Only just got home and it’s now 11pm. Too long a day. Work such a blur my feet no longer touch the ground. I’m conscious I’m dropping balls left right and centre due to over-work. That said, the deputy CEO surprises me when he emails me asking me to lead on a major short-term project which has big implications for the business. My nemesis – yet another woman who wants my job (the last one left, you may recall) has tried to trump me by sending emails yesterday (I was on leave) showing that she was managing this particular project. But she gets fairly short shrift today. I was hired to do a job because I have a skill-set built up over quite a few years and I’m grateful to the deputy CEO (who can be hard work on occasion) who acknowledges, as is right and proper, that this is actually something I am paid to do, that I have the expertise for. Not her – irrespective of how naked her ambition is.
I’ve never been as busy as I am right now in the 1 and a 1/4 years I’ve been at the company. I hate feeling out of control. Like I can’t do any single project to the level and quality I would like – because there is too much going on. There is not really anything I can do about it.
I have to leave early (5.45pm, which to me, who rarely now leaves before 7pm, is early) – to attend a seminar / presentation in the City with ‘peers’. Because it is at a high-end professional services firm, I have to wear a suit, something I’ve not worn at work in what feels like forever. So this morning I dig out my jet black woollen suit. The 32″ waist is so tight. I used to be so slim. I’d most likely have worn this with a belt 12 months ago. But I’ve put on a stone (14 lbs) since then. I wear my favourite formal shirt – dusky pink shot through with white lines. I get a lot of positive comments on arriving at the office. Colleagues so unused to seeing me in a suit (my dress code at work is smart casual). I feel much more confident in a smart suit. It’s like a uniform and I’ve always been able to carry off a smart, sharply cut suit. A director asks, jokingly, if I’m going for an interview. I laugh it off. The pressure around my waist elicits a ‘muffin top’ feel which is horrid. Obesity in others I neither mind or judge – but I loathe it in myself. I despise the physical manifestation of my gluttony and sloth. But where am I going to find the time to go to the gym, working these hours? And alcohol – so high in calories – remains a rare, singular and much coveted form of solace for me these days.
So I tube it to the venue this evening. A glassy, high-end, temple of an office, close to St Paul’s. Most of these prof services firms look the same. They have the same entertaining space. I sit through a 1.5 hour seminar/presentation then repair to the anteroom for drinks and ‘networking with peers’. To my horror I see someone who once interviewed me for a job I didn’t get. I avoid him. I see someone I know so I head over. We air kiss and then proceed with small talk. I’m introduced to others. I throw back several glasses of red wine. We all talk shop. We bemoan the market. We worry about a double-dip recession. Our artifice is infinite.
And I recall that in the seminar of about 70 people – I counted just 2 non-white people. I am white myself, I should add. It’s just that the sheer WASPishness of prof services never ceases to amaze me. The people are all the same. In a city with an ethnic minority population as huge as London has – 68 out of 70 people at the function are white WASPs. It’s an observation more so than a critique.
I’m introduced to more people. I glide to another part of the glassed off anteroom. More air kissing. More mindless chatter. Our professional superficiality is absolute. I reflect that this isn’t really where I want to be or what I want to be doing. It all feels so conveyor-belt like. So abidingly contrived. I am the embodiment of the Ballardian dystopian motif.
And I leave at 10pm, much later than I’d planned. I forget the long transit between Bank and Monument tube stations to connect to the Circle & District Lines. But racing through deserted tunnels, up and down endless escalators, I at last catch the tube and then my train.
On checking my phone I see, to my shock, that he who is beyond the scope of this blog has been texting me. I exiled him from my life pushing 2 years ago and still he tries. When can he see me, etc. I don’t want to see him again. I would in fact leave this city to avoid him. For the 100th time I will ignore his message and hope he doesn’t try and call the office again. He once meant the world to me and then some. Not any more, as I have said on countless occasions. And with me there are no second chances – at least not with him.
The phrase ‘year zero’ is used for a reason, you know.