Thursday, 19 November 2009

Conference Call

I have been to my first proper conference. It took place in Harrogate , no less – conference capital of the UK – but it might as well have been held on another planet.

Now, I really don’t think anyone would class my life as excessively glamorous and exciting - I like a Tuesday even infront of Holby as much as the next person - but I do get out enough not to be giddy beyond belief at the prospect of a conference. Not so for many others, it would seem…
The standard party-line was ‘It’ll be great – it’s a couple of days out of the office, isn’t it?! ’ Well, yes, but dysentery would have the same effect…

Anyhow, I tried to put misery-guts-me to one side and embrace the conference. The journey up was quite pleasant – aside from the incessant and pointless phone calls made by the pink-tie wearing, ruddy-faced middle management men that surrounded me, that is.
The hotel was very nice, the kind of place I would probably chose to stay myself on a city break, though in true English hotel stylee; the radiators had two settings: Hotter than magma and off. I opted for off and got myself ready for the main event: The Gala Dinner.

So far so good. A couple of glasses of pre-dinner champagne went down a treat and I actaully quite enjoyed chatting to my colleagues, as it is a rather 'heads-down' office. The dinner was less than inspiring - cold salmon to start, glorified chicken kiev for main, melted cheesecake for afters - but in all fairness, to say they were catering for 1200 people, the food was actually pretty good.

After dinner we were treated to a rather excellent Commitments-esque weddings/bar-mitzvahs and all-other- functions-catered- for-band, and what looked like a never-ending sea of booze-fuelled sequin-clad ladies dancing the night away. Imagaine a wedding dance floor where EVERYONE is a drunk auntie/Nolan Sister and you're halfway there. Amazing.

The night decsnded into one of my bosses making everyone play a drinking game which involved the loser having to down a glass containing a heady mix of gin, tonic, larger and a bit of vodka. Lovely. Aged 16 I'm pretty certain I would have loved this, even, or rather especially, if I'd lost. However, seeing as I can now afford to buy drinks, and there was free champagne still knocking around - why the hell would I want to drink slops?! Fun, you say? Well as a bona fide miserable bugger, you'll have to come up with a better reason than that.

Anyhow, I unsurprisingly took all manner of crap from 'the team' for not playing along, but refused to bow to the peer pressure. To be honest; it wasn't hard. At least when people try to make you smoke it's tempting beacuse a. it's ace and b. it makes you look cool. But who looks cool downing (or bringing back up) a pint pot of slops?

But it all paid off, and I genuinely hope that some hard-done-to teen stumbles across this blog and learns a Wonder Years-type lesson: Do not bow to peer pressure. I may have taken some shit at the gala, but the next day was told at breakfast that 'they wished to God they hadn't played - you had it right' and was even told by my boss later in the day that he 'respected my ability to make and have faith in my decisions'. Yeah.

Pint pot of slops? Just say no, kids.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Three is the massively annoying number

De la Soul, you are good and all that, but I heartily dispute that 3 is indeed the 'magic number'. 

Three is actually a well-annoying number: Buses, bad news and crap knickers come in threes. 
And now, it would seem, so do jobs. By only the second week of my employ at bona fide office-based job, (the same week as my newly engaged friend had three gentleman attempt to to woo her),  I  had received offers of two other interviews/jobs. 

It was oft said by friends during various stages of my work-drought that 'it's much easier to get a job when you have a job'.  I would nod sagely into my mug of Oxo and agree, thinking said platitude lived in a  flatshare with Everything Happens for a Reason and Whatever Doesn't kill You Makes You Stronger in a grotty house on Things Could be Worse Street. Apparently not. This hugely annoying arm of Sod's Law seems to be a home owner on Weirdly True Things that are Guaranteed to Piss you off Road. I have absolutely no idea how dedicating entire days, weeks and months to finding a job can do less good than not even checking Guardian Jobs (imagine that, jobseekers) and getting on with my work...but it would seem that when it comes to job-snaring, a Field of Dreams approach is all that works. Which just makes me hate Kevin Costner even more than I did before

However, having been such a regular visitor over the past few months to those dwelling on Things Could be Worse, I guess the only way to look at it is as some kind of good omen, in so much that when I do decide to pursue a proper 'dream job', I MIGHT just stand a chance...

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Working 9 to's a mug's game

I guess if the suspense was going to kill you you'd be well dead by now, but the good news is...I have a job. A proper one. With a desk and a shiny new Mac and biscuits and a  designated lunchtime and a monthly salary! Hurrah! 

It's hardly my dream job, but it's a Sub-editor's role, it's pretty well-paid and well...beggars/choosers and all that.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly humans adapt/forget, and having worked in this new job for just shy of  a month, 'freelancing' (!) from the kitchen table seems but a distant memory.  All I miss is not having to wear tights; George Lamb's radio 6 show; and being able to drink Oxo whenever I want, for it seems that supping a mug of gravy instead of tea is not socially acceptable office behaviour...

Anyhow, so far so good...apart from when I gave the man who sits next to me the wrong mug... but the less said about mug-gate, the better. Needless to say, I have learnt my lesson and will not be giving the 'Chessington World of Adventures' cup to anyone else. Ever.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival. Just an excuse to fob off those dented tins of peaces and mystery meat on an old people's home, right? Well, yes... but this year I was able to cobble together a harvest festival dinner of my own containing no less FOUR homegrown components and nothing from a tin, dented or otherwise. Exciting stuff, especially as I never thought the potatoes (despite a vigil second only to that of The Queen Mum's corpse) stood a chance.

Okay, so the seeds were more than the cost of a bag of potatoes, the plants took hours and hours of careful attention, and only enough spuds sprung forth for one (admittedly gluttonous) meal, but was more thsn worth it.

So we ate ourselves silly and gave thanks for the 14 potatoes, 2 carrots, heaps of thyme and on-its-last-legs lettuce that came from our own little plot and not only did we please ourselves, we seemed to have pleased The Pagan Gods or whoever else in charge, for very good news indeed followed....

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Stop Press: Old People Like Sex Too, Shocker!

Have a snoop around your local newsagent at the moment and you may well find my mugshot grinning back at ya, for I am no less than Scarlet's contributor of the month. Oh yes.

For the uninitiated, Scarlet is a ladies magazine that contains no diets, but more sex-toys than you can shake a giant dildo at. It also has some genuinely interesting, socially aware articles and is kinda what Cosmo was when it was first published.

Being contributor of the month meant I had to answer a few wee questions - best/worst thing about the magazine etc. And I half in jest, but with some element of truth to it, declared that the worst thing about Scarlet was the fact that my Mother would undoubtedly buy it to read her darling daughter's superb words....but blatantly read the sex stuff while she was at it.

Not surprisingly, this happened. Mummy Hughes did her dutiful Mum thing and told me she thought my piece was very interesting, well written....and that my Grandad had particularly enjoyed it - that in fact he'd loved the entire magazine, reading it cover to cover. Surely not the sex-toy review page? Apparently so. The erotic fiction? Yup. That too. Woah.

I think I must have involuntarily made my feelings pretty clear as my Mum's response was a matter of fact "Well you lot don't think you invented sex, do you?" Well, no, Mum, but I also don't spend much time thinking about my Grandma and Grandad bumping and grinding.

However, in a Sex and The City stylee, I got to thinking.... Ageism is probably the one 'ism' that still runs rife and seems to be acceptable. Why? Reasonably forward thinking mags like Scarlet make a point of using models of all sizes, looks and races, but, they don't ever feature anyone over the age of 35, tops. Apparently this is because the publication is aimed at 20-40 year-olds, and the images should reflect this. Fair enough, but what happens when you get to 40? Do you suddenly have to ditch the dildos and buy an Argar instead?!

There seems to be a similar lack in pornographic products too - mags and movies alike seldom feature models over 35, and if they do, it's a fetish item!
And what about the people who buy sex stuff? I think that part of my initial freak-out at my Grandad's love of Scarlet is the completely irrational 'dirty old man' tag - double standards at its finest... Let me explain: Groups of women going to a sex shop and buying toys are 'having a laugh', couples who do similar are 'exploring their sexuality', young women who enjoy Scarlet or porn are 'empowered', but a man looking at top-shelf matter is a 'perv' or a 'dirty old man'.

So yes, Mummy Dearest, you are right. Pensioners have as much right to sex as anyone else. Now let's think about something else. Quick....

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

You say tomato...I say 'the most exciting thing that has ever happened. Ever'

So, losing a job is undeniably cack, but it did, (at least initially) make me get on with stuff I'd always wanted to do but never had the time. And now, six months on, I am finally seeing the fruits of my labour. Literally. And my God is it exciting - I reckon I now have some idea of how it feels to see your first child ride a bike without stabilisers.

So now I can only hope that the tomato plant is some incredibly twee metaphor for my job chase and that that too will soon bring forth tasty round fruits. Or just a nice editorial job somewhere....

PLEASE NOTE: Image used is of MY ACTUAL BABIES. Not a stock image.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Candle in the wind

For a part-time jobless, yours truly has been a wee bit busy of late, and rather neglectful of the blog. I am sorry. It will not happen again.

Since my last post, Michael Jackson has died, my Mum had a birthday, I attended an interview for a well good job (and didn't get it), my tomato plant has borne fruit, Steve Lamacq played my song on BBC radio 6, I had a suspected case of swine flu, and the Dr and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary.

The latter was especially lovely, even though I managed to knock over a giant candle and cover my entirely black outfit in white wax whilst shouting FUCK rather loudly - just to make sure the whole restaurant got a butchers. It was a wonderful evening; I ate 3 kinds of meat and learnt that when something bad happens, you might as well just laugh, because if you don't, all that will happen is that you get hugely upset, calm down and then laugh. Surely the sensible response is to just skip the middle bit.....or, I guess, to be slightly more co-ordinated and not through a candle down yourself in the first place.


Thursday, 2 July 2009

Stop Press: Gemma Likes Hippy Music Shocker!

When not tending to my organic vegetables, I have been listening to a girl with an acoustic guitar and enjoying it a little bit too much.
In an attempt to redress the balance of hippy v normal, I then wrote all about it for trendy-wendy website, The Playground.

Peace out.


Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Friday Night's Alright for Fighting

The pub I work in is a North London prosecco-serving, 16-quid-for-a-steak, riddled-with-children-with-ridiculous-names gastro pub. It is by no means a spit and saw dust affair and often bears more resemblance to a Creche than a boozer.

This all changed last Friday. I pottered off to start my 6-close shift blissfully unaware that the restaurant section was booked for a wedding party. They'd been there since 3pm, and were all getting proper stuck in. Jager-bombs all round. Yikes. So when they were still going worryingly strong at midnight, the landlord decided to serve for another hour. This was a huge mistake.

At about quarter past midnight some drunken oaf pushed into some other drunken oaf and something along the lines of What the fuck did you call my wife/brother/mother/best mate? was just about overheard before all hell broke loose.

One of the 'contenders' was apparently some kind of local businessman, and five of his employees were drinking in the corner. They saw someone attacking their boss, and perhaps with dreams of a pay rise in mind, all jumped in to 'help'. It didn't help. What started as text-book drunk argie-bargie turned into a full-on brawl, that moved en masse around the pub knocking over stools, smashing glasses and most worryingly, at one point reaching over the bar in an attempt to grab the 16-pound-steak knives.

This was when I asked to call the cops. I've never had to call 999 before. It's really weird. Firstly, even though people were stamping on each other and stools were flying, I still felt guilty in case I was wasting police time and stopping someone else getting through - the film they showed us at school about a boy dying because of a hoax fire call is clearly rather deeply ingrained. Secondly, I have no idea how they recruit for call centre staff, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's just a night-time gig for the HSBC lot. The lady I spoke to seemed completely unable to understand the urgency of the situation, instead just commenting over and over on 'how awfully loud it was'. Indeed. 30 men trying to break each other does tend to make a bit of a racket.

I was shocked at how scary it all was. The Mary Whitehouse cliche of violence being all around us is actually pretty true: in cartoons, in movies, at school, on the news, on the street - everyone's seen a fight or two.
But when a heap of grown men are trying do each other real harm, metres in front of your face, it really is quite different. The noise of a proper punch against breaking skin is really quite sickening, and unlike on TV, if you drop an anvil (or bar stool) on someone's head, they don't get straight back up unscathed.

The police eventually turned up, but the ringleaders had legged it by then and were long gone. No-one needed an ambulance, but the next couple of days revealed two broken noses and the truly-horrible sounding 'pinning-back-on' of someone's thumb.

So, what did we all learn? That Elton is wrong, and Saturday night is no longer the choice night for a ruckus. That violence isn't big or clever.... and neither are the old ladies manning the emergency phones.


Thursday, 18 June 2009

Chinese Medicine

So... the birthday party came and went, leaving only photos of me fighting a man-size hot-dog, a crushing hangover and some droopy, leftover buffet behind.

I am officially old. At the ripe age of 27, I can no longer take my booze and these particular alcohol induced after-effects refused to bugger off until 7pm. 7pm!! And aside from feeling like 'a pig's shit in my head', the emotional hangover was equally, if not even more powerful: Whilst eating hot and sour soup (the world's best medicine..) in front of the BBC's South Pacific nature thingy, I was brought to tears by the spectacle of wide-net tuna fishing. It just seemed so very sad, like some kind of fish holocaust, I thought, whilst tucking into Char Siu pork and prawns in oyster sauce...

Anyhow, the Crapulence was chased away by said Chinese food, and the infamous promise to 'take it easy and just have a dinner or something next year' was yet again made.
But I won't do it. That would REALLY make me officially old...

Very good.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Thoughts on turning 27...I am not a number, I am a free woman!

So, yours truly is now one year closer to the grave... or thirty - the jury's still out on which one's more scary.

But what may well be even scarier, no jury needed, is the fact that at 27, I am once again working in a pub.

I've never had a career plan, or any other kind of plan for that matter, but after a degree, nearly six years of proper employment, a post-grad journalism thingy, and God knows how many internships I thought I might be doing more than serving prosecco in a pub I can no longer afford to drink in.

All of my friends have been super supportive throughout the entire no job, no money, pub-monkey journey I've been making, but I am very aware that in certain circles it definitely wouldn't have been the same. The university, year travelling, graduate scheme, then job trajectory seems pretty ingrained in my generation's psyche, and even more worryingly, the idea of being completely defined by one's job.

When people ask 'what do you do?' I have come to realise that they don't really want to know what you do, they want to know what you get paid for. I write all manner of music reviews and other waffle for all manner of print and online magazines, but because I don't get paid for the massive majority of it, I am not a writer, I am a simple pub-monkey. Weird, no?

One thing that I have learnt from the pub (apart from how to make a Jager-bomb - just say no, kids..) is that this judgy, linear, career mentality is happily lacking in other countries. I regularly work alongside a Hungarian 30-something lady who is doing her final year on a photo journalism course, a 35 year old Spanish trainee hypnotist and a 28-year old South African who will start a four-year law course in September.

They don't think it's weird that I'm 27 and work in a pub. They don't think it's weird that at 35 they still work in a pub: It's a pretty fun job and it enables them to do what they want to do.
And although things are less than ideal, in a way, it enables me to do what I want to do - write stuff. Yes, it would be lovely if I had a cheque through the door for everything I wrote, but for now, at least I'm writing, and can even afford to buy branded soup. That's living.

So for now, I shall keep calm and carry on. For as the one-time underage plaything of R.Kelly, Aaliyah, once said, age is indeed nothing but a number.

Happy Birthday to me. x

Stop Press: Gemma Likes Jarvis Record Shocker!

Everyone's favourite weed in tweed is back with his second solo offering and Lordy, it's well good.

Read my review, penned for the super-trendy Disappear Here:

Then go and buy the record.

Over and out.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Word up

I went to see none other than 90's legend Finley Quaye the other day for the lovely London Word.

Read all about it and peruse the finer points of the capital's culture at:

Very good

Friday, 5 June 2009

A Shamless Plug

The summer issue of Fashion Music Style magazine is out now!

It comes complete with free 16-track CD, and exquisite articles penned by yours truly. It's in all UK branches of Borders and loads of independents. Or you can buy it online from their myspace:


Thursday, 4 June 2009

Imagine no possesions....

There aren't many upsides to losing your job. The novelty of watching neighbours twice a day soon wears off.

For me, however, the only good to come out of my joblessness is a renewed and healthy hippy-spirit. At first, not buying stuff that wasn't completely necessary was hard and oft upsetting. I like shiny things. But after a while, it became almost liberating, and was one of the few things that made me feel good about myself.

I liked to think that I'd worked out what was and what wasn't important, and that even when I eventually get back to work, I shall hang on to this waste-not-want-not mentality.

For the past few weeks people have asked me what I want for my birthday, and I've said "well, nothing really" and actually meant it, instead of saying "well, nothing really" and actually meaning two pairs of Kurt Geiger shoes, Prada perfume, nice underwear, posh make-up and a pony.

Then my Mum came to London as a pre-birthday treat. She again asked the birthday question, to which I gave the above reply. She then suggested, "Well, if there's nothing specific you'd like, perhaps I could just take you shopping for some new clothes, or whatever you fancy."

Oh my. In my self-constructed hippy hierarchy of badness, seeking and buying a specific item, as in, 'I need a dress for a wedding' is pretty bad, because you never really need a new frock, but at least it's not just buying for the sake of buying. The rampant consumerism my Mummy dearest had suggested was the most heinous hippy crime imaginable...

Needless to say, I took her up on this fantastic offer quicker than you can say Mega-Topshop and four hours later I came home with a pair of sandals, two frocks and two boxes of biscuits from Julian Graves as some kind of offering to appease the Gods of hippydom.

I hope they like organic, wheat-free Thai-style seaweed crackers.....