Image: Modern Toss
Six months into my flash new job in Mayfair. I'm clinging onto a beading glass of champagne, whilst surreptitiously helping myself to more than my fair share of buffalo mozzarella from the circulating platters at a gallery launch party in Chelsea. The room is an elegant sartorial soup of cosmopolitan design-cum-artsy types and this glacier of a Norwegian chick in tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses has just struck up a conversation with me. I'm desperately searching for things to say that won't make me sound like a complete berk. She is the very picture of tousled perfection. Grey trouser suit, minimal make-up and red velvet kitten heels. I keep longing to ask her where she got them but that would be social suicide.
As a person who lives in continual terror of sticking her foot in it I never like to find myself the more verbose half of a one to one conversation. It's quite simply a countdown to launch until I say something ridiculous. This girl is of the indifferent, dead-pan variety. That type who is genetically evolved not to mind uncomfortable silences and almost goes out of her way to create them. She keeps asking me questions and then saying, "Mmmm" and gazing through me as if I'm made of glass and there's something fascinating occurring on the other side of my head. It doesn't, of course, help that she used to have my job, is two years younger than me and has now moved on to, in her words, 'greener pastures.'
"Sometimes it seems a bit of a shambles, don’t you think? Nobody seems to know exactly what it is the company does," she says silkily as I cram another handful of cheese into my mouth, concentrating hard on not letting the sweaty champagne flute slip through my fingers. "At least that was how it was when I was there...but that's creatives for you..." a flutter of knowing laughter. I notice she hasn't eaten anything whatsoever and is drinking mineral water and for some reason this makes me feel at an extreme disadvantage.
"Yes," I say, trying to look sage. "I agree. We really need to redefine the way the company represents itself to the consumer, particularly online."
Where is this bullshit coming from? I wonder; and how long can I keep it up for?
"Huh," she gives a Gallic shrug and smirks. "Nothing changes."
The fact this girl used to have my job and looks like Vanessa Paradis' long-lost younger sister has done nothing for my ego. Next to her I look like an elephantine fashion victim. It's rather shattered my illusions about being the 'hot, mysterious new girl in the office'. I feel like H&M threw up on me. Six months on a moderately decent salary a Burberry frock does not buy.
"So," a slow sip of the mineral water. "What is your background?"
Oh balls. I hate this question. I pause to construct an answer that sounds better than, "Umm...three ski seasons and a healthy dollop of bugger all."
"My core experience is in the digital sphere,” I coo, loathing myself. “Really the creative industry is new territory for me," ...nicely done...surprisingly eloquent...why is she still looking at me as if she's expecting me to say more? Why hasn't she replied? Don't panic...Just stop talking..."Actually I was expecting the industry to be full of bitchy idiots with their heads stuck up their arses. You know, people with designer beards, minimalist personalities and those uber trendy rimmed spectacles, but everyone I've met so far has been, you know....pretty normal."
...and there it is. The clanger. Hanging in the air between us like a sundried fart. Proof unequivocal, I think, as she adjusts her specs and glances over her shoulder at the owner of the gallery (who has a very lush, very bushy, rust-coloured beard) that I am an imposter.
"Er...I must just pop to the loo," I say, before she has time to think about it too much. "I'll leave you to your drink."
The thing is I'm actually really trying not to internalise London too much. All the bullshit parts I mean. It’s fun to play around until you start believing it’s really, genuinely important - the pressure to be in the know, to have fabulous taste and antique jewellery that you picked up in Burma, and a Marc Jacobs business card case and a rose gold Michael Kors watch. The pressure to record your every fart on twitter accompanied by an exquisite Instagram snap that perfectly captures the moment. I am trying, but it's hard, because I feel like an imposter and I have done ever since I got the job. Ever since the interviewer asked what I'd been doing with the last three years and I replied, "I took a career break to write a thesis and did some seasonal work to supplement my income." Not technically true, but sounds infinitely better than, "I had a mid twenties crisis because I was engaged to a psychotic cunt and then my best friend died so I freaked out completely, stuck two fingers up at the tube and sold my ass for a ski pass."
Hilariously they bought it, and here I am, flying the corporate flag once again. But even with my fashionable new wardrobe (leggings and hoodies replaced by high heels and fitted frocks) I often feel I'm only a child playing at being this new grown-up version of myself. I have convinced myself, also, that it’s only a means to an end. The means – accruing the skills and experience that will enable me to make mountain life sustainable long term with a business of my own. That's the big ambition - to go back to the mountains. But not (as last season) to work for an ego maniac prick with an iceberg for a wife. And not (as in the two seasons prior) to be made scapegoat for the fucktardedness of others.
In the mean time let me take this opportunity to offer myself as a source of (slightly controversial) advice and inspiration for anyone out there considering doing a season.
Anyway. Back to the party.
I've just reached the front of the busy queue for the loo, where the espresso I necked to sober myself up is starting to take effect in the worst possible way. I need a shit. It's knocking on the door and won't take no for an answer. The loo is unisex and crammed with people who look like they only crap apple blossom and orange mist - and there are no windows, of course. The trouble with minimalism is there's too much of it about.
I flurry past a willowy goddess in desperation, lock the door and drop my load. But, horror of all horrors - it's a non-flusher. This turd just won't go away. All the loo paper dissipates swirlingly from around it, leaving this lump just floating there, mocking me. Winking at me.
Christ. What d I do? I can't leave. People will know it's mine. I can't exactly walk out into a crowded loo of absurdly stylish and distinguished art professionals and announce, “that's not mine."
In blind panic, now, I try to batter it into submission with more loo roll but it still won't go away. It smells too. And now I've turned around quickly and knocked over the remains of my champagne where the flute combusts into millions of fragments on the polished concrete floor.
How has this fucking well happened?
As I open the toilet door, an array of perplexed, designer-bearded and bespectacled expressions greets me. And here is Miss Norway, poking her head round the door and surveying the wreckage I've left in my wake.
"Could someone call the concierge, please?" I say, desperately trying to feign inner-poise and stepping gingerly out of the cubicle.
"Ooh. Who did this?" asks Miss Norway, dead-pan.
Alright darling. You've busted me. I'm a slumdog seasonnaire; a philistine masquerading as someone with dignity and qualified prowess. I can't walk in fucking high heels and I love cheese. I'm making my job up as I go along and until last week I'd never even heard of the owner of this gallery.
As SbH's Mum likes to say: "What? I bet you’ve got a hole in your arse, haven’t you?"