Apologies for the saminess of the tone over these entries, but I really am done in. This Christmas has been hell, and despite the (amittedly surprisingly huge) bonus I received I'm still wondering if the effort was worth it.
I have little patience for Christmas customers, and whilst I appreciate that this is a service industry and I just have to grin and bear the more goombah excesses of customers (passing out, falling off tables, unconscionable lack of manners and other complaints too numerous to list) I'm finally starting to wonder whether or not my time in catering has run its course.
The exhaustion is only to be expected, but the factthat I'm sat here on my break, with an evening shift to follow and I'm drinking a rhone red to cheer myself up is cause for some concern. My self-control has always been a strength at this time of year, I'm able just to keep going regardless by avoiding booze and just shaking off the all-round fed-upness. But now...
It's just graft graft graft at the moment, leaving those few moments when I'm not actually in work free for the all important business of wolfing a quick meal down my neck (for which I thoroughly recommend frying a tin of chickpeas with an onion, cutting some chorizo into it and stirring some mustard through, takes five minutes, and time is definitely a factor as currently stands).
All writing is on hold while the season is in full swing, any which does appear is likely to be of a deeply misanthropic nature, and therefore not a great deal of cop. Everything is on hold. There is only the voracious public, and the implacable God of Catering.
In the thick of it now. first cabaret night of the season last night. Also first fight between customers *sigh*.
Now, I like drnking, but these people are ridiculous. They come out for a meal and simply cram as much booze as possible down their throats as fast as possible. Nobody, it seems to me, is actually having a good time, it's as thoughthey are controlled by dome sort of inner force which compels them to drink, and to not really care what they're drinking. Everywhere I looked round the restaurant there were drawn, ashen faces, contemplating glasses. It got even worse when the cabaret started, at the point all the self-appointed "fun people" of the office started dancing, and dragging up those who clearly just didn't want to be there. Then they'd lurch and stumble, collapsing into my hard-working staff who were trying to balance full trays of drinks at the time. "Come on! Dance! It's Christmas!" Yes it is, and I'm working why can you im…
You can always tell in catering when the festive season is rolling around. Table sizes go up from four to about eight. The wine stays largely untouched, sales of lager and alcopops go through the roof. It's depressing, but that's the nature of the beast. I'm not working in a high-end restaurant, I work in a bistro, and at this time of year the awful reality of that is works dos. All of our regulars, the ones who normally I'd stop and chat to, maybe recommend a new wine I've got in, the ones who ask you what's good today, or how your girlfriend is, whose family histories I know better than my own, sensibly stay away.
In their place come companies nights out. Cowrokers who may hate each other normally and a boss they barely know lumped togther and forced to have a good time on company money. Some things are ineivitable. A secretary will get pissed and start crying. The boss will attempt to cop off with someone. I will get my arse grabbed. They will demand festive…
So tonight's the end of year reading bash for my research group, and it'll be held at Liverpool's Masque Theatre. As is always the case on the morning of a reading I have an open word document containing god knows ho wmany texts, and I'm struggling to select a few to do, with ineivitable quick rewrites. I was too busy to finish it last month because of NaNoWriMo, and last night was taken up with very important girlfriend-seeing duties, so I have nothing, as currently stands. I could do with spending the rest of the day working on it, however I have to go to work, as of approximately...now. Ah.
So some friends and I went to Manchester tonight to see Eddie Izzard at the MEN Arena, and it all went off, surprisingly, without a hitch. Travel went smoothly, everything went according to plan. Which was all a bit surprising.
The gig itself was little short of astonishing. Less the performance itself (whilst I like Izzard's stuff I found him rather reliant on repeating tropes to get a laugh out of an exceedingly compliant audience. I think I actually sneered when he got a huge round of applause for some vague anti-foxhunting joke), more the sheer scale of the thing. I've been to rock concerts on a bigger scale, but to see a comedy performance on this scale was just plain strange, one of my friends nearly had an attack of vertigo, so steep were the sides of the arena.
What was fascinating was to hear the sound of laughter on that scale. The slow build of a laugh in thousand upon thousand of people. It was pretty impressive. I could use words like "awe-inspiring" an…
So say you went to a restaurant with the intention of getting away without paying. It's pretty easy to do, waiting on staff won't challenge people leaving, they'll assume they've paid. It's left to the pooor hectic soul on the till to work out who's paid and who hasn't, and the odds are they'll be locked into an argument with a middle aged man who's insisting that as it's his mate (who's already paid)'s birthday they should refund the entire bill and give it to him to pay, and he's not leaving until they do etc etc because he eats here all the time yawn yawn and he's spent a lot of money here tonight (note: 80% of people who speak of "how much money they've spent " querying the bill have bought the cheapest meal possible. It's one of those things, like rain on your wedding day, black flies in your chardonnay or something equally imbecilic). So say you'd weighed up the odds and thought, "yeah, I can do t…
I've started playing squash. I feel like a fucking yuppie. Soon I'll be saying things like "I've definitely been earmarked for the board." "That's thinking outside the box!" and "We need to realise our resources". God help me.
Well it's trundling along at a fair old lick at the moment, of course I've had to abandon anything even remotely resembling a life for the duration (though that will end on the weekend when I shall be lavishing hundreds of pounds on Roe's birthday celebrations huzzah! huzzah! huzzah!. We'll be going for dinner at Liverpool's fabulous 60 Hope Street plus (whisper it) posh hotel shenanigans. There will be champagne waiting in the room when we arrive. There will be champagne waiting in the restaurant...I'm going to town on this one (and will be desolately skint for the rest of the year as a result but oh well).
In other news next week I'll be reading supporting Maggie O'Sullivan, which is quite intimidating, the last time I read in support of anyone with this sort of rep I was about fifteen so smiled upon indulgently. No place to hide this time.
So the ten thousand mark has been reached, and in a moment of literary cleverness I arranged things so that the ten thousandth word would be "landmark", clever old me. Actually, it's playing little games like that with yourself which help you keep going.
But you're not really reading Coastalblog for news of how NaNoWriMo is going, are you? You want rants about how stupid people are. And, just for you...
WHY DO PEOPLE WITH INCREDIBLY SIMPLE NAMES FEEL THE NEED TO SPELL THEM FOR ME WHEN MAKING A BOOKING?
"That's a table for Mr Ball"
I mean it's infuriating, even more irritating than people who book under their first name which assumes that you know who they are or, for that matter, care. In this past week I have had the following names spelt out to me over the phone. Ball. Brown. Smith. Green. JONES for fuck's sake, as if I could possibly mistake that for anything else. Conversely a Mrs Kie…
They were dancing on the tables. Perhaps should explain. Once a month, our lords and masters have decreed that lo, there shall be a Cabaret Night. Wherein a singer in an ill-fitting suit will belt out a load of "soul classics". I actually normally quite enjoy them in a cheesy kind of a way (what? It's not easy being a cultural elitist all the time, y'know), I'll even cheerily sing along as I get swamped at the bar.
However, Cabaret Nights are marked by the middle-aged behaving badly. It's a fiftysomething crowd, generally out in large groups to have their Big Night Out of the month. And all power to 'em I say. The downside is that they drink. Again, all well and good, I am, after all, a bar manager, the more we sell the higher my standing. But they drink. When I was a kid, I always thought grown-ups were sensible. I now know better. Cabaret nights are like watching a room full of your aunties get pissed and try to grope you whilst some fat bloke with a …
So after a jaw-dropping, ball-breakingly hard night at work (they were animals, they wouldn't stop drinking, no really, I have run out of so much stock tonight, I sat down to start the fearsome NaNoWriMo.
Tonight has been weirdo night at work. Okay, when you work in catering you get fairly used to dealing with one or two oddballs every now and again, it's one of the joys of the job (and an enormous help with writing), but we've had loads tonight.
First up there was Michael. He's a nice guy in a don't ask him what he does for a living and be polite kind of a way. he lives in the flats next door and treats us as an extension of his living room. Keeps his spare keys, wandering in and borrowing stuff unannounced, that sort of thing.
Tonight, before we'd actually started work he'd sauntered in with a couple of his mates, ordered his food (none of which, needless to say, bears any resemblance to what's actually on the menu) by going in and telling the bewildered chefs (who rarely meet Actual Members of The Public) and sat himself down. He then couldn't be bothered eating, threw some money down and left. But not the front door for Michael, oh no, he wandered …
Well, sort of. I am getting a lot of displacement activity managed today rather than what I should actually be working on. But I can live with that. There is more joy in the small accomplishments after all, even updating this blog will give me a small glow (especially now that I actually know that there are people reading it).
Minor things I have accomplished today:
Further refining my recipe for chilli mussels.
Convincing sceptics of the joy of fish pie.
Writing a letter to my Nan.
Sorting some really minor admin jobs out.
But what's that? A monstrous pile of work looming over my head? Think I'll just catch up on my emails.....
The capitalisation of the word odd was deliberate. It's been a weird one.
So I started the day by learning that Elliot Smith had killed himself, this set in motion a chain of thoughts which have led me to be sat here at three in the morning with a perfectly conceived novel idea in full note form saved, blinkingly to my hard drive.
I wasn't a big fanboy of Smith, but I liked his stuff, most of the day I have been thinking about what happens when somebody you're mildly interested in dies. The huge fans get to grieve to long and stultifyingly dull effect (speaking as a survivor of grunge I think I speak for all of my peers when I state that Kurt Cobain dying was THE MOST BORING THING THAT HAS EVER OCCURRED, "Yes but he understood me!" cries disaffected teen of Leighton Buzzard. Understand this, teenagers of the world, all you are looking for in a rock star is a reason not to tidy your room. To feel that you, if you were like them, could be a rebel too, and not tidy …
So I turned 26 yesterday. Kind of a nothing age really, and I greeted it accordingly (the lengthy tale of the Birthday Dinner I shall save for interested parties - poor old Roe was too unwell to enjoy it, I, on the other hand ate like a man possessed, and very fine it was too, thought tinged with guilt being the only party enjoying myself, then again, we had driven across the country to go there).
Anyway, as one does I reveiwed my situation as currently stands, and I'm fairly happy. Relationship wonderful, Debts clearing slowly, Steady job, growing reputation as a writer, all told plenty to be happy about.
And yet....not enough. Call it the urge to make my mark whilst still young, call it the utter lack of patience with being in debt any more, call it a mid-twenties crisis if you like (in fact go ahead, write a book, there's probably a niche market for mewling twentysomethings who want a nice terminology for their inchoate angst, so's they can complain about feeling unful…
I'm not going to rant about how much I hate Christmas just yet, all y'all are going to have plenty of that to read over the festive period. These are just the preliminaries, the bone-crushing detail I'll spare you until December itself, brace yourselves.
No, this is the month of faxing menus, posting menus, and dealing with phone calls from my currently most hated caste of people. Company secretaries.
"It states here that you have a roast sea bass as the fish option on your menu"
(Quick side note, due to the sheer volume of custom we get over Christmas everything is set menu. Five starters, five mains. That's it, for the sake of the poor dim chefs who have to order the stock that's the way it must be. We'll stretch a point for vegetarians, as is only reasonable, but beyond that, forget it, anyway, back to the conversation)
"That's right yeah, Sea Bass Brodeto, roasted with garlic and parsley"
Okay, I'll be honest with you all and come out as a footie fan. This may offend some Coastalblog readers and loses me all manner of credibility with other writers but hey, I like football, and I'll go to the pub and chant along at England games with the best of them.
But if I hear one more "Stuff Turkey" pun I am never watching another game again. And I solemnly promise to kill the person who makes it. I mean it.
I may give up drinking. I quite like drinking. But when you wake up in the morning and your girlfriend's gone to work and you have no recollection whatsoever of her leaving, it may be time to knock it on the head.
In other news this week has seen a huge boom in my enjoyment of all things work related as well as popetry related. I'm sending tome work off to Alan Kent for an anthology of Anglo Cornish poetry (by a bizarre coincidence he is also the man who taught me A level English). There's a couple of readings coming up, including the massive free for all for National poetry day, so what am I doing writing this blog? Back to work!
I love Saturdays. I may be working, it may well be the hardest day of the week BY A MILE but there's always something optimistic about them. Plus that, and it's the last day of my working week.
Tomorrow myself and the lovely Rowena will be dining at Bispham Green's excellent Eagle and Child, wherein there may or may not be pints. Which'll be nice. and today I'm skipping the gym and making a nice and complicated lunch instead.
And a great big hello to Katey, just settling into her new place in France. Hope it's all good, honey.
So a new girl started tonight. I have yet to bother learning her name as most of 'em don't last more than a week or so. This makes me a Bad Man.
Other things which have made me a Bad Man today:
Staring at a man who had an enormous warty, lumpy, growth on his forehead and then stage whispering "Have you ever seen How to get ahead in advertising?" to my boss.
When a customer ordered his wine, replying "The cheapest red? Very good sir"
Making many references to an affair that the cuckold of has no knowledge of in front of someone else who shares my privileged information. Oh the giggles.
Why am I such a shit at times? This isn't meant as a "Oh look at me, aren't I interestingly confrontational" sort of a question, more a head scratching "hang on, I bear this person no ill will, why am I being such a dick to them?" sort of a question. Answers on the back of a cheque, please.
In othe news, my lunch today consisted of Oysters and Bubbl…
None, they only screw in hotel rooms. So N3wc4stl3 Un1t3d are allegedly about to lose three quarters of the first team. Did they? Didn't they? Insert your own "It's the only way Craig Bellamy could score" joke here.
Meanwhile this evening has restored my faith in the catering industry. Lots of lovely customers smilingly handing over moderate sums of money. And they didn't hang about either, which was nice. Thus giving me time to come home to lull myself to sleep by listening to Jimmy shooting up some pixels in the room next door.
Even better than that an email arriving this morning from my personal poetic hero Bill Griffiths, giving me his kindest permission to link to his endeavours. Which I shall now attempt to do. Where's Cel, when you need her? Oh, that's right, at home, asleep, like normal people are at this hour. Gotta love my job....
So I've discovered a reason for Coastalblog in this, only it's second day of existence. As an outlet for PURE CATHARTIC RAGE.
God worked sucked today. It was one of those situations wherein you stand back and realise. It doesn't matter what I do here, it doesn't matter how hard I work or what I do, we're going down in flames regardless. Hoist that flag to half-mast boys, we're all dead.
So a perennial problem at work is being understaffed, normally you you can stretch to accomodate, and we do. But combine being understaffed with a bunch of inexperienced staff and what follows is five hours of utter trauma.
Hell hath no fury like a restaurant goer after a cheap meal and maybe a free drink. If I had a fiver for every time someone's said to me "You see we eat here all the time" with that peculiar half-apologetic, half-belligerent tone in their voice which tells you THEY WANT SOMETHING, I would have in the region of four hundred quid from tonight alo…
So why start a blog? I have failed signally at keeping diaries in the past, and enough of yer workaday problems I translate into writing of one form or another.
Weeeell, I think it's partly the discipline of the thing. I don't expect to have this read at all except by the occasional far flung friend or utterly random person. I can't quite remember who it was (but I think it was Raymond Queneau) who wrote something about the conscious mind being taken up with tasks and letting the subconscious have it's head. Maybe that's the point of this whole thing, let the subconscious have it's head. It'll probably be nfrequent, but then again I may become obsessed by the whole idea and post to it voraciously. One can never tell.