Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Luck of the Draw

I was in computer training all day today with three workmates, which wasn’t quite as bad as it sounded. Usually the idea of an entire day being taught to use Office programs fills me with dread, but not only was the trainer funny as hell, but she pitched it at the right level so that I actually learnt a fair bit. She gave the four of us – I’m not kidding – little signs to hold up that said ‘OOoooOOOooo’ on one side and ‘Wow’ on the other, in order to gauge our interest. Suffice it to say that I held it up unironically on several occasions.

In order to keep her audience interested and ensure that we interacted with her, she told us that every time we said something useful or asked a good question, she’d hand us a playing card. The more the better at the end of the day, because whoever had the best poker hand (choosing their best five cards) won a prize.

I want you all to understand the implications of this. The deal was that the more we interacted, the better our chances of winning a prize.


Let me give you an example of how I read such a challenge, just so that those of you who haven't caught up can understand why this is a bad idea.

The last thing we learnt on the day was how to use PowerPoint in a BigLawFirm approved format. In order to demonstrate this, we were all instructed to put together a simple three-slide presentation about ourselves. The other three were called things like ‘All about Blondie*’ and ‘Queenie**’s presentation’. Mine was called ‘Tanya: why we love her and buy her alcohol’ complete with clipart of wine glasses and a little graph depicting the ratio of adoration to inebriation.

Believe it or not, I got extra playing cards for this tactic, and won the prize.

I was expecting the prize to be a cheap bottle of wine, or perhaps a pack of playing cards. Nope. It’s a poker kit complete with chips, dealer chips, cards and a booklet. So I’m feeling pretty lucky, and I suggest to Blondie and Queenie that we go to a bar and celebrate Blondie’s house purchase. We go somewhere nice. It’s hot, and the balcony of the bar is crowded with expensively dressed yuppies. We blend in.

I’m feeling lucky up until the point where I knock my relatively expensive glass of wine over. It flies in the direction of the floor, though, missing me and everyone else, so I’m just down a glass of wine. So I’m still feeling lucky when I ask the waiter to bring me a second glass. He acquiesces, and brings my Sauvignon Blanc out on a tray which also holds a glass of red. He puts my wine down carefully, and as he reaches for the second glass his hand jerks up and he throws the contents of the glass all over me.

The wine flies upwards and out of the glass in a graceful arc towards me, the sunlight glinting through it as it moves. The balcony hushes. Forty yuppies turn towards me. I stand there, my shirt and skirt dripping with red wine.

And all I can do is laugh.

In the end they comped me two more glasses of wine and promised to pay the dry cleaning bill, so I’m feeling pretty lucky still. Now I just need to work out how to play poker.

*Blondie is the girl from a previous post who told me I had a wicked personality. She’s actually very nice.

**Queenie is the other girl with whom I started. The three of us share an office. I feel guilty giving her such a corny nickname; it’s no reflection on her.

Monday, November 20, 2006

To err is human, to blog is...well, also human. If you're an attention seeker.

So, this whole write-a-novel-in-a-month thing? Yeah, not so much. The laptop is pretty much cactus, and I've taken it back to the shop. Normally I'd just do the usual trade with a computer-geek friend (I cook, he makes the computer go) but this was very clearly a hardware issue, and the thing's under warranty, so you know. Reformat from scratch, I said. Hell, give me a new one, I said. Just don't charge me. I was bolshy, the lawyer knowing her rights. And then I walked out of the shop and looked up at the husband, lip quivering for added effect, and said in a plaintive tone that was the shiniest thing I'd ever owned, and now it's gone.

So, self-imposed pathos aside, I am still writing, but I'm not going to get to fifty thousand words in a month. I'm at nineteen thousand at the moment, so I'm shooting for a novel in two months. [Inter]national novel writing month[s], one might say. I feel what it lacks in pithiness it makes up for in accuracy.

Why not in one month? Well, apart from the job and the lack of laptop and the interstate visitors, I've also joined a new gym in the hopes that spending half my wage on indulgent yuppie faux-exercise rather than, you know, going for a damn walk, will inspire me to work hard and lose weight.

So far it's been a week of cancelling appointments because I have work commitments, and then an 8am 'orientation and assessment' in which they explained how to use the treadmill (Now, you press the big button that says Start, and then you adjust the speed with the big button that says Faster...) and asked me what time I started work (Me: "Well, normally 8, but I had an appointment with you so I came in at 7.15. Her: What, a.m.?|). No matter: I am enthused, energised, and almost completely sure that I won't be writing a post in two weeks that begins "So, this whole get fit and healthy thing?"

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sometimes you should just go home early

Friday night I had a work do, a professional mixer thrown by a big client, at which I intended to drink one glass of wine and then leave early.

For some reason, I always seem to think that this plan will work. By now, you'd think I'd know what was actually going to happen, and which did. We turn up, a phalanx of black-suited lawyers, and head to the bar. Now, I say bar. This is a low-key sort of arrangement, so the bar is just a trestle table manned by volunteers. It's less than half an hour into the party, but the girl before me gets the last of the plastic wine glasses. So my champagne? Comes in a tumbler.

After two of those, the speeches start. My boss uses his (lack of) stature to sidle unnoticed through the crowd and obtain us a beer each whilst everyone's listening. Some time after that, there's a glass of red wine in my hand.

They finally kick us out, almost an hour after the official finish time. It's still early, 7pm, and a lawyer friend and I decide to go on to a bar. She's meeting a girlfriend who isn't due for an hour, so I ring the husband - shouting over the other people in the lift - and tell him I'll be late.

I don't eat at parties. It's just too awkward, trying to establish whether the little quiche things have meat in them, trying to balance a drink and a plate of vegetables, being introduced to potentially important clients with a mouthful of food. So by the time we get to the bar, I'm sort of drunk.

And the girlfriend turns up, and she's beautiful. Really, genuinely, heartbreakingly beautiful. My lawyer friend is also very striking, blonde and tall and thin. So when a couple of men come in and come over, I'm invisible. I mean, they don't even look in my direction, sort of invisible. It's not like I expect male attention as some sort of birthright, but it's a little galling not to even have them bother to introduce themselves to me.

Lawyer friend tells me it's always like this with the Beautiful One, men just materialise. She's quick to add that she herself commands enough attention, I should understand, as well. And I nod, and say something like yes, I can imagine that neither of you have any trouble, you're both very attractive.

And do you know what she says to me? In a tone of genuine warmth and good humour, she looks at me and she says "Oh, but don't worry. You've got the most wicked personality."

Miss Congeniality 2006, ladies and gentleman.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Abyssinian Restaurant, with detours

Has anyone here ever read an article linking the existence of the internet to the dearth of decent modern literature? Or at the very least linking the existence of the internet to the demise of the long, detail-stuffed novel?

Because I am 8,000 words behind schedule on the novel now, and whilst there is a valid argument to be made for blaming this on the fact that I’m a) a lawyer, b) at a really big firm where they, for reasons that escape me, seem to expect that I will work diligently and without pausing for breath for ten or eleven hours a day, c) and I sit with my back to the door of my office so that everyone, most pertinently my boss, can see what I’m doing at any given time d) not to mention that I probably have no writing talent whatsoever anyway…I choose, instead, to blame the internet.

Damn internet, with its beguiling distractions and wanton ways.

Anyway, moving on. I went out to dinner with the husband last night after work, which was very nice. And I promised a friend that I’d give him a rundown of what the restaurant was like (I’m trying to lure him and his wife to Adelaide with the promise of good food, you see. I briefly flirted with the idea of claiming that my city was known for handing out free mojitos on street corners, but my mother always told me not to lie to men who know how to handle a gun*) and thus paid more attention then normal to the food.

Given that I’ve been neglecting this blog, and one of my secret Dream Jobs is to be a food critic anyway, I figured I might as well share my review with you lot.


(Holy crap, that was a long lead in. No wonder I’m so behind on the damn novel).

The Abyssinian – Ethiopian Cuisine

There’s nothing glamorous about the Abyssinian. It’s a kilometre or two out of the city, and the neon sign is past its use-by date. Inside, the tables are covered in floral yellow cloths with a stack of paper napkins on each. Even on a warm Friday night, it was almost empty.

It does, however, feel genuine. Ethiopian artefacts and paintings are everywhere, and cones of incense burning on a little table at the back of the room. Impossibly tall women with amazing hair keep coming in to say hello to the owners. The wine list is practically non-existent, and what is on there is poor quality and over-priced; they are also BYO. They do offer a range of Ethiopian beers, which we didn’t try but are probably far more appropriate as an accompaniment to the food. The food, at least to my ignorant palate, is very very good.

The husband chooses the house speciality, the Doro-wot, chicken legs simmered in a sauce of berbere (red chile pepper), minced shallot and egg. The Doro-wot sauce is a dark paprika-red, and apparently with quite a kick to it; ‘like a cross between a Hungarian goulash and a Vindaloo’, I am instructed. It, like mine, is served with injera, a flat bread made from rice flour. Everything is eaten with the hands, of course, which leads us into a discussion about whether this place would be a good idea for a first date or not. We decide that it would be; he because it would allow him to weed out anyone too squeamish to give themselves over to the experience, I because of the finger licking. But I digress.

I go for the Beyianetoo, the mixed vegetarian platter, which at $15.00 is the most expensive thing on the menu. From the top: the kik-alicha (split peas in turmeric sauce) is mild, the turmeric and basil bringing out the nuttiness of the peas. The gomen, spinach and onions sautéed with tomatos and garlic, is beautifully fresh, a nice counterpart to the spicier dishes. The fousselia (beans and carrots) is quite bland, and the dinich wot (potatoes and carrots) could have used some lemon to bring out the turmeric and spices. The star, for me, is the messer-wot; red lentils in berbere sauce with garlic, red onions and spices. The lentils have been simmered for hours so they are tender, and their flavour blends with the sauce to produce something rich and luxurious. I could have been content just eating this dish, and perhaps the gomen as a counterpart. Still, the huge variety on the platter is appreciated, and even with the husband helping we don’t manage to finish it.

It’s amazing value, and one of the best meals we’ve had in a while. It probably won’t appeal to anyone who prefers style to substance, but if you like food, you can’t help but enjoy this.

*We have some odd conversations, my mother and I, what can I tell you?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Where Am I (II)

Why, I'm glad you asked. I'm settled down in my lounge room. There's a cat snuggled up on the sofa to my right. A husband on the couch to my left, watching television. The heater's on.

It's pretty comfy, all told. I just thought I'd share.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Where Am I?

It's National Novel Writing Month and despite the fact that I still don't have a laptop, I do have a job requiring ten and eleven hour days, and I'm booked solid every weekend from now until January., I decided to do it. You know how it is, right?

To make matters worse, my sister in law and her husband are coming to visit tomorrow for a few days, which meant that we had to go grocery shopping and then clean the house this evening. It's 9.45pm, I've just finished mopping the floors, and I'm logged on in order to write.

As of right now, I'm on 3000 words. Which is behind schedule, but not by much.

Guys, seriously: I love this blog. I love knowing that there's an audience for what I say, even if it is only because you're all bored stupid at work. I haven't been great at keeping up with blogging recently, and it's going to get worse over November. But if you can bear with me just a little longer, I'm pretty confident I can get back into it in December. After all, if I can write a novel in a month, what's a little blogging?