Thursday, July 31, 2008

He says, she says

I actually wrote this in a notebook last night because the internet had died at zuzula/mc towers. I originally intended to scan the paper and post that here instead of typing… but sadly the illegibility of my writing outweighs the authenticity of the post itself. So, this is what I wrote….

MC has ‘the boys’ round tonight (well, two of them. One very charming, who arrived bearing rose wine, the other a little more aloof. He hasn’t once made eye contact with me. Hmm). They have retired to the lounge, which has now become a den of kronenberg, leftover pizza, male guffawing and Rambo on DVD.

I, on the other hand, am reclining on the closest thing we have to a chaise longue, in the kitchen. I’m listening to Edith Piaf, leafing through Grazia magazine (which I generally find to be a mildly pointless read but it makes me feel stylish), enjoying a large glass of rose (see? charming) and having a very pleasant conversation on the phone with my grandmother about the delights of English honey.

So, the gender divide is alive and well… and actually I wouldn’t have it any other way. I really am getting old.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Man, it's hard having two jobs. Apologies to you all for neglecting you for over a week - you have been in my thoughts but I just haven't had a second to put virtual pen to paper and check in. However, as I sit here on a balmy Monday evening, approaching a 13 hour shift, working flat out on a publication which I swear would go to print more quickly if we were engraving it onto rocks (I'll leave you to guess which job I'm talking about), I have decided to take a mental cigarette break out here on my little internet fire escape.

I have learned a great deal this week. Firstly, you would not believe the motivational powers of a washboard-stomached, Parisian ex-streetdancing personal trainer called Thierry. How on earth else did I manage to sprint on the treadmill for half an hour and emerge with a smile at the end? Alas, this was a one-off free trial, and as he is usually £50 an hour I shall never again gaze into those big brown eyes and hear him say, in his husky French twang: 'Zuzula, you can do more than you think you can. Never forget that'. I won't, Thierry, I won't.

With this in mind I have decided to say 'yes' to everything this week. So when an academic I have been chatting to about techy work stuff emailed me today with an 'open invitation' to give a guest lecture at his very prestigious London university, I forced myself to respond with 'I'd love to' before turning my brain to the petty detail of what the fuck I am going to talk about. Who knows? Jack Kerouac wrote On The Road as a stream of consciousness from deep inside a haze of benzadrine. Perhaps I can attempt something similar. I won't, of course. But it's a nice thought.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

looking up

I’m loving the new blog job. After a busy day my blog boss thanked me for my hard work and told me I was ‘brilliant’. I floated out of work into the rain feeling fantastic. I can’t remember the last time my other boss said anything remotely complimentary to me. I think he once told me I was a strange mixture of brilliance and pathos (whatever that means), which didn’t have quite the same impact.

I decided to share this blog with the blog boss in the interests of openness (and also, let’s be honest, in the interests of not getting caught out, he is a blogger after all); I think he wishes I hadn’t. He said he ‘started to read it…’ and then trailed off at which point I realised that all the Angry Cervix talk probably wasn’t his ideal choice of lunchtime relaxation. If you are reading this, Blog Boss, apologies. I should have warned you that you might end up knowing more about me than is strictly necessary.

Anyway this week is turning out to be a corker. I am officially healthy and MC is finally getting the recognition he deserves at work. We are off to the seaside again this weekend (we may sound like minibreak maniacs but I have to make the most of it: MC only has free weekends for a few weeks at a time so it’s essential for me to drive him mad by booking them all up while I have the chance) and all is well with the world. If only I could create a hatrick of good news by winning the national lottery on Saturday night. Fingers crossed…

Monday, July 14, 2008


I have been having an internalised strop of epic proportions all day. It started badly, when despite my best attempts to get into work early, I found myself spending half an hour wildly trying on outfits and then discarding them again, wondering who had replaced my carefully coordinated capsule wardrobe with a random heap of rags.

Once I finally got into the office, I tried and failed to explain a particular intricacy of Web 2.0 to a colleague of mine, who's further up the food chain than me, only for her to tell me proudly that she didn't know what I was talking about and why should she; because after all she's never even watched a DVD before. Yes, my jaw hit the floor too.... and so did my carefully crafted feature.

I also want to book a holiday but I can't take any time off because everybody has snaffled up the summer months; we are only ever supposed to have two people off the rota at any one time which would be fair enough if it were to actually work that way in practice. Interestingly the person who organizes the thing doesn't seem that bothered about how many staff are off at the same time as her. I notice there is one day when I am in charge of exactly half the office with a full deadline to manage. I am tempted to take us all down to the pub and see what emerges at the end of it.

And finally... I'm out of cash. Fortunately payday is looming large but I spent my slush fund on getting the Angry Cervix calmed down. A necessary evil I'm afraid. It is now three weeks since the NHS promised to send me details of an appointment supposed to take place within the next 28 days. For all they know I could be dead by now.

Tomorrow will be a better day I'm sure.

Friday, July 11, 2008

sex and music

Are Arctic Monkeys successfully trying to become the new Pulp? Shooting up the ‘most played’ chart on my iPod at the moment is Fluorescent Adolescent . For some reason I never really appreciated it when it was being played to death on Radio 1 – actually that’s probably exactly why I didn’t pay it much attention. But the other day a work friend and I got very excited about a supplement in The Guardian about the lyrics of Alex Turner (yes, we are that sad) and it inspired me to pop along to iTunes and part with 79p for it (I wonder why they decided on that exact amount, by the way?)

I have a tendency to be rather snobbishly dismissive of young singer/songwriters. Especially, for some reason, the male ones. The sort who sing of love and loss when it’s blatantly obvious that the worst thing that’s ever happened to them was that time they forgot to hand in their maths homework (says this worldly-wide thirtysomething, cough). I imagine that, at the tender age of 22, young Alex is very much in the ‘fishnets’ stages of his sex life, or whatever the male equivalent is. Aussie Bum perhaps?

And yet somehow he does sound like he knows what he’s talking about. Every time I listen to the song though - and I racked up six repeats on the way to work this morning - I can’t help but think of Pulp’s track Live Bed Show.

You used to get it in your fishnets/
now you only get it in your nightdress (FA)

This bed has seen it all from the first time to the last/
The silences of now and the good times of the past (LBS)

See what I mean? Wonderful – but ultimately completely depressing, I know. Pulp of course is bleaker (well, we’re dealing with Jarvis Cocker here) but that whole idea of just not bothering anymore… I’m not looking forward to that. It’s hard to cohabit and still maintain that little air of sexy mystique (not that I ever had much of that) but it’s songs like these that make me determined to carry on trying (although MC did catch me waxing the other day – sexy? I think not).

What a load of drivel that was. Must be the eye-watering hangover that I am writing this through. Yesterday was my best friend’s birthday, and thus also the first night in a very long time that I didn’t catch the last Tube home at midnight on a school night. It’s going to be a long day.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Culture Shock

I like to think of myself as a broadminded, liberal media type. But even I sometimes find myself so stunned by human nature that I barely know how to react to it.

Case Study 1: An old friend of my dad’s, The German, was over from Europe for a few days, and invited my mother to meet him for dinner. She promptly instructed me to attend too. I don’t really remember The German much; when I was about four years old he bought me a giant cuddly frog, all wrapped in shiny pink wrapping paper, and I thought it was the best present ever. Dad always spoke of him as a wealthy, chain smoking business man with a penchant for fine wine and fast cars (and, as it turned out, my food. I think he helped himself to pretty much everything on my plate, tsk). I vaguely remember him being at dad’s funeral and thinking that he reminded me of Mr Burns from The Simpsons.

Anyway, we arranged to meet for a curry. Mum told me that day that he would be bringing his partner, who I assumed would be some glamorous fraulein dripping in diamonds. The German and dad were vaguely contemporaries in years – he must be around 60.

True to form, he was exactly as dad described (with just a hint of Mr Burnsage about him). I was however completely bowled over by the current Mrs German who, it turns out, is a twentysomething glamour model from Eastern Europe. She arrived wearing a teeny tiny denim miniskirt and a vest top cleverly angled to display maximum cleavage. She’s a non drinking, non smoking vegan with long blonde hair who speaks very little English. This is how I found out about her um, profession:

Z: So, Mrs German, do you work?
MG: oh… yes…
The German: yes, she does. You know newspapers like the Sunday Times?
Z: yes….. ah, you’re a journalist!
TG: not quite, you know they have supplements? And some of them have pictures?
Z: yes…. You’re a photographer?
TG: no… Mrs German is kind of more in front of the camera
Z: (loud crash of dropping penny): ahhhhhhhh. You’re a model
MG (huge beatific smile): oh, yes! (this is clearly the extent of her English vocabulary)

I was temporarily gobsmacked. It was all I could do to avoid asking what she saw in the aging millionaire who quite demonstrably had his hand between her modelesque thighs at that point. Mum and I laughed long and hard once we got home. And downed an extra bottle of medicinal rose to get over it all.

Case Study 2: I went to the toilet at lunchtime today for a fairly routine evacuation. Only to be followed in by an infuriating Canadian temp we seem to have acquired, who proceeded to stand by the mirror plucking out grey hairs and rather loudly making a dinner reservation while I aurally accompanied her from the stalls. Why the fuck did she have to go to the toilets to do that? At the same time as me? If I’d been her I would at least have had the decency to leave before I’d emerged to wash my hands. Ah well. I hope I put her off whatever she was planning to order.

Case Study 3: this weekend MC and I found ourselves at a fete in the Midlands village of Goadsby Marwood – a name which is surely more reminiscent of a gin-soaked member of the Victorian aristocracy than somewhere to buy homemade jam. We were alarmed to pass, on the way there, a little church in which lifesized superhero figures were tied to headstones. For no apparent reason,

The ‘fete’ itself consisted of walking into people’s random garage sales in the pouring rain. Perhaps the highlight was watching my friend’s dog resolutely refuse to wag his tail, thus losing out on the prestigious accolade ‘Dog With The Waggiest Tail’ in the village dog competition, the contestants of which appeared to be almost entirely plucked from judge’s own harem of pets. I found myself getting sharp pangs of longing for my London home in the comfortingly anonymous smog infested concrete jungle. That was a rural retreat too far.

Friday, July 4, 2008

the cat sat on the mat

I have spent the last 24 hours basically conducting an online writing-for-beginners class with one of our reporters. I am sure people pay dearly for these things in the real world. Perhaps I should investigate…

Anyway, this particular person has many talents. It seems though, that writing ain’t one of them which is rather unfortunate in my neck of the woods. Even more unfortunate because I am the person who usually ends up crafting her work into something less likely to give the editor a heart attack.

Sadly, she is all too aware of this. So she now has a new trick: putting absolutely everything into quotes. Perhaps she was a secretary from the 1950s in a former life; looking over her work is more like reading a dictation than an authored piece. I have mentioned this a few times but the point is not really sinking in. So yesterday I went for the Screamingly Obvious approach.

‘If I told you that the sky is blue,’ I said, ‘and you were doing a story about it, then you wouldn’t need to quote me as saying that. The sky is blue – it doesn’t matter who thinks so. If you wanted to use a quote from me I would need to say something that added some kind of background or colour or opinion, such as: ‘it’s because it isn’t raining,’ explains zuzula. Or somesuch.’

I feel like a primary school teacher. For this I spent three years studying literature. Sigh.

Ooh, in other news, I have been invited to edit a professional blog for six weeks! Predictably my boss won’t let me take a secondment so for the time being I shall effectively have two jobs, hurrah. But money for blogging… fancy that. I never thought people would want to pay me for my online witterings.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hotels from hell

When MC and I set about planning our little Welsh mini break, we found a B&B that looked perfect online. Near the town, near the sea and very reasonably priced. It was also extraordinarily difficult to book, which in my mind just made it all the more exclusive and therefore desirable. Nobody replied to our emails. The phone would ring through to a mobile which didn't have voicemail. After about 11 days of persistence (you can see where this is leading) I finally managed to speak to the manager and reserve a room. He told me that he's often 'working' in the pub and that's why he'd missed my calls. I remember thinking it was strange that he didn't seem interested in taking any contact details or, for that matter, a deposit. MC and I put it all down to rural charm and old fashioned trust.

We arrived to find ourselves in the smallest double room known to man. Turning on the sink tap in the microscopic bathroom resulted in some rather putrid smelling water coming up out of the plug hole in the shower. The door handle - which looked as if it had been attached by chewing gum - was falling off. There was also something suspiciously pube-like on one of the pillows - and on our way out that evening we noticed water flooding through the ceiling into the breakfast room from the bedroom above.
We lasted one night, on the promise of an 'upgrade' the next day. We got back to find that our suitcases lying in our uncleaned room, with the door wide open. Our new room had stained sheets. It was 11.30pm. MC and I were drunk and tired. I thought I would just close my eyes and think of The Dorchester.

But MC sprung into action and somehow secured us an amazingly swanky new room in the most gorgeous B&B ever, right across the street. The Hellhole manager saw us leaving and didn't even ask for any money. It's not usually a policy of mine to name and shame, but if you ever find yourself in the gorgeous fishing town of Tenby, play mini golf, visit the Caldey Island monks , sunbathe on the beach, drink wine in small bottles (lots of), have dinner in the Plantagenet and try not to get shat on by seagulls (unlike us) - but don't stay at The Lynmaure Hotel. Apparently one of the owners died at Christmas and the other hasn't been seen since. You have been warned...