Sunday, 6 January 2013

42. Even the pale sun can't cheer this garden up

I am standing on a balcony at a conference centre on the edge of town. The balcony overlooks a garden which looks as if it was mathematically designed by a taste computer. Gravelled paths wind among meek shrubs and inoffensive flowers to a pond in the middle. The pond is a perfect rectangle and doubtlessly contains a carefully calculated number of middle-of-the-road fish. You couldn't take off all your clothes and run giggling around that pond, or have sex on that perfect grass, or play hide-and-seek in those bushes. Why would you want to? It wouldn't be any fun. Even the pale sun can't cheer this garden up.

Inside, the centre is much the same; a lot of magnolia walls, red drapes, and large pale wood tables around which people daily debate many things of no importance or interest to anyone.

This is the company's launch event Boring. It has been organised by me, and it is due to start in about an hour. There has been a surprising amount of media interest. Even after a decade doing this job I find it hard to predict what stories reporters will want to cover, but I have to say I think it's a bit odd. However, it makes me look good, so I'm not going to argue with them.

I run through my checklist. Mental checklists are all very well, and I have those as well, but I prefer a physical list. I have it on a clip board.

Press packs in blue folders, designed to contain every piece of information I can crowbar in so reporters will be stunned into silence while digesting them and be less likely to ask hard questions; 20. It's very unlikely there will be more than 10 reporters who turn up to cover this event - if that - but I believe in covering my ass.

Primary interviewee; here, and on the soft drinks (no champagne until after the interviews are done on pain of pain)

Backup interviewee in case the first one gets drunk, gets ill or spontaneously combusts five minutes before a live TV interview; here and also on the soft drinks.

Catering; arrived and in order.

Wine; arrived and in order.

Flowers and decorations; arrived and in order.

Plates and glasses; arrived and in place.

Napkins, did I sort out the fucking napkins? I panic for a moment. Yes, I did.

I run through the event order again in my head. Speeches, toast, cows, interviews, then I can let them all loose on the buffet, fireworks, close. My part of the job will effectively be over after the interviews so I will allow myself a glass of champagne. Perhaps more than one. Obviously it does not do to be drunk at these kind of events - at least not until everyone else is drunker - but I'm not going to turn down free alcohol.

I wonder if I have a text from Chris. I've left my phone in my bag because I don't want the distraction. It's been four days since he contacted me; is that too long? What does it mean? Is he not interested, or playing me? Should I text him? I know I will text him, and then I'll feel bad about it because it will feel like he's got power over me, which he has.

In the middle of these ruminations my earpiece pings and informs me that the contractors we hired to fence in the cows have unilaterally decided to hang a giant and garishly coloured advert for themselves on the fencing. This was not what we agreed.

I ring the head of the contractors and ask politely if it can be taken down. He says it is a good advertising opportunity for his firm. I say I appreciate that and thanks for all your great work, but it wasn't discussed and is not in keeping with the overall aesthetic. He says that it is common practice for his firm to advertise on projects they work on and they generally do so. I say that's fine but he should have told me they planned this when we were negotiating the fencing. He says it is staying up. I say of course we are happy to oblige, especially after all the help they have given us, but it is not fair to other advertisers who have to pay to use space on the fencing if we let him advertise for free so if he wants to keep the advert up we will expect him to knock £2000 off the overall price of the fencing. He says there aren't any other advertisers hanging adverts on the fence. I say that if there were, they would be paying £2000 for the privilege. He agrees to take it down.

Lynn from the Overworked Department opens the door to the balcony. "Alice!" she says. "I've been looking everywhere. We have a problem."

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