Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The One

Tired and happy. I love that feeling and that's how I felt when I snuggled down on my sofa last night after a lovely weekend in Paris. Babs and I took advantage of the long weekend and my parents' hospitality to go over and shop for a bridesmaid dress.

To tell you the truth, I'm not a keen shopper. I get bored, hot and restless very quickly and am generally a huge pain the arse to be around. But when you're shopping with your best friend to find yourself a bridesmaid dress for her wedding, it quickly turns into something special.

Deep down we were both a little worried that we wouldn't find anything suitable and that by the end of the weekend we would have reached a state of blind panic grabbing desperately at a selection of hideous dresses in the hope that they "might look good on". If we couldn't find anything in Paris where life appears to be one long catwalk and there are more shops than is necessarily a sensible idea, then we were probably fucked. Outwardly though, each for the sake of the other, we were both pretty
blasé about the whole thing, dismissing the pressure with parisian style shoulder shrugs.

As it turned out we found the dress we wanted about fifty metres into Galerie La Fayette, Paris' most famous department store and our first stop of the day. We both fell in love with it the minute we saw it and new immediately it was "the one". However, the Fates, it seemed, weren't going to let us have it as easy as that. The dress was the right size, but they had sold out of the colour we'd fallen for. We went to the champagne bar to steel ourselves for a trek across Paris in search of the exact model we wanted. Fortified somewhat by the bubbly (it was a special occasion after all) we headed to Printemps, another big department store next door, where it turned out they had the dress in both the wrong size and the wrong colour. Strike one!

So far we'd been visiting department stores where this particular designer had a small outlet. Next we hiked to the other side of Paris to visit the main shop itself where we were confident that they would have what we were looking for. Alas it wasn't to be. Right colour, wrong size. Strike two!

Disheartened, we asked one of the shop assistants to call around the other stores in Paris to find out if any of them had what we wanted. Our luck was in. The last big Parisian department store, Bon March
é, had the only dress in our size AND colour in the whole of Paris. They put it to one side for us and we hurried over to claim our prize!

Delighted with our find and surprized that we'd completed our mission so quickly, the rest of the weekend was spent strolling around putting the world to rights instead of in the mounting state of hysteria we'd both been secretly dreading.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Breast friends?

It was one of those everyday encounters you have with someone who crosses your path from time to time in the ordinary course of things. I don't know her well. In fact I barely know her at all, but it just so happened that we were sharing ten minutes together over a cup of tea, steeped in the sort of politeness that comes only with unfamiliarity. The conversation was peppered with What Do You Do's and Oh Really's as we passed the time of day.

Gradually I became aware of a sense of discomfort within me. I'm a talker, a bit of a charmer and can usually talk my way into and out of most situations. And yet at this particular moment I was clamming up and my conversation was at once both manic and stilted. Something about this woman was making me distinctly nervous and I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

And then suddenly, there it was. I waited a moment, and there it was again. This woman kept stealing glances at my breasts whenever it was my turn to speak. She would ask me a question and then stare at my boobs while I answered it. I moved my arm casually up to play with my necklace but it didn't seem to inhibit her in any way.

It was a particularly strange experience. My gaydar hadn't even remotely flickered in her direction, and nothing else about her suggested that she preferred the company of women, and yet something about my chest was overwhelmingly fascinating to her. I even got the impression that she was aware of what she was doing and was slightly embarrassed about it herself.

I made my excuses and carried on with my day, feeling somewhat bemused.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Good Life?

If I've learned anything recently it's that the rat race is an incredibly comfortable place to be. You know how much your next pay cheque is and when you're going get it, you know where you'll be tomorrow (and the next day, and the next), your alarm goes off at the same time every morning so that you can catch the 8.10 to Charing Cross, and someone else takes care of your tax, national insurance, pension and, very often, your lunch. No wonder it took me so long to get out!

I'd like to say I haven't looked back, but that would be a lie. In fact I didn't properly get out until last month. Since January I've been working as a freelance consultant to top up my income from the charity. In terms of my career it was by far the nicest project I've been involved with. The people there made it an enjoyable experience, but deep down I knew that I wanted out of marketing altogether.

So here I am, a part-time helpline manager, a freelance writer, and a student. It sounds good and it certainly doesn't feel bad, but it's a hell of a lot harder than I thought it would be. For a start, I'm broke. Really broke. Furthermore, (cue Darth Vader music) I've just spent the last two weeks filling in my tax return, an experience I'm glad I don't have to repeat for another twelve months. Above all, though, I've discovered that it's a hell of a lot harder to get a mortgage broker to take you seriously as a freelance writer than it is as a marketing manager. Tell me, do I have the words "Financially Inviable" written all over my face or something?