Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Lads who Lunch

It's true that Kate in the Countryside ferrets around the outskirts of the fact that I have a job. I am not planning to break the habit and mention it now. But here is something that happens in the crux of working hours: lunch. More specifically, Pizza Hut

In software, in which I make my career, it is impossible to discuss things unless they're turned acronym. We're businesspeople remember? We haven't got time to sit down and bloody spell things out. We have deals to be doing. Levels of Angry Birds to be achieving. Cups of coffee to be drinking. 

So much you understand. For this reason, all of life must be slimmed down to as few characters as possible: Pizza Hut is PH. Benito's Hat (another old fave) is BH and Free Lunch Friday is FLF (I made that one up. We don't acronym Free Lunch. I don't know why not. Must check).

At about half eleven on your average day, the first hunger pangs will make themselves known in our office corner. We (the young folk) segregate ourselves onto a single table each day, largely for ease of lunchtime planning. It's a big decision, lunch.


Most days, our resident gourmet (known as Meesli) will look up, cast his eyes to the near distance, sniff the air for inspiration and muse, 'PH?' 

I find this enthusiasm for the All You Can Eat Pizza Hut deal fairly confusing. I imagined that I had left it behind when I found myself, aged seven, diving out of the way of a vomiting chum on his record fifth bowl of Ice Cream Factory. Happy days. For the Grad Lads though, it's the highlight of the week.

So last Tuesday we found ourselves at the Piccadilly Circus branch of the esteemed chain. All six of us grad scheme youth were in attendance. Given how often the chaps frequent this place, it was disappointing to find that the PH waiting staff didn't reward commitment with preferment. Crushed in a corner, a sizeable distance from the buffet counter, our table glistened with semi-wiped offerings from the party that preceded us. 

We sized up the - frustratingly sparse - buffet counter. Swiftly, the tallest and biggest of our number, Don, dived in. Knocking aside tables, chairs, small children and the occasional meatball, such was his enthusiasm, he sneaked in in front of a crowd of hungry Russian tourists.

Shepherding the rest of the team through the Volga brothers, Don seized a couple of pizza platters. As the crowd grew mutinous Meesli employed the vegetarian serving knife on a meaty pizza. Oblivious to the wrath of our Cold War cousins, I took the green-handled knife from Meesli to serve myself some veggie pizza, cross-fertilising the issue. The resulting fracas could have been heard in Beijing.

Keen not to seem the appetite wuss, I then snuck across to the salad bar to pad out my (frankly unambitious) plate, before returning to our grimy den. Alas, the mouldy salad collection was more noxious than the pizza. I unearthed two hairs, an egg and some extremely unusual-looking carrots.

And after that, all that remains is digestion. And a chocolate sundae. A perfect Tuesday.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Only Way is Chelsea (Part 2 - The Escape)

Scurrying from the previous episode's cosy Chelsea nightspot and its preponderance of gits, we hunted for a night bus. As the four of us walked along, we found ourselves being showered with CDs. Git 5 now stumbled up, apparently considering this glass-based attack a perfect way to charm the group. Tactful Friend attempted (tactfully) to dismiss him. So tactful was she he did not notice. Unlucky Friend asserted herself with more vigour, and dispatched the yob.

The best Google Images can do on the Flying CDs front
The presence of flying CDs yet unexplained we parted ways: the rest of the group south; Kate in the Countryside striking out alone the opposite way - back to the wilds of Pimlico

As I waited at the bus stop, the door to the flat opposite was abruptly flung open. Two boys fell out and started picking up the remnants of the flying CDs. 

They spotted me. I pretended to be fascinated by my book ('The Rum Diary' in case anyone's interested) but it was a fragile conceit.

'Come to a party!' Oddly, this chap seemed to be Not A Git. I looked up.

'Thanks - I'm afraid I have to catch a bus. Another time.'

Undeterred, he rolled out a string of (at the time, incredibly compelling) reasons why I should attend. At last, sizing them up as non-rapists and assessing their hallway to be neither the hallway of a crack den nor a Mormon haunt, I agreed. It's the King's Road remember. What could go wrong?

Up the stairs I ventured to a flat full of people I did not know. Here I was waylaid by Pensive Git (Git 6, for those of you still counting). Pensive Git had reached the contemplative stage of his evening and decided I was the perfect person to share his revelatory mood.

First I heard about his brother and his brother's plans for the future. Soon after, I was told about his early years at boarding school and the difficulties he'd had settling in, problems that were connected in some way to cattle farming - though I may be misremembering. We then moved on to a breakdown of his life objectives and career goals. He has a job interview in a couple of days and is planning to move into asset management, in case you were wondering. At this stage, he had yet to ask my name. However, since I'd just stumbled into the party of a bunch of people I'd never met, I couldn't really complain that the company wasn't up to scratch.

As he took to categorising the life lessons he'd learned up to and including tonight, he began to fumble at my knee. I realised at this stage that it was time to go. Hailing NAG, I announced my intention and thanked him for his hospitality. His enthusiasm was overwhelming, badly expressed - 'It's been seminal!' - and frankly quite sweet. Unfortunately Pensive Git seemed to believe my departure a come on.

'I'm leaving too!' he exclaimed. He groped for my name. 'Er... I'll show you, her, out yeah. Yeah. Bye then NAG.' He paused to embrace his old schoolfriend and, seizing my chance, I darted for the door.

Seminal indeed.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Only Way is Chelsea

I have recently realised that nights out with Tactful Friend always lead to encounters with London's Gits. This weekend was no exception. 

That'll be £64.50, thanks
On Saturday, we attempted an elegant and - yes - cripplingly expensive round of cocktails at a cosy Chelsea hangout. Two drinks in, the bar was so busy we were being made forcibly friendly with the lads beside us. And we couldn't afford enough cocktails for that.

Soon Git 1 lunged past, nearly smashing both Tactful Friend's face and drink. In moments our group turned chav, abusing the wretch with all manner of gestures. The X Factor's most illustrious judges would have been proud. 

Next, Git 2 arrived. Not a man I recognised, but two members of our party turned steely. Both recounted Git 2's actively aggressive (and repeated) attempts at charming them, instances I then realised I had witnessed. They went as follows:

Unlucky Friend (dancing uncomfortably and at some distance from Git 2) tries to edge away from his pursuit.
Git 2: 'Lighten up why don't you? Can't you just chill out and have a good time?!'
UF's lack of enthusiasm becomes so pronounced it's almost a condition.
'Come on!' Git 2 grabs wrists of UF, in manner of domestic violence infomercial, and enforces complex gyration.
UF bobs, casting increasingly repulsed looks to the rest of the group. At last, recalling the old failsafe, UF moves in to structure a line or two of conversation.
[Git 2 delighted.]
Pleasantries commence. Then, the bombshell:
UF: 'So I was saying to my boyfriend the other day…'
Git 2, scandalised, drops wrists with embarrassing haste - 'Boyfriend?! Thanks for wasting my fucking time' - and flees.

And so it's with horror we realise he's here again, approaching the bar and UF and clutching an unsteady drink.
'I wanted to apologise,' he slurs.
(UF hostile)
'This [proffers drink] is for you.'
(UF thawing) 'Aw. Thanks Git 2. It's OK - don't worry about it.'

Brent: A regular
Gits 3 and 4 approach at this point to replenish Git Quota:
'Need drinks, girls? Course you do. I'm getting them. (Loudly) Anyway so I said to him "Mate let me remind you - you're not the only son of an oligarch in this fucking place."'
Git 3 dissolves into laughter looking around at us all to check we're giving the riposte the wild enthusiasm it deserves.
We manage weak smiles, which seem to buy us the drink. Git 4 talks at me for a bit while Git 3 engages TF. Within moments we both develop a crippling need for the loo. 

As we depart, Git 2 warbles up, spies Unlucky Friend and smoothes back his hair:
'Well hey, you look like you need to chill out and have some fun tonight.'
'I have a boyfriend.'
'Right. Yeah. Oh fuck off then. [Sudden recognition] And you owe me a drink.'