My Sixty Fourth Week as a Budding Author
Business lunches, I have to confess I don’t think I am very good at them. I’ve watched other colleagues in action over the years and they are the model of restraint and professionalism as they sip gently at wine and stimulate conversation down avenues that without fail end up in multi-million pound sales for their organisations. Or in one of my previous business incarnations, an order for a football pitch booking form, not earth shattering but it paid for the printer stationary that month.
My approach will never be found in the “How to do business” manual. Because my hunter-gatherer instincts invariably come to the fore when presented with free booze and food. The booze is usually the most expensive item on offer so I head for it first with a vengeance. This creates that alcohol fuelled hunger that focuses the mind and mouth on the food once all available free wine and beer has been consumed. It’s been my downfall many a time over my long and undistinguished career, reaching a high point when one boss took me aside and suggested that I need to send Nicola flowers as soon as practically possible.
So you can imagine my trepidation as I lined myself up for a business lunch this week. A relatively important meeting with two people who I was keen to impress, one of them had worked with Nicola. I spent hours in front of the mirror the previous day, moving through all possible combinations of shirt/suit/t-shirt/jeans trying every possible look from seasoned IT professional to carefree Californian type start-up guy. In the end I settled for the clothes most recently purchased as they were devoid of red wine and canapé stains.
The day of the meeting came and we sat talking for a number of hours before lunch. This seemed to go mostly to plan and most of what I said was received with nods rather than mimed wanker signs. After a few hours our time in the room was done and we vacated the hallowed halls of the Royal Society of Arts and headed out into London for lunch.
Now, I’m going to blame Kate for initiating what happened next as it was her idea that we order wine. She’ll counter that as a responsible adult, she is more than capable of handling a lunchtime glass and then remaining productive for the rest of the day. However, Kate has clearly not been on the receiving end of my poor business lunch performance and knowing me from a distance business past I’m surprised that she hasn’t picked this up by hearsay.
Anyway, the wine turned up and we began to chat, from my point of view it was all going to plan and I was acting the model of civility. Until I mentioned my book. By the way, have I mentioned that I’ve written a book? See that last sentence, Kate and Jason looked at each other and flicked eyelids into space then turned to me and in pure “Young One’s - Yes We’ve Got a Video” tone asked “Really, Dave, we had NO idea that you’d written a book!”.
I’d been banging on about the book too much. This was clearly down to the wine and so I “Ha ha ha’d” along with their piss taking whilst silently resolving not to refer again to my book. Problem is that the very act of “not referring to the book” became front of mind. Every single snippet of conversation had to be steered away from my book. Jason said something about golf, within seconds I had launched into a highly amusing monologue about my hatred for the sport and how I’d written an entire section of the book about this very subject. How smart, sit down with a potential future business partner, get slightly pissed, bang on about some crappy book you’ve written and then dig your hole even deeper by referring to the fact that it pours scorn on his favourite sport.
After a while I think even I got bored of me banging on about the book so I managed to shut up about it and we talked about skiing and cars instead. Kate abandoned us after a second glass of wine and at 3pm in the afternoon Jason made a tenuous reference to real ale. Three glasses of wine down I launched into a tipsy soliloquy concerning my life with real ale and the lessons it had taught me over the years. I managed to weave in family heritage as I pulled my dear departed uncle Alan into this speech and his valiant efforts to ensure that the country was continually supplied with the joys of 6X.
Jason called my bluff.
It’s been a while since I found myself in a London pub on a Wednesday afternoon four pints of real ale down. I dread to think what the two of us discussed and can only hope that I didn’t spend the time swaying from the bar and banging on about my book. To make things worse I was booked for an evening appointment with some other business type colleagues that would also involve beer. At 6pm I made my excuses and somehow got myself from Charing Cross to Faringdon by swaying alone.
I’d like to describe the rest of the evening in words but I can’t. I’m pretty sure it involved a cigarette that I shouldn’t have smoked and I know for a fact that I banged on about my book. The rest of the stuff will remain lost to the mists of time but requires more notches in my bedpost of business dinners where I’ve definitely disgraced myself. Somewhere near 10pm my homing instinct kicked in and the power of swaying took me back to Paddington where I stumbled onto a train.
I’ve been in this situation before and woken up in Bristol twice. So this time I was determined to keep myself awake and actually get off at my appointed station. I found a seat and programmed the iPod to fill my ears with a continuous stream of eighties punk rock. It got a bit desperate around Dicot when I was shocked to find that “Dead or Alive” still existed in my music collection. I’m also pleased to announce that “Cars” by Tubeway army not only keeps you awake, it helps you drive fellow passengers mad by humming it out of tune.
The two mile walk home from Swindon station morphed into four as I weaved my way backwards and forwards across the pavement eventually making it to my door. It took five minutes to extract house key from briefcase and ten seconds for Helen to give me that “Oh God, another business lunch, another bunch of flowers” look.
Anyway, back to the picture near the top. What the hell has 32,445 words got to do with anything. Well, as part of banging on about my book I also banged on about the next few days when I’d be working on the bike rides one. I banged on about writing nearly 25,000 words in this period and Kate and Jason immediately picked up the bottle of wine to look at the alcohol content.
I wrote about this last time. I’ve got to get the fecking thing finished so have relocated to Devon for a few days to sleep off the hangover and nail those 25,000 words. Two days in and I’ve done 13,000. For once in my underachieving life I’m actually ahead of schedule, so to celebrate I opened a bottle of wine. I’m sat here typing alone and banging on about my book to the telly. It’s kind of therapeutic as the telly doesn’t take the piss. Well that’s not strictly true as it just showed me a full 1/2 hour of “Take me Out”.
Anyway, seeing as I’m mid-wine and writing and one could consider this to be a business lunch I’d like to bang on about the book. From humble beginnings, Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder is heading towards a healthy sales figure. Mum, for goodness sake stop spending your pension on it and let Dad buy himself some new slippers instead. Meanwhile I need to sleep this second glass of wine off and keep this productivity up. 12,000 words in two days. I can speak that many in an hour after two glasses of booze so surely writing them should offer no challenge at all. By the way, do you think I can add these 1,450 to the total as well? No? thought you’d say that.
24th March 2012