Saturday, 17 October 2009
DAN'S IMPROMPTOU PUFFY PIZZA
1 sheet of puff pastry...
3 large chopped tomatoes
1 red pepper
5 close cup mushrooms
1 red onion
6 pepadew peppers
8 rashers of black forrest serrano ham
100g feta cheese
2 tbl spoons powdered parmeggiano reggiano
A pinch of provencial herbs
Heat oven to 225 degrees.
Lay the pastry on an olive oiled baking tray.
Finely chop tomatoes, mix with chilli, salt, pepper, tabasco and evenly smear across the pastry.
Top with chopped vegetables according to taste. Add cheese and ham.
Cook in the middle of oven for 20 minutes.
Voila and Bon Apetit ;)
Friday, 2 October 2009
I woke up the other morning hugging my pillow tightly to my chest. I’d dreamt I was still in Berlin, in bed with the boy I’d met not so long ago. I quickly realised I wasn’t and the gloom swept over me like fog rolling in over San Francisco bay..
After the ordeal with the neighbour I decided to take a chill pill and focus on my writing instead of wanting for romantic encounters. I reckoned that if something is meant to be it will happen regardless of you going out and looking for it. But it was a lot easier said than done. It’s like there is this pounding urge inside me that constantly keeps looking for a fix. Like a drug addict chasing the next high, whatever it may be..
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am far from starved for affection or desperate for love but there is this, almost sick need for affirmation. I can’t really put my finger on it nor can I understand it myself – I guess all those years on the shrinks couch were wasted on me.
It dawned on me that during my 30 year old life I have probably slept with more men than are named and numbered in the Bible. But only a microscopic number of them stuck round long enough for it to be classified as more than just a fling. Looking back at some of these encounters I shudder. Some were just drunken mistakes, some were ‘honest’ mistakes and some were just; ‘Oh my God – what the hell was I thinking’ kind of mistakes! Then there were a few good ones that I simply scared off by my own insecurities.
Now, a very close friend of mine told me that whenever something starts getting a bit serious with someone I pull away and run. It baffled me at first as I didn’t really have that view of myself and my relationships. In my own opinion I only ever pull away when something doesn’t feel right. There are certain criteria that I’m looking for in a prospective partner (Isn’t everyone?) and if some of that criteria isn’t met then I weigh the pros and cons – does the good outweigh the bad or vice versa and how much am I willing to compromise. For example: ‘Am I prepared to overlook his £600 a month drug addiction for the good sex we’re having?’ or ‘He’s still hooked up on his ex but maybe one day I’ll mean just as much to him?’ I am aware that we all have a certain amount of baggage and that nobody is perfect – but there are times when everything does FEEL perfect – and that is what I’m looking for.
When things went sour with the downstairs neighbour I felt like shit. For the first time in a long time I liked someone who seemed to like me and then suddenly I was dumped without as much as an explanation. I felt a bit deflated and my confidence was knocked down a few notches. I felt like I had to do something drastic just to pick myself up. So I posted an advert on the singles page on Gumtree. (I know, I know, reading about that dead Philippino woman in the suitcase that went on a Gumtree date was long after I posted my ad). I wrote extensively about what I was looking for and what kind of men I wasn’t interested in. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and left it for a few days. When I logged on to check my emails there were 103 responses in just 4 days. Within another 3 days the total number had risen to 183. Reading through all of them certainly took my mind off things and as much as I hate to admit it, it made me feel better. But as I read through I noticed that none of these guys were anywhere close to the kind of man I was hoping to meet. Majority of them hadn’t even read my advert. They just saw my pic and sent off a dirty proposition and a phone number. A total turn off and the complete opposite to what I was looking for.
I’m not going to knock down every fish in the polluted sea. There were a selected few that made it through the screening process and we started corresponding regularly before agreeing to meet up. In theory some seemed perfect but in practice not so much. Sometimes it’s easy to lose yourself in the written word. As you read on you start to build up a fantasy of the person writing it and if this goes on for a while, more times than not, you’re setting yourself up for a fall. That was the case with me. I had built up some sort of expectations and once I’d met the guys I felt somewhat let down. They turned out to be really nice guys but I had expected a lot more than I got. Needless to say, none of the dates led to a second one..
Then one day, some friends came over from Berlin and stayed at mine for a few days. They had brought another friend that I’d hadn’t met and before I knew it little innuendos kept shooting at me from every direction about how cute this guy was, or how funny he was or how sweet we’d be together and so on and so on.. I admit, even without the innuendos, the chemistry between us was incredible. It was electric and sexy and it was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Suddenly here it was. Completely unexpected.. The bank holiday weekend passed and the boy went back to Berlin. We both had an amazing time but neither of us questioned the future. It was what it was. Until we met online and slowly started fantasizing about ‘What if..’
A few weeks later I went to San Francisco on holiday. I had a great time but the Berliner was still playing on my mind. So much so I decided to make a detour on my way home and stop over to see him. We spent a great week together and suddenly it was time to go home. Once again I was confused. Why was I feeling so strongly for this guy? Any prospects of a future together were squashed by the 1000 kilometer distance as well as the language barrier, amongst other things. (Did I mention he only speaks Spanish and German and no English?)
Then the question came; why would I so foolishly want to pursue someone that unobtainable?
Is it because the hopeless romantic in me thrives on such dramatic encounters? Perhaps my desire to leave London took over and this looked like a perfect excuse? Or is it simply because I know that this romance was doomed from the start and it’s easier to deal with it dissolving than dealing with an actual relationship?
The words of my dear friend keep ringing in my ears. Maybe I AM running away from potential relationships as a precautionary measure? Maybe it’s a built in defence mechanism programmed to auto pilot when things get too serious?
Or maybe, just maybe, could it be possible that I simply haven’t met the right man for me?
Thursday, 1 October 2009
Last May, like so many others across the globe, I too fell victim to the Credit Crunch. I had been working as Front of House manager for a prestigious PR company in West End for over 3 years when suddenly the carpet was pulled from right underneath my feet. I didn’t even smell it coming. I suppose I’d grown so comfortable in my position and my last salary increase, just a couple of months prior, had masked what the future held pretty well.
Then one day I found myself sitting with the MD and HR manager in a meeting room, proclaiming: ‘Say what??’ to the shocking news presented to me. Suddenly my entire life flashed before my eyes. I’d really gotten used to my job. Heck I can even admit (now that it’s gone!) that I actually loved it. And believe you me; there aren’t many jobs I can say that about. My hours were great. My colleagues were fabulous. My salary was more than satisfying and the most important thing; I could wear whatever I wanted and I never had to shave. Now if you knew me personally, you’d know that my designer stubble is a vital part of my image and my dress sense is my way of expression. Obviously it complied with the company’s smart but casual ethics but I always put my own twist on it – for individuality’s sake.
I was devastated. Not only was I losing a great place to work and great colleagues but I had also booked ridiculously many holidays that summer. Holidays I’d been planning since January and now I feared how I was going to fund them. That’s where my redundancy package came handy. See, it was the first time in my life I’d ever been made redundant and I had no idea you get a substantial sum to pay you off. All of a sudden things didn’t seem that bad. The sum covered my rent for four months, it was enough as spending money for each of the holidays planned and there was even some left over for when I returned. So off I went. During June, July, August and September I’d spent two weeks in Gothenburg, Sweden, a weeks stint in Berlin, Germany. Then Belgrade and Novi Sad in Serbia for the Exit Festival. I actually stayed in Serbia for a whole month. I then continued my summer in Ibiza, twice. I was enjoying life to the fullest. No cares in the world and least of all worrying about work. It wasn’t until I returned back from Ibiza Closing parties in October that I suddenly realised my money was quickly running out and I didn’t have a job. Nor did I even think of applying for Job Seekers Allowance (and they DO NOT back date!). I realised that all in all I had been unemployed for over five months and I hadn’t sent out one job application. I panicked. I spent two manic weeks searching every possible job site I could find. I registered with any agency that would have me and I sent out my CV left right and centre. And then I waited..
Out of the 60 odd CV’s I’d sent out I only received two call backs. One job was as a chat room moderator for an interactive channel on the SKY Network and the other a front of house role for a bank in North London. After attending both interviews I got offered both jobs. I was confident enough I’d nail it once I met people face to face. I’m good like that. It’s just getting an interview that was a bit tricky considering how the number of applicants for each available position had quintupled in the last six months.
As my finances had taken a downward spiral I felt compelled to take on both jobs. Monday to Friday at the corporate company and Friday and Saturday night shifts as a chat room moderator. Needless to say I had no social life. By 7am Sunday morning I’d come home, dead to the world and yet had to stay awake til Sunday evening so I could turn my day round and be OK for work Monday morning. It was a challenge but I managed to keep it up for a good three months before finally caving in. I guess a salary increase after my 3 months probation period at the corporate place helped.
If it had been down to me I would have chosen the chat room job. But it was a financial matter and I had to go for the better paid but very boring option. Today I realise what a mistake that was.But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Everything happens for a reason!
Shortly after my probation was over things turned sour at the bank. The management started acting really bizarre towards my whole team. In meetings they’d praise us for the amazing work we were doing yet they felt that taking away privileges such as our limited internet access would make us work harder. This decision came despite all of us scoring top points in any review we’d had. But it didn’t stop there. Suddenly being one minute late was cause for a disciplinary meeting and they introduced Gestapo like surveillance on us, monitoring our start/finish time as well as our breaks. It was like being in the Big Brother house minus all the fun.But it wasn’t til I was called in to a meeting and asked to shave TWICE a day that I decided enough was enough. Apparently, one of the ‘big shots’ from the bank had complained over my three o’clock shadow on a few occasions and I was asked to shave in the morning before coming to work AND during my lunch break – to avoid any further complaints.
Now, I don’t know who they think they are, but no person in their right mind would put themselves through that kind of scrutiny. It’s bad enough shaving once a day and getting a burning rash from the cheap polyester shirts and ties rubbing up against you. Sadly we couldn’t choose our own uniforms. We were given cheap and uncomfortable shirts and suits (that we had to pay for!)
I couldn’t believe what was being asked of me and in a moment of clarity I wrote an email to the person that had complained about me asking him why suddenly, five months down the line had my grooming become an issue and not before. My response came in the guise of a disciplinary meeting with my supervisor and area manager, both fuming over the fact I had sidestepped the chain of command and contacted Mr Big directly. Obviously this rubbed him the wrong way and he asked for me to be ‘sorted out’ – whatever that meant.Turned out what he meant was; get rid of him! So they suspended me for two weeks to investigate my user account at work. After failing to find any flaws in my work (I do my job VERY well) they decided to go through my email account. In there they found several personal emails, altho none of which was derogatory or malicious towards the company, and they decided to call my use of company email for personal matters as Gross Misconduct. And without warning they asked me to pack up my things and leave. No verbal warning, no written warning, no salary in lieu of notice and no notice! I was shocked. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
Now, I don’t know who they thought they were dealing with but I for one know my rights!I’m no mug you can just toss aside and I certainly wasn’t going to take their sh*t lying down.I began a long and tiresome appeal process against them. At first I thought I didn’t stand a chance, but after doing my research I noted all the flaws in the way they handled my case. In all of this, I didn’t want my job back. Geeez, I wouldn’t want to work for them if they were the last employer on earth. All I wanted was my salary in lieu of notice.
With no legal background I set off emailing them on a daily basis pointing out their breaches of my contract. At first they didn’t seem to budge. They stuck to their guns and acted unbothered by my tirade. But then a flashing idea popped into my head. I realised I had the emails to ALL the BIG bosses of the company and decided to forward them all the previous correspondence as well as a final email where I claimed a major publication was willing to interview me in regards to my case and how I had been treated. Suddenly and email popped into my inbox offering me just the sum I had been asking for. I couldn’t believe it. I had won!
A compromise agreement was signed with the help of my solicitor friends and the case was closed.
Since leaving that God forsaken place I have found another job. A much better job. A job where I am encouraged to be who I am and dress in what I’m comfortable in. It’s chilled out and relaxed and it’s absolutely perfect for me. My colleagues are great and my bosses are even better. Like I said; EVERYTHING in life happens for a reason and this was my reason!
Someone up there is looking down at me and smiling :)