Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Hazards of Earl Grey

Tea spilt on laptop. Now making beeping noises that sound suspiciously like an alarm designed to communicate to the laptop user to switch it off. Might not be posting for a while.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

When Was the Last Time You Danced?

One of my (and plenty of others') favourite bands du jour, Gnarls Barkley, has a great track, The Last Time, which starts with these lines,
All work an no play
That’s the way it is, aint it
There’s rhythm deep inside of you
And you must get reacquainted

With the chorus led by the title of this post. Last night I was reacquainted with my inner rhythm. I was invited to the Big Brother wrap party and they played my favourite kind of party music (funky happy hits) and served my favourite kind of wine (free) with the added entertainment of watching fledgling wannabe celebs on their first flights. A lot of fun was had (photos courtesy of hilarious team member who is the star of the last links).

Photographic evidence might dispel a little of my mental recollection of how hot I looked as I sashayed, boogied and vogued but despite that I have been left with a hangover, achey thighs, and a big smile when I recall the feeling of freedom that sometimes only shameless dancing gives you.

I've been obsessed with going for a dance for a while. "You are young at heart, aren't you?" was one incredulous response I received to my birthday invite email suggesting dancing was what would be on the cards. I failed to find a suitable venue, however, with my what-seems impossible criteria of funky music, mixed/gay-friendly crowd with no dress policy or
membership required and where I wouldn't feel like someone's mum or one of those creepy old clubbers I remember from my youth (any suggestions in comments please).

What we actually did on the evening of my birthday was had a curry and then sang songs in the Soho karaoke bar that smells of damp and serves beer in cans (but has rooms available at much shorter notice than Lucky Voice) - thanks to all those that enjoyed it with me, you made it count. I did manage to dance a little, but not as spectacularly as I did last night.

Now I have been reacquainted with the rhythm deep inside of me I intend to air it much more frequently than I have been for the past year and I would strongly encourage you to as well. Never underestimate the joy to be had from stirring your hips to funky tunes.

P.S. There are some issues leaving comments because I've migrated to the new blogger beta. If you do spot that you've left a comment anonymously without intending to, please add your name afterwards, it gives me a warm feeling to know who it is that's out there reading.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Whiter Shade of Beige

On revealing that I'd been seeing a therapist every week for the past three years, a friend of mine commented with glee "You're like a proper American!". For those of you that don't know, I'm not American at all, but her comment related to the bemused incomprehension of a British person towards the investment in self development that is more commonplace in the US.

I'm calling to mind her reaction due to the similar response of shocked hilarity that I have received more than once over my employment, on my birthday last week, of a colour consultant to advise on the colour of my walls. "More money than sense", "Couldn't she do this herself?" seem to be the thoughts communicated by the raised eyebrows and accompanying shakes of heads.

Firstly, yes I may well have more money than sense (my stock in both fluctuates wildly) but, in this respect, I feel it was a wise investment. For example, earlier in the day I had spent £30 on a facial at local beauty salon "Goddess" that everyone seemed to find much more socially acceptable. It was very relaxing, relatively cheap and only took an hour out of my day. But a facial is a bit like the amyl nitrate of stress relief. One quick hit, you feel mildly euphoric, but all you're left with at the end of the day is a bit of a red face.

Whereas my colour consultancy, at around three times the price, has removed weeks of uncertainty, months of doubt and - potentially - years of regret. Ok, so I'm not aware that Joa (unique name, unique skills) has any formal qualifications, but I was impressed by her efficiency, responsiveness and insights.

Could I have done this myself? This argument against the expense of going to an expert feels like when people say about therapy "Can't you talk to your friends and family?" - of course the answer is yes, I could, but there's something so calming about going to an expert who is just interested in getting the best result for you. Who knew you could paint your woodwork the same colour as your walls? Or even a darker colour? Not I. And none of my friends had suggested it either. Ok, so the colours she chose were variations on a pretty mild theme - white with a whiff of colour, which mostly, even at my most adventurous, I could only describe as beige.

Yet still I would recommend this service, especially for women who find themselves in the position of having to have an opinion on colours because that's what the woman does. I may be addicted to responsibility in my job but I have a tendency, despite my gender, to be workshy when it comes to household chores. For me, this was executive stress relief of the highest order and a fine birthday treat.

Later thought: maybe colour therapy is the way forward for me?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Birthday Bleatings

I feel like the kid whose parents forgot to buy the batteries on Christmas Day. I have a spanky new iPod nano for my birthday from my lovely boyfriend who listened repeatedly to my heavy hinting - but it's not working.

The CD that came with it is split and there weren't any headphones in the box. Then I find the screen is already scratched. Insult to injury: when I tried to download all the software online and then charge it, all the screen did was show a message saying "contact support". Grrrreat.

Whinge over. We'll replace it and all will be well. I can get over using my embarassingly teenage shuffle (hey, it was free) for a couple more days.

I've got the day off, so I shouldn't really be online at all. A whole day of flicking myself off to Trisha awaits.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Work-Life Seepage

Sometimes I receive emails from friends in my work inbox. Sometimes I receive calls at nine pm on a Thursday night about a work issue. I worked on Saturday and Sunday nights on a strategy document I can't find the headspace to concentrate on at work, but then earlier today I nipped off at the end of a meeting at three pm and spent the rest of the afternoon in the pub.

A lot is talked about work-life balance but not enough, in my opinion, about the creeping crossover between the two. Whether through incessant crackberry usage (at its most infuriating intra meeting - work/work seepage at its worst), or the now ubiquitous loud personal call taken in the office whether to partner, "hilarious" friend or needy relative, the lines have been irrevocably blurred.

Mother Brown, in her role as secretary for an international shipping firm, never took personal calls unless it was an emergency and certainly didn't take random time out of her day to choose paint colours (as I did last week). Where your attention was devoted during set times of the day was black and white. Yes, there were times when Mrs B invented an extra relative that had to die in order for her to take a day off at short notice, but this was before the right to parental leave.

Who loses? Who gains? Have family-friendly policies and technologies enabled our company gang masters to leave us stranded on the cockle beds or do we not know a duckdown duvet when we see one?

Sometimes I feel like the acceptance of personal life intruding into work hours is like an updated version of the once-a-year Mothers Day home visit that servants once enjoyed - something that makes us feel better that we're actually in touch with our home lives when all the while we're actually tied physically, and perhaps more importantly, mentally, to our workstations. But read that back, these people saw their families once a year - so what the hell are we complaining about?

OK, times aren't as hard, but I have to support the fact that the demarcation that my 9 to 5 mother enjoyed had its strengths, maintaining boundaries for both home and life surely the path to sanity. But then, being able to be in touch with work allows us the sanity of more flexible hours, some peace of mind for control freaks like myself, and does loosen the ties from our actual desks. It's just that life for us guilt-ridden-kinda-Catholic-but-gotta-whole-lotta-Puritan workaholics now involves desperate over-compensation for the time spent at work on personal matters.

I suggest we all take an audit of the time we spend on work whilst at home and vice versa and then actively readdress the imbalance - and communicate acceptable boundaries - in order to to minimize work/life seepage.

What I do need help with, however, is quite how to classify the grey area of beer-sodden conversations in the pub that are solely about work (which may be responsible for any lack of clarity/slight ranting tone in today's post).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String

As I walked out of my house yesterday morning, I took a deep breath of the morning air, listened to the birds, saw a gorgeous blue sky and genuinely thought "It's great to be alive". Then I realised I was still a bit drunk from the night before.

With that (albeit intoxicated) inspiration I've decided to give you a quick injection of positivity. It's actually Friday today (not sure how to fix the date published thing on this post) and I've got the day off work (ok I did just spend the morning on email trying pathetically to help out in a crisis that I couldn't really help - as managers do) and later on tonight I will be enjoying an evening of one of my favourite past times.

For your light entertainment, a few more of my favourite things:

  • When my foot hits the kerb at a pedestrian crossing and the little man goes green, right on cue
  • Silly comments that tickle me so much, I'll recall them weeks afterwards and start spontaneously smiling and giggling (am recalling a meeting when someone on discussing Channel 4's radio strategy, managed to wangle singing the "woo Gary Davis" jingle into the discussion)
  • Happy text messages received the morning after outrageous nights
  • The moment right at the end of A Room with a View when Helena Bonham Carter walks up to the back of the horse and cart that Maggie Smith is in ("Wait, I think Lucy has something to tell us") smiling and crying with happiness having realised she's going to shack up with Julian wotsisface after all
  • The picture of my mum's dog, Gus, that is on my phone - and now on my moblog*
Right, I'm off to apply a bit too much make up for a Friday afternoon, dance around with a towel on my head then get a bit sweaty and cross trying on 8 different outfits.

*Not sure who these people commenting are or who they think I am, but it's nice to be made welcome - it's certainly an active community. But now I've worked out how to update this blog from my phone, not sure I'll last very long on there. The future is mobile, however - it's dead easy.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Identity Crisis

This train of thought started with a question that pops up from time to time when worrying about what others think of me, namely, am I cool?

Excruciating isn't it? You're very likely to have wondered about yourself as well - hopefully not frequently or often - and I'd like to apologise for bringing it up, as it's likely that if you're a friend of mine then you believe, to paraphrase Sartre, cool is other people, anyhow.

It came from what I've been banging on about lately. As soon as you put your taste out there - the colour on your walls, the bookmarks you share on del.icio.us, whether you wear a hat, the music you've recently listened to - you create an identity open to others' reactions and whether they embrace, reject, or ignore you, it's all a bit scary to find out where you fit in the community.

For certain aspects of life at specific times and certainly by accident rather than design, I'd say I've been within spitting distance of cool, nearly at arms length, but only ever close enough to tickle it with the tips of my fingers. Like when I nearly saw Public Enemy or when I nearly featured in a short film about night buses. Close but no banana.

At my lowest ebbs, I have described myself as feeling like the gap between other people - an empty space, a true cypher. Now through contributing and sharing more online, I've gone from a big fat zero to having created something semi-solid, something akin to a cultural skeleton. But evidence of cool?

Some of the tactics that have contributed to this structure such as using usernames that are related to my real name and being open about who my employer is, mean that I am leaving traces of reality behind, that someone with the inclination could start piecing together to put flesh on the bones, maybe track my movements and decisions and make judgements on them, damning or otherwise (and have forced me to consider a disclaimer as seen below my profile - hopefully a simpler version will be pushed out v soon).

Which leads me to consider the discussions around identity cards in the UK. As we are sharing more and more information anyway with multinationals, entrepeneurs and Tom, Dick and Harry 2.0, are identity cards issued by a democratic government really the end of the world?

But then the reason I am happy for companies like Amazon to know stuff about me is because it benefits me. It makes my life easier, and makes a chore more enjoyable. (If you haven't read the milk reviews, please do take 5 minutes out of your day.) Whereas I don't think the benefits of id cards are so clear cut.

Do countries with id cards really have fewer terrorists and smaller/less problematic immigrant populations (not that I think our immigrant population is problematic I hasten to add)? I did, despite myself, sympathize with Roger Scruton for the first time ever when listening to Any Questions on Saturday when explaining the resonances with Nazi Europe. It's true, id cards remind us of other countries in times of duress, and at times when such systems have been abused, rather than a practice of the most progressive and enlightened of societies.

For one who is so free 'n' easy with my personal information, I also feel uneasy about it opening up possibilities of identity theft. Despite their reassurances that it will help this growing crime, everyone knows that Government IT projects are notoriously problematic, overrun, and go over budget - look at the NHS patient records scheme. With this in mind, I don't feel inclined to give the government a huge amount of money for something which will no doubt be slightly crap for at least the next ten years and of dubious benefit, which could then be hacked by some bored teenager trying to prove he's cool to his mates.

Which brings us full circle. In these meandering thoughts, did I find an answer to my original question - am I cool? I can't really get past the fact that as one asks the question, one answers it - but hey, maybe if someone stole my identity they might inadvertently make me cool.

No, I am not cool and I'm content to be officially sanctioned and identified as such. But right now, naive as it may be, I trust Rupert Murdoch with that information more than I would some basic personal data with Tony Blair.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Making a Bad Impression

Whilst I loved the launch ads for free FilmFour (in the right-hand column here) , the accompanying internal promotion that involved moviestar lookalikes roaming around Horseferry Road interrupting us office civilians whilst we were happily going about our duties was decidedly strange.

The first indication that something was up was when Samuel L. Jackson walked past my meeting room. Given that I had to stuff my entire forearm in my mouth when I spotted Russell Brand striding around reception, it took all my energy to remain calm and focussed on the matter in hand. When later I heard one of the marketing assistants sigh "I know this sounds silly, but I've lost Sharon Stone and Robert de Niro" I smelt a rat.

I was reminded, given the Hollywood angle, of the scary crowd that hangs around outside the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. I found street-level LA petrifying and depressing most of the time, but my lowest moment was outside this theatre, being hassled by a man resembling a strung-out roast chicken who insisted he was "Crackadile Dundee" and demanding $50 for a photo of the two of us that his buddy "Jock" Nicholson would take. You can spot a (likely methadoned) Marilyn in the photo link above.

On the entertainment evolutionary scale, I would rate the stars of air guitar slightly above lookalikes, with office impersonators above them (think any man who has done the Joe Pesci "Am I a comedian? Do I amuse you?" lines at any stage other than when Goodfellas was first out) and impressionists only slightly above them in terms of the sophistication of their chosen talent.

Yes, I confess I have occasionally been heard to do a mean Kath and Kim "Look at moi". But these are at appropriate moments before Kath Day-Night has truly hit the mainstream, and has little to do with these seedy parasites of light entertainment. (You really should watch the new series if you haven't before.) Such impressions have a shelf life, as the poor person who did a Frank Spencer impersonation close to me in the office the other day found out to his cost.

Despite my prejudices, I know I should feel grateful to Channel 4 for laying on something special for staff. And I should also feel a little bit sorry for these out-of-work actors having to spend their lives pretending to be someone else.