Tuesday, 26 January 2010

In which I play the numbers game

I’m not a girl who’s particularly au fait with the self-help section of the local branch of Waterstone’s. I can’t say that I’ve ever been tempted by the musings of some over-happy American type who thinks they’re able to improve my life with a little positive thinking.

So when people were milling around in the kitchen, plied with gins and tonic, ahead of an ultimately successful dinner party, I was a little surprised to be handed one as a present by PolitiGal.

“Here – you remember I told you that you needed a more scientific approach to boys?” The men in the room looked at us both, clearly sceptical and alarmed in equal measure. “Well, I thought this might help.”

I looked down at the title in my hand: The Four Man Plan.

Initially sceptical, I thought it would be one of those books that lie dormant on a shelf for years until a charity chuck-out comes around. But, on getting rid of everyone on Sunday afternoon, I curled up into the chair with a restorative mug of Earl Grey, the kitten at my feet, and the book in hand.

The theory is that there’s science behind the plan that this woman has devised. The reality is that it’s just quite a lot of common sense. The basic tenets of the book are: not to put all one’s men in one basket, by dating more than one chap at once; to be honest about dating several people; and not to sleep with more than one man at a time. As I say, common sensical, but apparently easier to grasp when laid out in black and white on the page.

My buy-in to this theory was waning, until I got to a page that said – you might think all this is daft, but let’s face it: nothing has worked for you so far, has it? You suck at this. You may as well give this a shot.
I’m paraphrasing, other than that penultimate sentence.

“Which, let’s face it, probably has some truth in it,” I said to Best Mate as we sat in a nail bar in the West End, her opting for the nude look, and my sporting fabulously slutty crimson.

“Hmm. Well, you’re probably right there,” she said, watching as a top coat was painstakingly applied.

“We may as well give it a go,” I said, wishing I’d not broken a nail to such an extent during the week that they’d all had to be drastically chopped off. “In the name of science, if nothing else.”

“I’m up for it,” BM said, studying the handiwork. “If for no other reason than we might as well.”

Thus it was that she and I have embraced the Four Man Plan. After all, searching for quality has got us nowhere thus far – it’s probably time to give quantity a go.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

In which, quite frankly, I could do with a slap

There was a stressful weekend recently in la vie de la Blonde. But, whilst bitching and moaning about said stresses, it was brought to my attention that a little perspective is probably what’s called for – all my grievances being, as they were, exceptionally middle class.

It all started with a text from the cleaner.

Hi Blonde, really sorry but I can’t make it tomorrow. I started to get inwardly cross. I’m going into hospital. Suddenly less cross, more guilty. Cringe.

“Of course a week without her is fine,” I said on the phone to The Mother, “but it’s just so inconvenient – I’m throwing a dinner party tomorrow night.”

“Well, darling, you’ll either have to do it yourself or make sure the lighting’s low, and give people so much to drink that they won’t notice.”

No prizes for guessing which happened.

It was as I was doing the shopping for dinner on the Friday evening that I was beset by crisis two.

“There’s no avocado, NOR pine nuts,” I fumed on the phone to her again, unloading the shopping into the fridge. “The salad’s going to be a disaster.” I practically stamped my foot, just for effect. Double cringe.

But, mid-afternoon, with a perfunctory vacuum completed and a new salad improvised, I set to making starters. With people arriving at 7pm, I figured that being in joggers, scruffy tee and glasses, with the world’s largest bedhair and horribly smudgy eyeliner at 4pm wouldn’t be a problem. There was time to make and assemble the first course, lay the table, and be freshly showered with a gin in hand by the time people arrived [the spell check thinks ‘gin’ should be ‘gun. Bloody Americans]. And then the doorbell went.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, what now?” The trouble with living in a friendly neighbourhood is that the neighbours tend to be friendly. Up to the elbows in bruschetta, I wandered out to the hall. But no...

“BLONDE!” The Medic leant down, kissed me on the cheeks and presented me with a bottle of fizz. Which was almost enough to make me forgive him for turning up three hours early. But not quite.

“Medic...!” I pushed a tapenadey hand through my hair. “You’re, er... here!”

“Yah, well, I thought it best to leave plenty of time. Never know how bad traffic’s going to be.”

I ushered him into the sitting room and sat him on the sofa with coffee and the papers whilst I did a rush job on being presentable.

Blonde, Gin Operated chided gently as I whinged about my disastrous day on Twitter, you’re starting to sound a bit blonde-PR-complaining-about-the-banker-boyfriend again. Which put me back in my place. At least, it did until fellow blogger and Twitterer Liberty London Girl flagged up the #1stworldproblems hashtag, and vindication was mine. And now all I need to worry about is rearranging the wine racks successfully enough to get The Medic’s fizz on the top of one of them – because magnums of champagne just don’t fit anywhere else.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

In which I'm no longer missed

“And I need a really nice one, and I was wondering...Well, Mum was wondering... No, well, I thought...”

“Spit it out, Lad,” I said, trying to balance the new landline handset between my phone and my neck as I did the washing-up.

“Look, Mum loves it when I do it with you; she always approves of the results. So I was wondering whether you’d help me pick one, and then I’ll take you to supper to say thank you.”

“Of course, I said, balancing my favourite mug precariously on top of the pile on the draining board. “You only needed to ask.”

And thus it was that I found myself on Savile Row one exceptionally cold Sunday, shopping for suits with Speckled Lad.

“It’s regimental selection coming up,” he explained as, wrapped up against the biting wind in a large fur coat, I steered him into the first of several suit shops. “So it has to be something a bit special. Don’t want to make a bad impression by turning up in an average suit.”

It was as we wound our way from shop to shop, three- to two-breasted, grey to navy, that I discovered something hitherto unnoticed.

Apparently I have recently passed some mysterious and unflattering point which has resulted in my being called “Ma’am” in shops. I don’t mind it so much when I’m doing things which involved my being on military turf – it’s their patch, and it’s what they do. But when I’m shopping – firmly my own ground – I feel it’s a bit much.

Not very long ago, I was absolutely in the ‘Miss’ category. Taxi drivers, door staff, the nice man I buy my large Earl Grey from at the start of the commute – if they were going to tack a title onto their patter, it was ‘Miss’. Slightly further back, I was in the ‘Miss’ category to the point when I was asked in Sainsbury’s for my ID when buying a bottle of gin (hurrah for the ‘Think 25’ policy ‘n’ all, but if it’s Tanqueray No. Ten in the basket, I’m probably old enough for it to be there).

At a push, and when feeling exceptionally generous, I can probably even understand a salesman in a smart suit shop making the mistake. I assume there was a presumption made about my and Speckled Lad’s romantic status. And, when addressing the female half of a couple – to whom the male half is making nervous gestures with his eyes about whether his sleeves are of the right length – it does seem a little incongruous to address her as ‘Miss’, when there’s clearly nothing at all innocent and virginal about her, the two of them being, as they so clearly are, at it like bunnies. Ahem.

But, apparently, ‘Ma’am’ is now the moniker of choice. The lack of large rock on my finger is obviously not clue enough. I clearly no longer possess a youthful and vigorous demeanour (which is probably about right. I think my demeanour falls rather firmly into the irritable and short-tempered categories these days, especially while I’m in London).

So, on my chest of drawers now resides a shiny new pot of night cream and tube of something (hopefully magical) for underneath my eyes. If SL can fork out for a suit that’ll get him a job, I can do the same for something that’ll work a miracle.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

In which a catch up with an old flame is less fiery than anticipated

In my frenzied social dash round Edinburgh at Hogmanay, one of the people with whom I whiled away an afternoon in the pub was Minor Celebrity. Despite not having seen him since our blazing row, we’ve kept in contact and a proper non-phone catch up was long overdue.

Curled into the corner of a sofa with my New Year’s Day sparkling water (a lone non-alcoholic hiatus between champagne at Gin Operated’s, and a night subsequently spent on the on-tap prosecco at the Hotel Missoni), I was pleasantly surprised as he blew in through the door looking hungover but well.

Our catch up was all-encompassing, and some of our individual snippets of news were surprisingly similar: house buying (albeit with MC being on a rather higher rung than I am); journo bashing (me: X? Oh, he’s a c***. Him: I know, I've just sued his paper); and generally being exceptionally busy. Gladdened that he’s found something to do other than powder his nose, I listened eagerly to details of a new project that not only appears to be genuinely exciting him, it also seems to be filling MC’s time, and keeping him out of trouble, if not the papers.

“Seriously,” he said, “it’s not as bad when I’m up here, but there was this photo the other day. I was with a friend, I’ve known her for bloody years, y’know, and suddenly she’s my girlfriend. It’s so bloody boring. Oh, and then there was...”

He went through several recent tabloid appearances which, being in PR, I feel I should probably have spotted, but will claim illness as an excuse for not having done so.

“So what’s the score on that front, then?” I said. “Not tempted to settle down with a nice girl and get married and have lots of babies?!” I laughed at the ridiculous notion, expecting him to do the same.

MC stared into his pint. “Yeah, I am. I’d love that. I just... I just can’t find the girl, y’know.”

For a moment, there was an uneasy pause, and I was suddenly very aware once again that, in so many ways, fame can be the very worst thing that can happen to a person.

“Oh, you’ll find her,” I hit him gently on the arm. “Although maybe you shouldn’t look too hard. I mean, let’s face it: you’ve made some pretty terrible decisions in that department.” I grinned at him.

“Hah! Yeah, I have,” he laughed. “Ah well, here’s to better decisions this year.”

Something with which I wholeheartedly agree.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

In which I have my heart stolen

It didn’t take long. I’d been in the city about six and a half minutes when the realisation began to sink in. Having hopped into a cab on North Bridge and hurtling through the streets, I was falling in love all over again; by the time I was standing outside The Architect’s and Gin Operated’s Morningside flat, I was once again totally besotted with my beloved Edinburgh.

Back for the first time since graduation, I was in the city for a couple of days over Hogmanay, eating, drinking, seeing old friends and thoroughly enjoying the soft water that makes one’s hair deliciously shiny.

A cosy, champagne-fuelled Hogmanay dinner party was just the start to a few perfect days. Minus temperatures, snow, and a slight fuzzy feeling in the head did nothing to dispel the gentle glow that seemed to settle over my stay.

There’s something extraordinarily special about that city, and it’s something that I’m not able to put my finger on.

I don’t know whether I adore it so much for its cosmopolitan yet compact nature; the high Georgian buildings; wide streets and large green spaces. For the soft accents of its inhabitants; for the huge variety of peculiar money that comes out of its cash machines; for the prevalence of phenomenal delicatessens, practical distances from wherever one might be.

For its incomparably dour taxi drivers; the ease of flagging down a taxi driven by an inexplicably dour driver; the fact that once you have, it costs a tenner to get across town.

Maybe it’s because the views over the Forth are breathtaking; that watching the sunrise from Arthur’s Seat makes your heart sing; that the Sheep Heid is possibly the best place in the country to spend a dark and wintry Scottish afternoon.

Maybe I adore the ‘Burgh because the new Hotel Missoni on George IV bridge has prosecco on tap; that the friends still there display a hospitality that’s unparalleled.

Maybe it’s because everywhere I go in the city, I’m surrounded by ghosts of previous happinesses. And then it hit me: maybe it’s also that, everywhere I go, I’m touched by the suggestions of happinesses still to come. And as I sat on a train pulling out of Waverley station, the bright, low sunshine making the snow glisten and gleam, my heart physically ached. Never have I felt so at home anywhere as there.

If hadn’t just bought a house in Home Counties, things might be different, but as it is, I’ll have to wait a few years until I head back across the border permanently. But never have I been so sure that it’s something I want to do.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

In which I get one of the best book recommendations I've ever received...

Recently, my feelings about Guards Man, and thousands of his colleagues, being out in War Zone have taken a turn for the calmer. With casualty figures still rising, this has come as a surprise, but a welcome one.

“You should read this,” said Speckled Lad the last time he came to stay. He’d pulled out of his bag a copy of The Junior Officers' Reading Club by Patrick Hennessey. “The description of Renowned Military Academy is absolutely spot on – and he makes it sound really funny. Not like the impression you get from my whinging.”

I turned the book over in my fingers, reading the blurb.

“But Blonde, you have to promise me...” I looked up at him. “Once you’ve finished the description of RMA, don’t read any more. Please. I really don’t want you to worry.”

“Of course,” I said. “Absolutely.” Obviously I had absolutely no intention of complying, but I wasn’t going to tell him that.

And so, over about a week, I curled up with the fantastically evocative, indisputably military prose, torn between howling with laughter, and bemusement that anyone could choose to put themselves through anything like that. And then I got to the section that the Lad wanted me not to read: the long and detailed accounts of the author’s tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. With slight trepidation, I got stuck in.

Initially, it was fodder for every nightmarish thought that crosses my consciousness in the idle moments. Whilst I’m getting to grips with the Army’s dark humour and nonchalant – some might say blasé – attitude towards the gritty realities of warfare, it was hard to read of young guys dying; less than ideal equipment; and the bizarre notion that when back home on R&R, getting Back Out There is almost the only thing soldiers can think of. But the more I read, the closer the penny came to dropping, and by the time I’d turned the last page, I felt I understood.

I never really will understand, of course – not planning ever to be in the situation – but I can now recognise that these guys have signed up to do a job, and it’s a job that they enjoy. I might get my kicks out of a snuggly blanket, a mug of Earl Grey and the remainder of the Christmas Lindor; but some people need the rush of adrenaline that comes with firing weapons and playing at war. An unpalatable truth, perhaps, but there it is.

It’s a job they’re properly trained and (sometimes) properly equipped to do. There’s travel, excitement, and a sense of comradeship that few of us are ever likely to know. They know they have the love and support of family and friends, and are spoilt rotten due to the (possibly misplaced) intense sympathy that’s engendered by fear and the unknown.

And whilst absolutely none of this means that I’m going to stop sending blueys and packages full of cake at every opportunity, it does mean that I sleep easier at night – and for that, I’m hugely grateful.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

In which I don't give up the day job, but think about it

Maybe it’s because it’s a naturally introspective time of year, maybe that it’s I’ve had four weeks lying on the sofa to think about it, but of late there’s been a faint notion buzzing round my consciousness that’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore: whilst I love my job, and the people I work with, the realisation that, long term, PR might not be for me.

It’s challenging (more often than not, in more ways than one), it’s creative, and it’s great fun. I’ve met some amazing people, and some I wouldn’t spit on if they were ablaze. It’s brilliant to see quotations I’ve written as box-outs on the BBC news site. I love the fact that part of what I get paid to do is write, and have heated discussions with my boss about syntax and grammar. I know vast amounts about how the media work, and can spot a PR-placed story at 100 paces. And, ultimately, when there’s integrity in a strategy and its implementation, I think PR can do an important job in communicating a message, whatever that may be.

Maybe if I were sitting in the press office of an organisation that does something worthwhile for mankind, it’d be different. But there are moments when I have to steel myself before I pick up the phone, knowing that I’m about to waste a poor journo’s time with information I know isn’t newsworthy. It doesn’t do anyone any favours – it pisses off the journo, and it makes for a depressing day for me, given the inevitable rudeness that follows.

And so, I think there will come a point when I will take a leap and see what else is out there that I could do without feeling compromised. Maybe something writingy; something politicky; something different entirely. But then, a job was advertised today for PR manager of a charity that I feel some affinity with – and maybe something like that is the way to go: day to day stuff I know I enjoy, for a client I really believe in.

Or maybe I should jack it all in, and revert to Plan A: marry rich. It’s gotta be easier than all this thinking.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

In which I make a resolution

At the beginning of 2009, I made just one resolution: no sex with Speckled Lad. In true Blonde fashion, I entirely neglected to stick to it. In the end, it turned out that the only person I had sex with in 2009 was Speckled Lad. Whether it was Fate laughing in my face, or my libido taking matters into its own hands (there’s an image) having realised that if there were no Speckled Sex, there’d be no sex at all, I don’t know. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a triumph of my resolve, and so this year, I’m going to make a resolution I have half a chance to sticking to.

I had considered making another go of the ‘no sex with Speckled’ thing, but I’ve realised it’s not desperately practical. There’s some kind of something that renders me incapable of resisting the Lad. Pathetic, but there it is. Making a resolution that’s doomed to fail from the outset is just daft, and I don’t have the wherewithal to deal with the inevitable guilt that ensues from telling Best Mate of my plan and then hearing her total lack of surprise when I have to confess to the subsequent indiscretion. In short, there’s no plan not to sleep with him this year.

I toyed briefly with the idea of making myself go to the gym more, but frankly that’s not a resolution: it’s a necessity. If my bottom gets any larger, I shall need to take out a separate ticket for it on the train in the morning and seating is limited as it is.

There’s the saving money resolution; the eating better; the watching less crap telly. But spending; late night suppers of waffles (see? Told you about the bottom) and Come Dine... are things about my life that I enjoy.
Drinking less didn’t even merit consideration.
I’ve already set up a direct debit for this year’s charity, and there’s a large list of decent novels on my to-read list. I’d clean more, but that’s what I pay someone else to do. And there’s absolutely no point making resolutions about my love life so I shan’t.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that, maybe, instead of doing something that I’ve dreamt up myself, I’ll do something that other people have been badgering me to do: blog more.

Flatteringly, several people have nudged me recently to do so, via email and tweet. On mentioning this to Best Mate, I had a text: well, they’re right. You’ve not blogged in weeks.

And so I resolve that I shall blog more this year. Quite what about, I have no idea, and it’s entirely possible that you’ll all regret my decision once I’m posting weekly on Colin’s antics, like his recent discovery that if he leaps off the kitchen table at the right moment, he can reach the middle shelf inside the fridge. You’ve been warned.
 

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