Estranging Arranging

The financial software industry is a volatile environment. The market shifts overnight; a small,  boutique competitor (previously unworthy of concern) secures significant investment from a venture capitalist, or three separate – but personally connected – individuals quit their employment to develop a rival product. Such news travels quickly, allowing for rapid, reactionary measures. Think of a game of chess in fast-forward and you have it; a constant state of flux in which some colleagues thrive, and others, unfortunately perish.

The sales department are perfectly honed to deal with this pace. The sales floor bustles with a ceaseless hum of friendly voices, dialing out to prospects. Office space serves as a political forum for airing grievances and seeking solutions. Meeting rooms are used only for customer calls and HR issues that – for now – require discretion.  These interactions, whizzing over the heads of nonparticipants, often make for entertaining ear fodder. One such example took place between Veronica and Keira, arranging to meet a partner firm.

Veronica is a no-shit, up front, efficient worker. A fixer – work with her or be shoved aside. On a bad day, she bangs her keyboard and cusses aplenty. On a good day, she engages in banter, elevating inappropriateness to unforeseen limits with a wicked cackle. Keira is her polar opposite, exploiting her feminine wiles to schmooze and charm, employing a pastiche, girly-girl persona. She partakes in office hi jinx, expediently extracting herself, when it veers towards questionable.

“Are you coming to that meeting, Veronica? Did you see that email?” This question was delivered from fifteen feet away.

“Yes, I’ll be at the meeting,” answered Veronica sharpishly, tapping heavily on her keyboard. She didn’t look up from her screen.

“There is no mention of dates in the email. 2pm. What day?”

“So you’re coming? It’s next Tuesday. Great! I’ll see you there.”

“Er, no, Keira … I’ll see YOU next Tuesday.”

“Pardon me? What did you say?” Keira’s tone was loaded with disbelief. “Did she just …?” Keira’s voice trailed off, smothered by chuckles from surrounding colleauges.

Veronica ducked behind her partition, out of Keira’s sight with a distinct look of concern.

“Fuck, I’ve been spending too much time at home with that builder who is working on my conservatory.”

Yays & Nays

I’m not sure if this is a comeback since a return would mean a series of sucessive entries. As I once advised a fellow blogger, “one post does not a blogger make”.

It’s been almost a year since I posted. A lot has happened in a year. To summarise the changes, I have categorised them under headers, “Yays” and “Nays”:

Yays

  • I live in London. London is an amazing city.
  • I no longer work in accountancy.
  • I’m single
  • I love my job
  • I live with my best friend
  • […]

Nays

  • I live in London. It’s busy and difficult to get around.
  • I’ve not made it to second date with a guy in a very long time
  • I don’t have sex as often as I’d like
  • […]

The author acknowledges the contents of these lists are not exhaustive yet aims to provide an overview of updates to serve as back drop to successive entries

Brace & Lace

While home for Christmas, I organised a few drinks for Stephen’s Night. I craved a night out, following days spent cooped up over Christmas. The night proved to be messy. We had a few (too many) before we left for town, where we had a few more.

By the time we were in the club, I was drunk. I was in the company of my brother and his girlfriend, Melissa. I nudged Melissa and suggested we go for a dance. In my drunken state, I fancied myself some kind of Patrick Swayze.

“Another go,” I declared. “I’ll catch you better this time.”

Melissa took a few steps away from me and ran. I caught her clumsily. Patrick Swayze would turn in his grave at the idea of such an ungraceful tribute. Melissa collapsed on me. I lifted my head and felt unexpected resistance. I suddenly realised my face was stuck to Melissa’s arm. What the fuck? I thought.

Melissa wore a red dress with red lace sleeves. It seemed my braces had become entangled in the intricate patterned lace. I placed Melissa on the ground. She was in conversation with a bouncer who discouraged our Dirty Dancing performance. How the hell am I to disentangle myself?  While Melissa assured the bouncer we would vacate the dancefloor, my face was buried into her arm. I panicked. I gave Melissa’s sleeve a hard tug and broke free. We left the dancefloor.

“Eh, what were you two doing down there?” My brother asked. “People were laughing at you.”

Melissa laughed. I joined. I noticed a hole in the arm of her dress. I guessed it unlikely she’d notice since we were all pissed. I’ll save this story for tomorrow, I thought.

Babies Say the Cutest Things

My nephew Jack is speaking endlessly. He has been talking a while but only lately has he demonstrated a repertoire of words. He now forms sentences and seeks to learn new words at every opportunity. He points at items and calls their name. “Dada,” he shouts, pointing to my brother. “Dog”. “TeeVee,” is one of his favourites, which he enjoys following a request for “toast”.

On one of his customary rambles about the kitchen, he randomly stopped and pointed above the door. “Cock,” he cried. He resumed his stroll.

A day or two later, he visited his grandparents. In his usual independent manner, he got out of the car, walked up the driveway and waited for the halldoor to open. He walked into the kitchen, expecting the usual fuss he is guaranteed to receive from his grandparents.

He pointed towards the clock on the wall. “Grandad’s cock.”

Fruit Flies

Our office Christmas party was a decadent affair held in Battersea Evolution, a vast space in Battersea Park, capable of holding thousands for corporate events and shows. The set up was most impressive. A champagne reception awaited us on arrival. The nibbles were miniature meals – chorizo and potato stew and miniature curries were but a few of the savoury options. I ate every thing around me and despite this managed a trip to what can only be described as stalls dedicated to cheese and desserts. My belly contained a happy stomach.

Three thousand colleagues attended the event. Our department was a small group compared to the overall number of employees based in London. If you were separated from the posse, chances are you would remain alone for a good half hour before encountering someone you knew. I managed to lose my friends three or four times, using the time to admire the numerous well dressed City Boys. On one such occasion, around midnight, I  encountered Charlie, my friend and colleague, in a room set up for karaoke.

“This place is huge,” I shouted in her ear over the croaky singer. “I’ve been on my own for ages”.

“Did you hear about Regina?” Charlie asked me.

She read the confusion in my face.

“Regina was taken away in an ambulance an hour ago.” Her tone was serious.

Regina was a colleague of ours who had only joined a few weeks ago.

“No way! Are you sure? What happened?”

Charlie leaned in closer as the singer on stage attempted to own a Meatloaf number. She leaned towards my ear. “Apparently, she was outside and received an injury to the head.”

“Oh my God!”

Charlie explained Regina had been queueing for one of the funfair amusements near the entrance and received a head injury. She paused in her explanation. “I don’t know if it’s true or not, but … It doesn’t sound believable, but someone said she was hit in the head by a coconut.”

“A coconut?”

“That’s what I heard.” She shrugged.

I refused to believe this. “That must be false. I think it possible something hit her in the head. Someone is bullshitting on that detail.”

We continued partying. Every now and again, we were either told or asked about Regina’s accident. I dismissed it as gossip.”We’ll find out tomorrow,” I said to close the matter.

The next morning I arrived into work a few hours late with a heavy head. I had been awake until 6AM. I walked to my desk, praying for a quiet day, and caught sight of Regina at her desk. I thought best not to ask about the rumour. I figured numerous people had inundated her with questions already.

An hour later, I heard her call my name. She stood next to me. Her thick Spanish hair was tousled down around her face. Her dark complexion failed to mask her tiredness. She looks as tired as I feel, I thought. The rumour must be false. I bet she was out almost as late as I was. 

“I must leave work early today. Do you mind?”

“Of course not,” I replied. I intended to do the same.

“I must see a doctor.”

“Are you OK?” I asked. “I heard you had an accident last night. Is it true or …?” My question trailed.

She nodded and pointed to the corner of her right eye. There was bruising. “The eyesight in my right eye is fading.”

“What happened last night?”

She concsidered her words. “I was standing outside queuing for one of the rides with Paul and … someone threw a coconut at my head.”

“A coconut?”

“Yes,” she confirmed, “a coconut.”

I did my damndest not to laugh. This poor girl had received a potentially serious injury and I wanted to erupt with laughter. I felt awful.

Charlie spun around in her chair. “You mean it’s true! You were hit in the head last night? With an actual coconut?”

Regina nodded and walked towards Charlie.

“Did you keep the coconut?” Charlie asked this in a sincere manner.

“No,” Regina said. “It would not fit into my handbag”.

I turned in my chair and laughed hard and silently. I was grateful Regina was not at my side to see my amusement. On composing myself, I stood up and ushered Regina to the door. “Get out of here. You need to see a doctor quickly”.

Regina was back in the office the next day, her eyesight fully restored. The bruises healed quickly. A week later, we even laughed at the sheer misfortune of receiving a blow to the head … by a coconut … at night … in the middle of Battersea Park …. in December.

Fun Timez

Type a few of the following leads to questions into Google. It returns the most popular searches.

Debits & Credits

The cost of relocating to London has caused me manys a sleepless night. Before I even set foot in the office of my new employer, I owe a couple of grand. This unnerves me. To ease the pain of cash flow issues, I decided to apply for a loan from Ulster Bank whom I’ve banked with – but never bank on – for the last six years. I made an early appointment in the Athlone branch one Monday morning.

Helen, the lovely customer advisor, and I sat in her cubby-hole office, equipped with printer and photocopier. I clutched a large coffee and marvelled at the blandness of her small space. Numerous sheets of paper churned through the spool of the printer. Helen highlighted and narrated the legal jargon on each form. I confirmed my personal details and she responded, clicking and tapping on her keyboard, throwing a cursory glance my way.

She paused. “Hmmm, that’s strange,” she said.

I sat up in my chair. “What is?” I asked. Paranoia was evident.

“The system has instantly declined your application”. Line by line, she scrutinised the information on screen. She clicked again. And again. “Have you any financial issues you’d like to tell me?”

Blood rushed up my neck. My cheeks glowed. “I may have missed the odd credit card payment here and there.”

Helen thought for a moment. “That’s not serious. It shouldn’t prompt an instant decline. There must be something wrong with the system.” She shrugged it off. She pulled a glossy blue and white application form from her drawer and reached for a biro. She completed the form on my behalf. “Have you any shares? Have you a car? Do you own any property?”

I answered each question negatively.

Completed form in hand, Helen turned to her computer. “Ah,” she said. “It is as I guessed. The reason you are getting an instant decline is because the system doesn’t like you.”

“What do you mean?”

“It doesn’t like your details. In the interest of being open and upfront, I will talk you through it. Stephen, you are twenty eight years old. You earn quite a good salary. You’ve exceeded your overdraft limit twice in the last six months. You have no savings! Where is your preparation for the long-term? Have you no interest in owning a property?”

I sighed. “Sorry if this offends you, but you now sound like my mother.”

“I often hear this. Your mother is right. What do you have to show for all this expenditure?”

“Helen, I live quite a good life.”

“I bet you do, Stephen.” She laughed. “It’s reflected in your bank balance. You could turn your position around in three months. Set some money aside each month and start saving!”

I endured the remainder of Helen’s lecture before leaving her cubby-hole disheartened. I have never been good with money. I have an amazing ability to rid myself of debt, but like the typical Irish person of the Good Times of Old, I fail to appreciate a bank account with a credit balance; why debit when you can credit? I need to redress my views on finances. Helen’s words echoed through my mind for days. It was, while sorting through clothes for the move, did I come face to face with my problem. Hanging in my wardrobe were jackets and coats, ranging in price from half to a full month’s rent. I felt anger.

Screw you coats and jackets. It’s your fault! Helen is right! I have nothing to show for all that money I spent. I have nothing, but a wardrobe of coats. Exactly how many coats do I need? Who am I, Johnny Fucking Forty Coats?

I left my bedroom sickened by the sight of those tributes to thoughtless frivolity. I visited the kitchen for a glass of water to quench the hot, fiery anger in my belly. Within seconds, I was back in my bedroom.

Sorry, coats and jackets. I caressed their sleeves fondly. I really didn’t mean it. Helen is wrong. She is very wrong. No matter what happens we will always have one another.

Loud(er) & Proud(er)

With each year, I get more and more excited about Pride.

I once disapproved of Pride; I felt the colourful parade an affront on wider society. Was it really necessary? Why did hundreds of men and women desire to dress garishly, blow whistles and flaunt their assets, when there were allocated places – such as designated bars – where they could do this in peace. I felt Gay Pride was crude. My views at the time clearly reflected I once did not accept my own sexuality.

With my increasing years and diplomas from the School of Life, I’ve done a U-turn on my views. This notably happened three years ago, when the Pride celebration was used as a platform for pushing Civil Union/Gay Marriage. At the rally, after the Pride Parade, holding my boyfriend’s hand, I realised, some day I too might want to get married or “unioned”, which at that time was not available to me. If my presence and participation in a parade, donated volume to a voice that called for equality, I was proud to take part.

The main day, of the week long Pride festival, involves a parade and rally. The bright parade starts from the Garden of Remembrance and makes its way down O’Connell Street to the Civic Offices via Dame Street. The usual suspects: Senator Norris, Panti and various political figures take prominent position. The promoters state the purpose of the Pride Festival is to celebrate diversity, promote inclusiveness and increase visibility and mutual respect. To my delight, in recent years, the reach of the parade is ever expanding. Families, involving same sex couples and relatives of gay individuals, are present in growing numbers every year. Very often, children take part. The sight of young teenage couples walking among the crowds leaves me emotional. These beautiful sights signify a gradual evolution of a society that decriminalised homosexuality as recent as 1993. And, every year, Dublin Pride gets bigger, bolder and more beautiful.

This year, I am going to go all out for the day. I’d say I am dressing up, but I am going scantily clad. I attribute every item of my costume to people I encountered during my life. For the guy that once gave me the sack, when he learned I was gay, I will wear a pair of demin hot pants. For the men in work, who are continually standoffish with me, I shall don a tight, shocking pink T-shirt. For the boyfriend of my close friend, who has yet to speak to me directly, I will carry a Pride flag. I will happily lend my outfit, presence and voice to Pride, which seeks to challenge every perception, opinion, boundary, piece of legislation and unequal treatment that resides in society.

Dressing for Success

I’m unsure where I heard it, but there’s a joke that television newsreaders only concern themselves with their clothing from the waist upwards, since they sit behind desks, when presenting the news. I recently had an experience that made me feel akin to a news reporter, when I had to do an interview using Skype. Only now, that I have resigned from my current job, do I have opportunity to tell this faux pas.

“I have a Skype interview tomorrow,” I told one friend excitedly. “It is for a job in Luxembourg.”

“You have an interview with Skype? They are based in Luxembourg? How cool is that!?”

“No, the interview is not with Skype, it’s on Skype, as opposed to a telephone.”

“Fancy,” said the friend.

“What will I wear? Should I wear a suit?”

The question of what to wear bugged me. It felt pointless to wear a suit on my day off, when I’d be sitting at home. The interview was a few days away. I put the matter to the back of mind, hoping my subconscious would push a solution forward at some stage.

The day of the interview arrived. I didn’t wear a suit or a tie. I did my hair nice, ensured I was clean-shaven and wore a blue shirt. Half an hour before the scheduled call, I even did a screen test to make sure I looked my prettiest. All was well. This was no telephone interview; visuals were important.

At 10.30, the call came through on Skype as scheduled. I switched my camera on and wished the callers good morning. No response. On the screen I could see a man and a woman sitting behind a desk, appearing as if they were about to deliver their country’s Eurovision ratings. They talked, but I could hear nothing.

“Sorry,” I said. “Nothing is coming through. You can hear me, yes? There seems to be a problem with the audio on your end.”

This routine continued for minutes more, until I determinedly said we should resort to a regular telephone interview, like they used to in the good old days. I stood up to locate the house phone. Just then, did something strike me with the force of a bus. They, the interviewers, may have seen me from the waist down. Stupidly, I had neglected to address my lower half. I wore pyjama bottoms.They were not regular grey or navy pyjamas. They were baggy, purple, chequered ones. I wonder if they saw them? Mortification, I thought. I returned to the PC. The interviewers appeared busy trying to figure the reason for their muteness. I hunched onto the seat so as not to give them another flash of my négligé. I showed them the phone and IM’d them my telephone number.

My performance in the interview was not my best. The recruiters gave me good feedback and said they would be in contact within a few days. Three days later, I received a sparsely worded email, informing me that my experience did not match the profile of the role they recruited for. I was disappointed. Rejection is rejection in whatever form. My ego was bruised.

I told my brother the news. “I didn’t get the job in Luxembourg. I am disappointed.”

He paused. “I am sorry to hear that. Sure there will be more jobs, no?”

“I suppose,” I replied, glumly.

“What did they say to you about your interview?”

“I just received an email saying I wasn’t suited to the role. There wasn’t much to the email.”

“Sure Stephen, you can’t be that surprised you didn’t get the job, can you?”

“What do you mean?” I asked him this, expecting some insider information on my performance.

“They saw you in your pyjamas! No matter how good the interview went, you wore your pyjamas.”

“I had forgotten that.”

My brother and I laughed in unison for some time.

Newsreaders may very well only dress from the waist up, but in times of technical faults on set, it is most unlikely they’ll be required to stand up and resolve the issue.

Lesson learned.

All Signs Point to …

I have been talking about relocating to a new city for a while.

Over pints, with a red, flushed face, did I all too often, dramatically announce, “I’m leaving! Remember this face! I am gone! I am sick of Dublin. Sick of it. There are too many ghosts in this city.”

Eyes were often thrown to heaven. “Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard this before”. Sometimes I even received, “what do you expect to get from London that you can’t get in Dublin?”

A month ago, Best Friend proposed he and I spend some time looking for jobs in London using the internet. We did an in-depth, intricate search on Google, using scant terms such as “London VAT jobs”. We received a few matches.

Best Friend  perused one particular job spec. “I think this job would suit you.”

I read the detail on the screen. I shook my head. “Oh, no, this sounds very technical. No, no, this is not for me at all.”

We came across similar jobs. I shooed the notion of them away.

A day or so later, I pondered the job spec. The more I thought on it, the more I realised this job was for me. I could do this. I could be good at this. This is my job! I called the recruitment agent. We chatted about my experience and interest in the role. He forwarded my CV to the recruiters, who instantly expressed interest in my profile.

Faraway, in another land, removed from flights of fancy of living the London Life, Best Friend and I addressed our living situation. The duration of the lease on the apartment, slowly wasted away; to extend the lease or not.

“I could just quit my job – for the first time in my life, throw caution to the wind and leave! Oh wait, no, I have no savings. This won’t work.”

Best Friend disagreed. “You need a job before you move. We’ll look at the matter of the lease, when the need arises.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere, away from employment opportunities and living arrangements, did I happen to meet a handsome, English man – London Bloke – in Dublin for a business trip. We arranged a date. The date went well. In fact, it went very well. I like him very much. I am lazy in romance and for what is a rare occasion, I made the first move on our date.

Roughly one week later, events progressed nicely. Before I knew it, I was required to go to London for a second interview.  London Bloke and I had been in contact prior to the interview. We arranged a second date, deciding to meet in Soho.

I arrived late, having spent fifteen minutes wandering around Soho in search of Compton Street. I walked into the darkness of the bar and looked around for London Bloke. I spotted him within seconds. He looked good. I awkwardly greeted him. I was nervous. Do I shake his hand or kiss him on the mouth?  What is the etiquette for a second date? I opted for a kiss on the cheek.

“It’s really nice to see you again,” he said.

My head spun. Wow, Irish men never say stuff like that. Well, the Irish men I’ve known never would. “It’s nice to see you too,” I replied somewhat coyly, looking to the floor.

“You’re in my city this time. Let me buy you a pint.”

We moved to a nook of the bar. Conversation and laughter radiated from that corner.

London Bloke supped his pint of ale. “So, how did the interview go?”

“It went OK. My head was completely fried afterwards. It was two hours long. I spoke for two hours! I am naturally talkative, but even I found that challenging.”

“When will you know the results?”

I hesitated. “Thing is … I already know the results …”

He raised his eyebrows in expectation. “Oh?”

“I got the job.”

A sexy smile crept across his face. “I am so happy for you. And, I am happy for me too.”

I was stunned. I’m sure my smile beamed. “Thanks.” I felt very strange right then, unaccustomed to the sensation of shyness.

I returned to Dublin the next day, slowly and gradually communicating my news to friends. Events were slowly settling in my own head. Since then, I have handed in my notice at work. I am due to finish my job 15th July; the same day the lease ends on the apartment.

I fancy the arse off London Bloke. As sad – or hopeful – as it sounds, I have not felt like this about anyone in years. I no longer feel dead from the waist down.

I never subscribed to the “whatever is meant for you won’t pass you by” train of thought. In my opinion, our lives are what we make them. Recent events have caused me to wonder if sometimes, now and again, things just go right and fall tidily into place.

It’s really quite nice when this happens.