Month: February 2006

It’s better to have loved and lost than to be sitting in the office at 3am writing jokes about Jesus

There is a bottle of Claret on Clare’s desk that she has carried with her from office to office for months. I can’t remember where she got it from. I think it might have been a gift. All I know is that I’m under strict instructions not to drink it, so I haven’t.

Instead I’m working my way through a share-sized bottle of Diet Coke. Alone. In the office. On a Saturday night. Anyone want to guess why this Valentine’s day was the first since my schooldays that I was bereft of a date? It’s tragic – and frankly I blame my new-found high-flying corporate life. Last week, New York, this week Barcelona. Alone. On Valentine’s day. Still if my brief visit to Catalonia taught me anything it was this…

1) Barcelona is in Catalonia

2) Hosting the Olympics is great boon for the fuck-off-huge public sculpture industry

3) Barcelona restaurants are very cheap, and the food is outstanding

4) Toblerone still have the duty free shop market sewn up

5) One-in-three people in Barcelona wears a Bluetooth headset which they use to talk loudly to their wives about how they’re really sorry they had to be away on business

…but admittedly that last statistic may have been skewed by the fact that it was Valentine’s day and Barcelona was hosting the world’s biggest mobile phone trade show. Or not.

So, yes, that was Barcelona. And you’ll be pleased to hear I returned home to find my doormat literally awash in Valentine’s cards. Two of them to be precise – one delivered to my house, one to the office. Thank you whoever you are. Unless you’re a loon in which case leave me alone, you loon.

What else is going on in the romantic void that is my life? Oh yes, Pond and I are writing a book, with a little help from The Friday Thing’s team of crack satirists. It’s called What’s The Beef and it is (I quote) ‘a complete history of the world, as told through its greatest conflicts’. Israel vs Palestine, The Greeks vs The Romans, Pepsi vs Coke – that kind of thing.

This evening I’m working on the chapter about Jesus, provisionally titled either ‘Being the Messiah vs a career in carpentry’ or ‘Jesus vs the Romans and the Jews’ (because if history has taught us anything it’s that the two groups you should never fuck with are the Jews or the Italians).

It’s good fun, writing books again rather than simply publishing them, but it’s also a bit odd. For the last few years, everything I’ve written has been published virtually instantly – journalism for newspapers or online stuff. The idea of writing something that no one is going to read until October is really, really strange and it makes me understand why so many of our authors have described the switch from blogs/sites to books as such an extreme culture shock.

We’ve all got so used to instant feedback and gratification that a wait of eight months might as well be a life time. Jeez – some of the web’s premiere bloggers haven’t even been writing for eight months.

Book writing also allows for constant editing and re-editing which carries with it the risk of lines – particularly jokes – being revised and revised until they are mere shadows of their former self. Something to be avoided like the Plague (which, incidentally, we deal with in a chapter entitled Humanity vs Killer Rats).

Still, at least we’ve chosen the right time to be writing a book – just as I’m up to my eyeballs in this public offering malarkey and Pond is trying to (almost) single-handedly revolutionise our online publishing activities. Oh, and then there’s the London Book Fair in a week or so. And we’re supposed to be publishing a book or two this year too. In fact, unless I can find a girl for whom eating pizza in an office or watching ‘Nanny McPhee’ at 38,000 feet constitutes a successful date, I reckon I’m pretty much Cliff Richard until Valentine’s day 2009.

And to make matters worse, Adam Kay (who is, incidentally, currently guest-editing Haiknews) just phoned to make me feel worse. To think he claims to be a doctor. He’s working nights and has another five-and-a-half hours of his shift to go so, to make the time go quicker, he phoned me – in the office – to tell me a story involving quite a lot of blood. The fact that he knew for sure that I’d be in the office at 3:21 on a Sunday morning says everything you need to know about my work/life balance at the moment.

Sod it, I’ve finished all the Diet Coke, and all that talk of blood has made me thirsty. I’m opening the Claret.


133 Dead As Delta Cancels Flight In Midair

Ladies and Gentleman, the pilot has switched on the seatbelt indicator. Please return to your seat and ensure your seatbelt is securely fastened. And for those of you interested in the Super Bowl, the Steelers are currently leading 7-3.

Another late night bing, this time seven miles up, somewhere over the Atlantic.

I’m writing this from seat 31A of American Airlines flight 100 back from New York. I very nearly missed the flight thanks to American’s policy of one check-in desk for every twenty flights checking in. I wish I actually had, thanks to American’s other policy of one packet of potato chips and a pot of nutless-peanut-butter-flavoured spread (‘contains no peanuts!’) per in-flight meal. When ‘contains no peanuts!’ is the unique selling point of a meal, you know your palate is in serious trouble.

The man next to me is French, with an American passport. I know that because I just looked over his shoulder as he filled in his landing card, just as he’s looking over mine as I write this. We have no option. Narrow seats. Shoulder to shoulder.

Ho yes. Here we go. There’s the turbulence they promised. And to think the last thing I’ll hear as I plummet into the icy depths of the Atlantic are the words ‘brace brace brace… and if you’re interested in the Super Bowl, the score is SPLOOOOOOOOOSH CRACK

Keep typing Paul, if the black box is lost, this saved blog post is the only record they’ll have of the last moments of AA flight 100. Nothing to do with terrorists, just a pilot watching ESPN on the radar screen.

Whooompf. Seriously, this is some turbulent shit.

So, yes, New York, I’m on my way back and it was great. A mix of work-pleasure and pleasure-pleasure, much of which I’ve promised I won’t write about, in order to protect the innocent. 37,000 feet and dropping like a stone. Looks like I’ll be taking those secrets to my grave.

Thursday saw the very first Glasshouse New York event at Soho (NY)’s trendy Soho House (NY). A curious place, all told. Not for it Soho House (London)’s flock wallpaper, cosy chat rooms and sad old drunks. Oh no. Instead it’s a proper restaurant with a proper health club and a proper swimming pool. A swimming pool! At Soho House! In London it’d be Barrymore-deep in Lubbocks before the evening was out.

Richard was there too. He has just renamed his company Moocards and he’s going to be richer than my wildest dreams before the year is out. This required celebration so when he and I settled down to listen to Jim ‘Craigslist’ Buckmaster’s keynote speech, it’s fair to say we were drunk, like only Englishmen in New York can be.

Jim talked about Craig, his List, the fact he still drives a Prius, sticking it to the man, standing up to the Feds and skiing on the Lower East Side (everybody laughed at this brilliant local in-joke – like when comedians make fun of local officials to guarantee a cheer. If Richard got the joke, he did a good job of hiding it. I certainly didn’t). We even asked questions – me about Google and China. Short answer: Craig won’t be evil. I didn’t hear the long answer. I was at the bar. Richard’s question concerned the fact that the fact that in a company that makes such a hoo-hah about being guided by its users, the role of CEO is redundant. It was far and away the best question of the evening – just one of the reasons why Richard will be rich before the year is out. Me – I drained my beer and went back to the bar.

Laurel Touby from MediaBistro – propping up the bar: a pro – was everything I hoped for, and so much more. A genuine joy. And I certainly think she appreciated my telling her where she was going wrong. In return she told me where everyone else was going wrong.

Why does everyone hate Gawker so much?

Trick question. Don’t answer that. And did you know that everything said in Soho House is off the record? I didn’t. No harm no foul…

Whhhooomp. Whump. VrroooOOOOOOOOO. That’s the ticket, keep ramping up that thrust. We’ll get through this if it kills us all.

Other highlights include time spent with Pretty Matches and friends. Chatham House rules – I promised and I’m a man of my word. Even though Alison failed to get us to the Speckled Pig. I hear the cheeseballs are to die for and the other patrons are absolutely certainly not Britcom-obsessed-North-Carolinan doofi. Maybe next time.

Meantime, if anyone knows where I can get some taps with tiny little people perched on them, I’ll be in your debt.

Moving on.

Lots more highlights, all too dull or sordid to warrant recounting here. Arrests at gunpoint, that kind of thing – and no trip to the apple that never sleeps so good they named it twice would be complete without brunch with Mimi New York, aka Mimi The Welsh Cambridge Grad Stripper. The nearest you’ll ever come to a human soap opera, Mimi was on sparkling form with tales of blog love lost, blog revenge taken and received and the highs and lows of dancing go-go. She also had laundry to collect, which only goes to show that we’re not that different, strippers and I.

Oh, and the trip was punctuated with intermittent beeps from my phone as yet another person – even Holy Moly! for Christ’s sake – texted to tell me about Mil Millington’s generous mention of me in the Guardian magazine over the weekend. He’d warned me about it weeks ago, of course. Asked if I minded. I called him a rude, gynacological word. That’ll put him off, I thought. Show the little shit who’s boss, eh. But no. Clever bastard waited ’til I was away. Thank God no one reads that stuff, eh? Could be embarrassing.

For the record, though, it was Mil who was flirting with me that night. And pilling off his tits as I recall it. He actually goosed me at one point. I’d say more but it’d only cause some kind of argument between him and his girlfriend and I’d hate to make the pink-haired little shit any more money.

Niiiiinnnnnvpppmph. Bang. I mean, honestly, what kind of clown thinks this is a good time to burst his crisp packet? I shit you not.

The in-flight entertainment on American is as follows: BBC World, CBS’ Eye on America and, two episodes of ‘Two and a Half Men’ and two episodes of ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ on loop? And that’s it. And actually not even on loop. There’s a half-hour gap between cycles. Why? Dear God WHY? Oh, to give us time to watch an advertorial for Marriot on Channel 3.

It’s not like this stuff is jet science. Treating coach passengers like stimulation-blind, culinary-undiscerning cattle is the precisely the wrong decision for a struggling airline to make. Flying coach is part and parcel of the entrepreneurial dream. Our own version of the cilice belt, mortifying our ambitious, egotistical flesh, preventing us believing our own hype and building straw houses on the mixed metaphorical sand. That much is understood.

Until the IPO.

After the IPO. The money – the security – it brings. Ding. Different game, different rules. We’re suits now, man. And suits fly business. The shareholders expect it. Otherwise we might mix with the entrepreneurs in coach and start getting fancy ideas about social responsibility and not self-censoring for the Chinese market.

And you know what? When that glorious day comes, there is no way in hell we’ll move up from coach to AA’s business class. No siree bob. You might as upgrade to a flat-bed seat on the train to Auschwitz. Personally I’ve got my eye on a seat in Virgin Upper Class, but I’ll settle for BA Club if I have to slum it. Marginally more expensive, but someone else will be paying so where’s the matter?

But wait – what’s this in Business Week? American Airlines in huge financial trouble? Slashed costs? Started charging for drinks to save $300m a year? Might have to be bailed out by merging with BA?


Well now, it seems I have to switch off all electronic equipment. The Steelers have won and we’re preparing for our descent into London Heathrow. It’s not made clear whether those two facts are related – but if so, I’m pleased with the result.

A stewardess – flight attendant – is walking down the aisle, holding a big plastic bag and repeating the words ‘trash… any trash…?’ in a squawking monotone.

The man in front wakes with a start. He slept through the turbulence, but this deranged woman is too much even for him.

Charlie Sheen disappears from the seat-back TV and is replaced with a little map, showing our descent.

Time to London: 6 mins.

More turbulence.

Dunk. Whiiiiiiiiir. Dunk.

Landing gear down.

Another successful trip.

And there’s no place like home.



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