Secret sensation

September 13, 2010

It is a tragedy that meals for one exist.

I don’t buy them as a matter of principle. I like value for money, as you know. If you compare the price of shepherd’s pie for one with the family version, someone’s cashing in. And it’s not the consumer.

The other reason I don’t buy them is because I don’t like to be seen as the sad lonely person eating lasagne out of a foil carton in front of University Challenge.

So when the Boss told me that my next commission was to market pasta sauces (for one), I took to mithering a bit.

Mithering has become one of my key characteristics at work, although being southerners, the people at work call it complaining, which doesn’t have quite the same ring about it.

I get away with it because being Northern (in an office full of southerners) apparently means I can claim discrimination on grounds of nationality if I want. (That HR girl told me that. I didn’t attempt to explain that Stockport is in England, not Scotland, and that I am therefore the same nationality as my fellow Londoners). Mithering is also, I feel, a part of growing old and to stop me grumbling would be age discrimination. Two cards I can play. Must remember to tell the HR girl that when I see her next.

Anyway, as I was saying, the thought of writing a pitch to market an unknown pasta sauce wasn’t one that inspired me in the slightest.

First, I don’t eat pasta, and in marketing you have to believe in what you are trying to sell. (Well, as much as possible). Pasta is sticky, bland stuff and made none the better by coating in sauce.  Pasta sauce for one isn’t sexy and it isn’t, to my mind, sellable. I had a suspicion I was being set up to fail.

I tried explaining this to the Boss (not the failing bit, obviously).

She was wearing very high heels that day (which made her taller than me) and, disconcertingly, black seamed stockings. I wondered who she was wearing them for.

‘So,’ I concluded, after rambling on for a fair bit. ‘It is more economical to buy a jar of sauce for two, use half of it and keep the rest for another day.’

‘Oh Alan,’ she sighed. ‘I picked you because you would be perfect. You are the only person here,’ (and she waved an elegant hand dismissively around the office) ‘who knows what it is like to be single. Half eaten loaves of bread going stale in the vegetable drawer, rancid cheese, that half pint of curdling milk. Only you, Alan, can understand what it is like to be a disadvantaged consumer in a world full of couples.’

She crossed her legs and uncrossed them again. I noticed that the seams on her stockings weren’t quite straight.

‘I don’t keep bread in the vegetable drawer.’

She smiled. ‘Oh Alan, you are funny. Now look, I  know you’d like to try the sauces out first so I have asked the company to send you some samples. These aren’t your run of the mill sauces, you know. They are for adventurous single people, just like yourself.’ (I didn’t like the way she smirked at adventurous). ‘Chicken parfait, rabbit and avocado and oh, this is a good one… secret sensation. You don’t know what it is until you open the packet! How exciting is that? Finally, single people all over the country will have a surprise to look forward to in the evening. You’ll love it.’

She left my desk, leaving behind a vague scent of a perfume I was sure the Peacock wife wore.

When I got home I found some pasta at the back of the cupboard and snipped open the sachet of secret sensation.

When I’ve experienced the sensation, I’ll tell you what it is.


Hanging on

September 4, 2010

Tony Blair’s back in the news again, and all that New Labour stuff. Dull. There’s a tube strike on Tuesday so everyone’s trying to bag a work at home day  (not really an issue for me, Tuesday being a work at home day anyway) and I am, well, a little bit bored.

It’s that September back to school feeling. Car windscreens are frosted over in the morning, the days are getting shorter, Christmas ads are on the telly.  Not my favourite time of the year.  Back home they would tell me to stop my mithering and get on with it. Get on with what, though? Suzie (the one with the wriggle) is stuck in Florida (something to do with her boyfriend being attacked by an alligator) which means I have more work to do. More work equals boredom. If I can’t check my personal emails for at least the first hour of the day, then there is something wrong.

I can do without Suzie most days. She has a nice wriggle but that’s about it. She’s half my age and earns almost twice as much.  I tried taking Emma’s advice (you remember, the squiffy girl from HR at the summer party) and tried the age discrimination card with the boss, but it didn’t really work.

It went a bit like this.

Me: “So I think it is about time I got a pay rise.”

Boss (female, by the way, the very tall blond one): “Any particular reason?”

Me:      “Susie earns more than me and she’s well, younger than me.”

Boss:    “Is that so?”

Me:      “Yes. It’s ageist. You are paying her more because she is young.”

Boss:    “She’s bright.”

Me:      “Meaning?”

Boss:    “And has a Masters of Business Administration. MBA to you. You know the qualification that helps people get on in life.”

Me:      “In marketing? What does she need an MBA for?”

Boss:    “Alan, the problem with you is that you are behind the times. In your days a lower second class degree from a second class university – didn’t you go to one of those polytechnics? – was enough. Now, to get on, you need ambition, drive, and yes, qualifications.”

Me: “Oh.”

Boss: “And you, Alan, don’t really have ambition or drive. To be expected, I suppose, at your time in life. You’re a bit – I hope you don’t mind me saying so – of a plodder.”

And our discussion ended there. I didn’t get the pay rise.

I played the age card, though. Emma was spot on. The boss did seem to twitch in her seat when I used the age word, and if I play my cards right, I might hold on to the job that little bit longer.