four DJ's came up trumps, the pyrotechnics and giant balloons entertained or terrified (depending on narcotic consumption at the time) and even portly hostess Yvette (in a figure-hugging black outfit that made every spare tyre resemble an actual spare tyre, off a large truck) didn't hog the stage for too long. I'd say it'll be missed, but I doubt there'll be time before the 'surprise one-offs' begin. July 26th anyone?

As for this weekend, I'm behind the bar tomorrow night, which means I'm just going to have to spend as much time this side of it as I can tonight. Damn...

You used to know where you were with Smarties. From the dawn of confectionery there were just the normal-sized tubes, and then those giant ones that you might get at Christmas. The tube lids had mysterious letters on, and they had the answer. Everything was simple, and everybody understood.

Now? Now, it's a brand extension bonanza! In the last few weeks alone, I have so far witnessed:

Smarties bars: bars of chocolate with broken up bits of Smartie in them. I cannot vouch for these having not yet partaken, but am assured by former colleagues of reputable taste that they are indeed a delicacy. We shall see.

Smarties biscuits: these are just disturbing. While the tradition of associating chocolate with biscuit is indeed a long and honourable one, the bright, garish Smartie colours and plain biscuit do not comfortable bedfellows make. Gastronomically acceptable, admittedly, but aesthetically terrifying.

Smarties desserts: in those twin pots with a bit of chocolate in one side and some mini Smarties in the other. Not bad, but the Cadbury's Buttons one laughs in its face.

Smarties Mini Eggs: like actual Mini Eggs but in Smartie colours. Or, like actual Smarties in the shape of Mini Eggs. Somewhat pointless, though this failed to prevent me scoffing a large tube of them when placed in near proximity yesterday.

Where will it all end? Smarties crisps? Smarties toothpaste? Smarties single-engine light aircraft?

It's a scary world, people.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

The Hammersmith & City line is, officially, the worst tube line in London. Even when the Central Line was closed for weeks it was better than this, because at least you knew there wouldn't be any trains. On the Hammersmith & City you'll generally hang around on a cold platform for at least half an hour before finding that out. Or hearing an announcement that your next train 'should be departing Hammersmith shortly' (and therefore will probably be with you approximately a week on Thursday).

If you're a tourist, visiting London, or simply have any choice at all, avoid it at all costs. It's the wanky salmon pink one (see, even the colour is lame-a-rama), it doesn't go anywhere you'd actually want to go that isn't better served by another line*, and if you fall asleep there's every possibility of ending up in Barking. 'Nuff said.

* No, Portobello Road does not count. If you must spend your Saturdays amassing knocked-off antiques and overpriced New Age cack, remember why the good Lord gave you Camden.

Just an internal call that came through to me by mistake. Sigh. So that's job A. Meanwhile, new job B involves me being part-time barman at the King William IV, Hampstead's finest (nay, only) gay pub. Which is going fine so far and certainly a lot more fun than the office (though for, inevitably, a lot less money).

I'll be the first to admit I don't have a lot of experience in this particular role, though. Most of what I know about running a pub comes from watching the Queen Vic on EastEnders, which might explain the odd looks I'm getting when each request for a drink is met with a curt 'Stay out of it, this is faaamlee!' and a punch in the face. However I am positively trying to encourage all members of the local community that should they wish to reveal a partner's illicit affair, announce a pregnancy, or perhaps break some earth-shattering news to a loved one, that they should always do so by making a loud speech to the entire pub, preferably at about three minutes to eight on a Thursday. No takers so far, but I live in hope.

I suspect the job may be short-lived, though. The main shift they need me to cover every week? Sunday evening. Every Sunday evening. Which is of course Royal Vauxhall Tavern time, and as such, sacred. Particularly when, as now, my weekly RVT fix can often be the lone shining light in a week of otherwise unadulterated dullness. However, have been reasonably pleased with my drink-creating skills. Okay. despite appearances (ahem) I'm no Tom Cruise in Cocktail, but so far so good, and fortunately there doesn't seem to be much call for Screaming Orgasms in NW3.

Who's next?

Alrighty then, some long overdue updating. So what's been happening? Well not unlike the seminal (and yet, in a way, crap) Aussie soap Sons and Daughters, there's been love and laughter, tears and sadness and happiness. Mixed in with rather a lot of boredom and toast.

Right now, however, I'm coming to you live from the true arse-end of London, the hilariously inaccessible Ladbroke Grove. Be not ye fooled by the trendy W10 postcode - wherever you're from it'll take you hours to get here and you'll wish you hadn't bothered when you do.

Still, not being in a position to do otherwise, here I am, temping away with, in fairness, quite a nice design consultancy. I'm covering reception, which given there are approximately five phone calls a day, is not overly taxing. Hardest part is trying to not trip over the passing tumbleweeds while making tea.

Mind you, at least it's getting me away from daytime television. I knew things were getting bad when I finally did start getting into Crossroads, and I'd started watching Countdown every day 'to keep my brain active'. Not only watching, but feeling a real sense of achievement when getting anything above seven letters. If there's a job that specifically calls for the ability to rearrange random vowels and consonants into mid-length words, then I am now more than qualified.

I could of course apply to go on the show itself, but the thought of having to endure weeks of Richard Whiteley and those cringeworthy pre-commercial break anecdotes for the faint possibility of at some point winning a dictionary and some sort of useless glass artefact doesn't really appeal. Not when you can go on Wheel of Fortune and win thousands for being able to say your name, knowing three letters of the alphabet and clapping like a seal.

Ooh, a phone call! A phone call! Back in a minute...