Posted by: Vicky V | September 30, 2009

Sub optimal conditions

I have a problem with situations and things being less than “optimal”.

By which I mean I cannot tolerate things that have either only got half way there, or have overshot their “prime marker point”. Examples of this are; half baked cheese soufflé (try twice baked in chocolate); burnt toast (cancerous, gross); people who are too nice (what are they hiding?); dry toothpaste (lazy with the cap); people who describe a situation as “pretty good” (get off the fence).

Maybe it’s just that I have a problem with adjectives.

Whatever, I am in a “sub optimal situation” with Suze and the wedding issue. Having campaigned all week for pole position (bribes included muffins, frozen yoghurt, quite a lot of schnaps) she told me last night that she’d be really delighted if Gabriella and I would “share” the best woman duties.

How half-baked, burnt, too nice, dry and on the fence, is that?

Sharing these duties will make it look like Gabriella and I spend an equal amount of time investing in our friendship with Suze. We don’t. Where was Gabriella when Suze was shouting at the tv screens in Dixons like a tramp after too many Strongbows? Where was Gabriella when Suze discovered that Ian had been putting out with Sheila, the office ho?

Could it get any worse? Yes. Suze has planned a get together this weekend for all the “best people” to brainstorm initial wedding ideas. And I can’t go. I have a long standing date with the family to celebrate Socially Compromised Aunty Lesley’s sixtieth. It’s been booked for months.

So, Gabriella, who is too nice (see above for more sub optimal gun shots) will be there to style the plans at an early stage.

I’m going to be like the last remaining chicken breast in a packet of two. A packet that was bought by a single person who cooked the first one in a delightful yoghurty, garlicky sauce and left the other one to rot away because the single person was having too much fun to come back home and cook it later in the week. Totally less than optimal.

I wanted to call up Gabriella and quiz her about how much she actually knows about Suze.

But instead, I said “Yes Suze, whatever you say Suze. I’m sorry I won’t be there. Gabriella will do a fabulous job. The important thing is that it’s YOUR day.”

Posted by: Vicky V | September 26, 2009

I will fight to protect my honour

Suze is engaged.

Ian proposed in a Greek restaurant by hiding the ring in a plate of calamari and waiting until she found it. Small mercy he didn’t go for the crown of thorns design he favoured, or else Suze may have scoffed it down and not lived to see another day. As it happened, Suze found the ring (the simple yet stylish gold and ruby design I advised she might like) and spent some time cleaning all the grease and tartar sauce off it before bursting into tears and saying yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Barf.

I was invited over to the engaged couple’s flat the following night for some “celebratory drinks with our bestest friends”. I was expecting to see Ian’s best friend, Yawningly Dull Simon who speaks in one long sentence about himself, has a passion for guns and hair wax and owns a cutting edge gallery in South Africa. I was not expecting to see Gabriella Munroe (daughter of my parents friends the Munroes). Perfectly nice Gabriella with unspeakably long blonde Timotei hair and a history with Suze that started when they were embryos. I knew they shared a passion for Boules and family holidays in Germany but still, that doesn’t qualify you for the category Bestest Friend. You can only have one bestest friend and hello? I am it.

I tried to bring this up with Suze in the kitchen as she shoved more M & S sausage rolls into the oven between breaking down in tears of joy but we were interrupted by the tinkle of a champagne glass being bashed with a spoon. Gabriella was making a SPEECH. Again. She needs to check the list of qualifications required to be a best friend. Making speeches is NOT ON THE LIST.

I have been topsy turvy since then. Waiting by the phone for Suze’s call to officially ask me to be All-Round Chief Maid Of Everything To Do With Her Wedding. I was in a particularly anxious state yesterday when a withheld number came through to me at work. There are only two people it could have been. My bank or Suze calling from work so I answered it immediately.

Correction, there are now only three people it could have been.

“Hello darling, I knew you’d pick up if I dialed 141 first. I never seem to get through to your mobile.”

It was my mother. And she’d managed to work out how I avoid her calls.

“The Munroes told me that darling Suzie got engaged. How marvellous for her.”

Cunning woman. She got me at my weakest moment. I told her about the drinks party and my concerns about Gabriella being Maid of Honour.

“I don’t know why you’re so upset about this. Your grandmother always said a maid of honour should be three things. Married, honorable and responsible. Well, darling, what more can I say? Gabriella has been married over two years now. You’re a late starter. And do, darling DO remember that the Munroes and Suzie’s parents have been going to bloody Gylndebourne together since you were in nappies. Weddings are very political things my darling. You’ll understand that one day. When you get round to it. Just be thankful you’re not in a scenario with that Martin chap. Gabriella, such a nice face.”


This is war. I am not going to be usurped by Gabriella. This is the only chance I’ll ever have to be a Maid of Honour. I am Suze’s best friend. Everyone knows that.

So today I spent several hours online and compiled a list. I will bombard Suze with compliments, suggestions and presents until she caves in and gives me the job.

This is war. But it is not, and I repeat not, in any way competiting. I am not breaking any rules. I am just fighting to maintain the status quo and I need to bring out the big guns to do it.

The first cannon ball will be this rather lovely stand of cupcakes.


Posted by: Vicky V | September 22, 2009

Tavi Gevinson inspires opinion

The Fashion World has fallen head over Lanvin Wood Wedge heels for 13 year blogger Tavi Gevinson.

I told Suze about how Tavi had appeared on the cover of Pop and now sits in the front row at all the catwalk shows with the world’s biggest fashion editors, when she should be hanging out with her school Maths buddies and jabbing them in the arm with a compass.

Suze rolled her eyes and said she’d known about Tavi Gevinson “for effing months now Vicky”, that I should try and pick up a newspaper once in a while, that I was in the minority at school for attacking people with my compass and that frankly I should be applauding the fashion industry for being so honest about heeding the opinions of a schoolgirl.

Suze didn’t draw a single breath before going on to say that where she works people frequently have the opinions of a five year old and she’s expected to listen to them because they wear a suit and carry a Freedom Pass.
Think about it Vicky, she said, with scary gin sizzled eyes, fashion is an interesting place to be because people are trying to compete creatively and when that happens THERE ARE NO RULES.

Then she drained her massive gin glass and said “You know what I think? You pretend to hate your job, when actually you are fascinated by it. You’re about to be sucked into the big glitzy wardrobe in the sky my friend”.

Posted by: Vicky V | September 21, 2009

Banger in the oven

Less than 24 hours after turning on my leopard print boot and exiting London Fashion Week, I found myself back in the forecourt of Somerset House on Saturday lunchtime.

It wouldn’t have happened if my friend The Box of Wine hadn’t convinced me I’d missed out on two things that Friday night. The first was Zack (I spent some time virtually stalking him on Google streetview) and the second was an exhibition that could have been the most interesting event of my yawningly dull fashion career so far. I’d missed a party for All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, an exhibition designed to expand the narrow vision of beauty offered by the fashion world, by featuring models aged 16 to 65 in size 8 to 16 wearing outfits created by young London designers.

I figured that maybe the fashion world was more interesting than I gave it credit for, so I popped along to Somerset House with my all access pass (still with traces of Zack’s DNA on it). Dressed in my best casual chic (denim plus new M & S neck scarf) and bare yet dewy makeup, in case I bumped into Zack. Armed with a studded truncheon in case I bumped into in Nuclear Waste of Space Karen.

Typical. The only person I wasted my new barely there blusher on was the yawning grouchy chasm that is Ben. Weird, difficult to talk to, Ben. At least he wasn’t wearing a cravat. Just a rather naff looking aertex shirt and jeans that were too high waisted for a man.

I dispensed with the small talk and dived straight into why I was there. Told him I was hugely in support of an industry that encouraged individuality. He knocked back his espresso (again, like the cravat – what’s the point?). He said he completely disagreed, that the standards set by the fashion industry encouraged healthy competition between models to look as good as they could because clothes fundamentally looked better on thin people. Then he said, and I quote;

“There’s a reason coat hangers are made out of wire and not your standard string of breakfast sausages.”
I immediately found myself wondering whether the first thing he thought when he walked over to me was “Vicky’s legs look like a couple of Porkinson’s Bangers in those ankle boots”.

Anyway, once I’d got over myself I was APPALLED. Caps effing lock.

“Don’t you think it’s masochistic, making these girls compete for the grave when fashion is all about individualism and self expression? They should be trying their hardest to look different from each other” I pulled against my polyester scarf which was making me sweat and itch.

He replied coolly “Take off your naïve, milk bottle bottomed glasses and go and consult The Sunday Times Rich List. Fashion pops up a few times. Bones sell clothes, Vicky.” And with that, he turned on his over-pointy brogues.

Posted by: Vicky V | September 18, 2009

London Fashion Weakness

My first London Fashion Week began today. And it was “fierce”. In all respects.

I had been expecting to provide my usual administrative services to the office; being the Cinderella to everyone else’s Ugly Sister as they swanned around central London dressed in Balmain and supporting our clients through parties and catwalk shows. I’d already ordered a container load of ibuprofen and interesting water (i.e rehydration with enough of a novelty factor to make stressed and overtired models feel like they were eating something for a change).

I’d even carried out my own Pepsi challenge on the water with Bernard (Badoit – too salty, Highland Spring –too belchy, Evian – too French) ending up with Fiji water flavoured with fresh limes (less than one cal and the Hawaiian pattern on the bottle is relaxing to look at).

I was on my way to the loo for the sixth time since arriving at the office, when Cream Horn grabbed me by my M & S lapel (a pleasant, purple blazer), tells me to borrow something a bit more “fierce” and rush down to Somerset House to provide support to Zack who flew back in from NYC this morning and “is at his wits end”.

When my heart had re-started, I set to raiding the makeup drawers and wardrobe. Maybe I was being mindful of the last time I saw him, maybe it was CH’s use of the term “fierce”, I don’t know, but I gathered as much animal print as I could find (scarf, leggings and boots) and hot footed it down to Somerset House, applying as much touché éclat and blusher as my excitable little face could hold.

Karen greeted me as I got out of the cab. “Greeted” is too generous a term. Rather she swayed on her shoes (with heels that looked banisters), waved a mini Moet in my face and told me I looked like a giraffe. Ben rushed up, looking a bit bedraggled (who wears a cravat nowadays?), muttered something about Karen overdoing the sauce and shuffled me off in the direction of the catwalk show at which our client Lydia Markhova was about to make her debut. You may remember Lydia as the model I found at Alternative Fashion Week and who ended up being Karen’s first client.

Zack was standing at the entrance to the tent, looking even better than when I last saw him (dark circles under his eyes just made him look even more powerful. He was probably taped to his ibook the whole flight. Too important to stop working. He is amazing). He greeted me coldly, said I looked rather hot and passed me a mini Moet to “cool down”. I must have overdone the blusher.
Clown Face
I was shuffled off towards Lydia again. When I eventually found her (having fought my way through asphyxiating hairspray and champagne fumes) she was collapsed in a sodden, tearful mess. She’d ripped the drapery of her black Victoriana gown and couldn’t find either Karen (drunk) or the designer (having a meltdown with a model who was refusing to have her leg hair removed on principle).

So I found some dress pins and set to work. It was near impossible to make the very heavy velvet hang where it was supposed to and my fingers were red raw just trying. Vicky Cinderella Victorious, I sang to myself, as I arranged the fabric in loops and drapes around her neck and pinned it to her shoulder straps.

Cut to half an hour later when the show had finished. Lydia was a massive hit. And so was the designer. The audience whooped and cheered and I kept hearing people say how utterly “fierce” Lydia’s dress was!

I had to leave, get back to normality. But, as if out of nowhere, like he’d hovered up behind me on a cushion of air, Zack appeared. Up close. Like, invading my personal space close. Except it was a welcome invasion. A bit like standing next to a radiator when you’ve been rolling in the snow. All that running around, the heat of the room, the nylon leggings, all that makeup, the chemistry… I had to make a quick exit otherwise I was going to sweat my way to embarrassment city.

And then Karen swung round the corner, caught sight of us and mouthed the words “don’t you dare”.

In a flash I remembered Meredith. I remembered my resolve not to compete. And I turned on my heel to leave, but not before Zack has pressed a party pass into my hand and asked me to stay.

And now I am at home, having left one of my leopard print boots at the ball.

I’ve just noticed that the pass lasts all week. But can I?

Posted by: Vicky V | September 15, 2009

Cake Walk

Sometimes you need to spin out memories like you eat a good chocolate cake (moist milk chocolate sponge; ganache icing; border of Maltesers. Or maybe Revels. Clean. i.e. no cream / ice cream / fruit / custard).

A bit like this, but even more chocolatey

A bit like this, but even more chocolatey

These memories are with Boss Zack who was definitely flirting with me at the away-day party. I am 100% sure as I’d only drunk two jungle juices and could still stand on one foot (which I tested with Bernard when we were outside sharing a Rothmans).

Zack is in New York now so for the meantime I’m left to get all hypoglaecemic on the memories. When I’m low and bored sometimes I’ll just shove the whole memory cake into my gob in one sitting. Other times, when I’m commuting into work, I’ll feed myself little crumbs in between trying to finish Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur by Richard Branson.

A few little crumbs: He fixes me with his ebony eyes across the room while I am organising the jungle juice cocktail refills because the waitress in charge has tripped over her animal print and bruised her big toe. I ignore it and presume he’s eye-balling Karen who is making it up to Cream Horn for ruining her Balmains. But Karen moves and he’s still holding my gaze.

A bite: He puts his hand on mine while handing over a shot of tequila.

A big, fat slice: I think he asks me to come back to his flat but I can’t be sure because I’m trying too hard to hear what he’s saying. And then Ben joins us and the two of them start talking about people I’d never heard of. Then I try not to remember the next bit which is like finding a beetle in your cake slice; the bit where I try and leave the conversation because I feel like a spare part who knows no one and nothing. I bend down as if to readjust my shoe and plan to slink away while still at ground level. But they both notice and think there’s something wrong with me. I tell them the jungle juice is a bit acidic and turn to leave. Zack pinches my bum. I am not offended. It is AMAZING. The beetle walks off my cake slice.

The whole cake is this: I imagine that when he eventually returns from NYC, he’s missed me so much he proposes immediately. I get to live in an amazing flat on Regents’ Park with a gorgeous and successful man and can retire from the assistant/receptionist role I currently inhabit because no one would put the bosses wife in that position.

I have inadvertently moved in on Karen’s territory. But she stitched me up. So now we’re equal.

Posted by: Vicky V | September 13, 2009

Reversal of fortune

I love food. How it tastes, looks, can change my mood and make me walk quicker to the supermarket. When I need an instant pick me up I’ll reach for a GU cheesecake and put this on repeat:

How, then, did I end up working in an office that survives on nothing but hot air and vitamin water?

While I was searching for a theme for the office away day, it occurred to me that a reintroduction to the joy of trans-fats and sugar was going to be the best way of kick starting a lethargic, credit crunched office. There’s something exhausting about watching your colleagues go to great lengths to avoid a packet of rice cakes.

It was time to give these under-nourished bodies exactly what they need to feel excited again.

On the morning of the away day I replaced the usual morning skinny caps with full fat Monmouth lattes and platters groaning with pancakes, maple syrup and pain au chocolate. Like the first person on the dance floor at a wedding, Bernard dived into a plate of Danish pastries (god knows his little whittled ankles need them) and everyone followed suit. Minutes later, the room was buzzing with energy. Apart from Cream Horn, who just looked nervous and hunted. But that’s probably because I’d seated her next to a plate of pointy pastries that looked like her.

Next up was the rounders match in Regents Park which was greeted with enthusiastic applause by everyone apart from Karen who said she wasn’t sure she remembered how to walk, let alone run, in anything lower than a four inch heel. We thought she was joking until the game started and we witnessed the zig-zaggy hobble that gained a violent and directionless momentum and culminated in a crash with Cream Horn.

CH was a bit bruised and shocked but mostly annoyed that her Balmain jeans were now ripped in all the wrong places.

I had been most anxious about the evening party. My heart was in my mouth as everyone poured into the bar and beheld the sounds of monkey cries, waitresses in leopard print serving vats of jungle juice cocktail and projections of lions and tigers on the wall. Rather than the excitable cheer I had been expecting, there were hushed and appalled whispers. Bernard took me to one side and asked me how it had escaped my notice that Zack is an ardent supporter of animal rights and that fake animal skins are nothing more than offensive and tasteless to him.

Karen was responsible for this. How could I have fallen for her games? I made mental voodoo dolls of her and drowned her in vats of chip fat.

Just as I thought the ground was going to open up and swallow me whole, Ben cut through the atmosphere by turning off the monkey soundtrack and declaring how clever it was to interpret the workplace as an animal kingdom, after all, office politics started off in the jungle! Everyone laughed. I thanked him. He told me to do my research better next time.

Then I took my place in a dark corner with Bernard and a jungle juice and watched as Queen Lion made her lowly meer cat subject bow and scrape and earn back her respect for ruining her denims.

As I got up to leave, Zack approached me. He put his hand over mine and asked me to stay for one more jungle juice. I could have sworn I heard him roar.

Posted by: Vicky V | August 24, 2009

Testing times

Today, my professional busyness caused me to experience “flow”, otherwise known as forgetting about:

Marcus & The Art Slut (an unfortunate situation which, one day, will double-up as the title of my best-selling autobiography)
– my blood coloured Council Tax bill
– being dumped by my best friend for the institution of marriage (although it hasn’t happened yet)
– a bitter economic climate
– my grabby, blabby mother

Can the temporary eradication of all things vexatious mean that I have found a way of being happy? Do I just have to tap into my Away Day spread-sheets to get chirpy once again?

I opened a bottle of peach schnaps and searched the web for an article that would test this bold assumption:

1. Guardian says: “Be positive”.

Life is totally amazing because I am young, free, single and into spreadsheets at the moment. There, that was easy. Score: one point. Then deduct 25% because people who justify their happiness (e.g someone who says John / Frank / Jermaine etc. loves being married to me because I am such an independent and colourful personality) are really smug. Revised score: 0.75

2. Guardian says “Be brave”.

I have thrown myself into work and not shirked any friendship responsibilities. I am rising above my troubles with Karen and making an ally rather than an enemy of her. Score: One point. But I have ignored my mother’s calls now for one week and Marcus’ Facebook profile is still my homepage. Revised score: Nil

3. Guardian says “Meditate”.

I can’t do this. I have tried on several occasions, although it’s a useful break in the day to make my shopping list. Score: 0.25 points for slowing down.

4. Guardian says “Be Kind to Self”.

Well, I’m drinking schnaps as a treat. I don’t really like it but I figured it would make me happier than drinking mother’s ruin. I also have a nice poached “counting the calories” chicken meal for one waiting for me in the microwave. Oh yes, poached chicken is like sucking on the ragged bottoms of my bin-juice sodden jeans. Score: nil.

5. Guardian says “Use your pessimism

I have absolutely no problem with using my pessimism to drink away the rest of the evening. Once I’ve replaced schnaps with Mother’s ruin. Score: one point three million

6. Guardian says “Find a calling. We need love, work and a connection to something larger. Get these conditions right, then wait.”

Quite clear that organising an office away-day is not the calling I thought it was earlier in the evening. I will consider buying a nun’s habit and a noose of rosary beads if all else fails. Score: 0.25 points for intention.

7. Guardian says “Act happy”.

Any hope of that was blown away with the existence of this vexatious test.

Total score: Nil points out of like, whatever.

I have always thought that the only real way to tell if someone is happy is by the volume of their voice in a pub.

Posted by: Vicky V | August 19, 2009

It’s no sacrifice

2 days until D-Day Away-Day and all I’ve eaten for the last week is food shaped like a circle (pizza, mini baby bel) and a rectangle (over-salted crap in a box).

Lack of fundamental nutrients and D-day stress might have accounted for my fraught trip with Ian to choose Suze’s engagement ring.

It was all quite pleasant until he picked out something that looked like a crown of thorns. I laughed and said that marriage was sacrifice enough without having something jabbing into your finger reminding you of that fact everyday. Then I laughed hard and said have you got my old friend Suze mixed up with Jesus by any chance?

I looked hard for the smile on Ian’s face but it had gone a trip to a land where everyone is miserable and eats coal.
I straightened myself up and tried another tack. Look Ian, Suze is a Gap jeans and t-shirt functional girl. She doesn’t care about fussy ornamentation. She had her ears pieced when she was eight and has never worn earnings. If you want my advice, get her something simple yet attractive.

He sounded like he’d eaten a lemon when he said he felt his choice was the bitter-sweet-multi-dimensional symbol of the reality of any marriage. Ever-lasting and sometimes painful.

I snapped and said why don’t you just get her a nice ring and beat her with a paddle every day if that’s how you see it?

He replied that it wasn’t up to me anyway. He said it wasn’t about how long I’d known Suze, it was about who they were together.

I shut up then. And as I pootled off to my empty flat it occurred to me that was one argument I was never going to win.

Posted by: Vicky V | August 7, 2009

Laws of the jungle

Getting an e-mail from Karen this morning was like:

a) When your staple gun runs out of staples
b) Your computer freezes
c) Your mother calls in the middle of the working day

i.e. NOT the right time. I am, as they say, “under the cosh”. I have been working my fingers to the bone to get this away day sorted out and have managed to book everything but the bar. The last thing I needed was interruption by Karen of all witches.

Her e-mail read:

Subject: Glum, glum, glumerama drama
From: Karen
Date: 7 August, 2009

Darling, can’t help but notice you’ve been looking lower than Bernard’s salary. I don’t like to pry but I saw you make a ham (?) sandwich soggy with your tears the other day. What say I pop out and buy you something more robust like a biscotti to cheer you up? Know how you love them. K.

No sooner had I composed a hard hitting and sarcastic reply than she’d draped herself over my desk like an expensive fur and plonked down a grande latte and biscotti.

It looked delicious. It was exactly what I felt like. And I was caught unawares by this surprising act of random generosity as a time of extreme work stress. Furthermore, when I wasn’t lying prone and frothing at the mouth three sips later, I was certain she hadn’t poisoned me.

And so Karen and I had the first civil chat since we met each other. She was so charming I even found myself talking about Marcus leaving me.

She empathised with me. Told me how she felt used and abandoned by the man she kept going back to time and again. I did not let on I knew it was Zack.

She let slip that Zack had a love of all things animal; fur, feathers, leather, that kind of thing.
She said there was a bar in Soho decorated with leopard print that he loved to go to. She gave me the number in case I was ever looking for somewhere to go for a drink after work.

It gave me an idea. I’d hire that bar in Soho for our “away day” and give the shin-dig a “jungle” theme. I’d order in jungle cocktails and hire waitresses in leopard print.

Impress the boss and have a great party.

What a great day it turned out to be.

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