Saturday, January 12, 2008

Everything suddenly became ordinary - the week at work

Monday, my first day back at work after the holiday. I sat at my desk and made a half-hearted start to all the things that needed to be done. I looked through the papers I had left (neatly for once) on the alcohol-infused Friday afternoon when everything had been “winding down” (that phrase put in parenthesis, as the process of winding down involved a complex mixture of holiday expectation, end-of-work relief, wine-soaked fatigue… and just the faintest hope that something would turn up in the vacation interim as to make all these requirements superfluous).

I worked my way through the papers and e-mails, buoyed up by cups of tea, until 11 o’clock when everything suddenly became ordinary, and it was as if the Christmas holiday had never been. Disturbingly, this sense of the ordinary continued to intensify, so that by the time noon arrived I had reached a sense of hyper-ordinariness, and by the afternoon had entered a state of bland nothingness. When I left at 5.30 I stepped out onto the cold grey street feeling oddly betrayed, depressed, abandoned (but only slightly - even in my neuroses I am denied the real deal).

Tuesday. Endless press releases to be written, and rewritten, and rewritten a third time (so that I was dangerously close to the “if you’re so smart you can do the bloody things yourself” stage). Late afternoon and the first of the year’s new business meetings. This was a lacklustre event, with Kate outlining her plans to bring in more clients (basically an extension of the 2007 strategy) and directors Ian and Alan saying how well she was doing. It always surprises me the way in which I am automatically included in these meetings. Perhaps I am just making up the numbers?

The new business meeting went on until 6, after everyone else had left. Ian suggested a drink, so we all went to the Heroes wine bar (the walls covered with black and white photographs of boxers). We were still there at 7.30, although I kept saying “I really must go”.

Ian had a bit much to drink and started gossiping about the staff (not something an MD should do). It was as if he were afraid of some of them. In particular he told us he thought Stuart (who heads up the photographic studio) was trying to steal some of his clients.

“He thinks because he hasn’t got anything to do he’s going to lose his job” said Alan about Ian (and in front of him). “He forgets he’s a director of the company. He’ll be last to go.”

We all laughed. Kate rolled her eyes and gave one of her dazzling smiles, as if we were all good friends. Privately I knew she would be fuming, as she has often said that Ian and Alan don’t do very much.

Wednesday and a flurry of excitement when it was revealed that the contact at Rocket, one of our medium sized clients, had been made redundant. Decisions about marketing were now being taken at the Rocket head office in Kensington. It is awful when this sort of thing happens, as it always makes the Account Manager look out-of-the-loop, with the likelihood that the new decision maker is going to want to change agencies. Happily Rocket was not one of my clients. They were handled by Angela (Ian’s PA) which meant they were actually one of Ian’s old clients. A small crisis meeting was held, and Kate and myself were delegated to go to see the new decision maker - an appointment made for Friday.

In the afternoon I went to check on a photo shoot at the photographic studio. The image being taken was of a flautist, to be used on the front cover of a software brochure (headline: Exceptional performance). A beautiful model, her skin completely flawless, was standing in front of the infinity curve wearing a high-waisted evening dress. No-one knew exactly how she should hold the flute. They had wasted almost an hour trying various angles. Eventually I looked at flautists on Google Images to get the position right.

Thursday a new client (Sealion) walked through the door. Just like that, with no effort made at all. He was a bit of an egomaniac and didn’t stop talking (the sort who is going to want his portrait in the brochure) but you mustn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

A crisis in the afternoon over some original artwork that couldn’t be found on the system (which is supposedly fool-proof). Angela (senior PA) and Paul (graphics designer) were working themselves into a bit of a frenzy, blaming each other for the loss. It was nothing to do with me, but in the end I intervened and told Paul to recreate the design (a two-hour job). He meekly complied, which made me very thoughtful. Up until that moment I had not been sure whether I had the authority to give orders (and have them carried out). I began to wonder what other commands I could give (“Do this”, “Don’t do that”, “Go down to Costa Coffee and bring me back…”).

Friday, and at 8.30 I met Kate at the entrance to Holland Park Tube. We were early so we went into a café called Tootsies and sat in the window drinking coffee until 9. Then to the Rocket head office, only to find that Samantha, the new marketing decision maker, had not arrived yet. We went back to Tootsies and waited around until 10, drinking more coffee at the table in the window. Once again to the Rocket offices where we waited in Reception until Samantha came out to meet us. Rather than taking us into a meeting room, Samantha said she hadn’t had breakfast yet, and suggested going to a local café she knew - leading us right back to Tootsies.

Samantha was tall, slim, and had black hair artfully piled up. She said “Yah” a lot. She told us there were no immediate plans to change anything, but said it in such a way (off-hand, absently, with no interest in the current work-in-progress) that immediately made us suspect the worst.

After this meeting Kate led me along Holland Park Avenue to an Irish pub behind Notting Hill tube station where we had whiskies and soda and she talked about her boyfriend troubles.

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