Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Part trois

Click here for Some Fiction (part one)
Click here for Part Deux

There were not many places that Janine felt she could completely relax, but behind her locked front door and entry phone she could finally shed the weight of the day and breathe deeply.  Her adopted cat, Fitz, would not go so far as to greet her with any great enthusiasm but he deigned to look up as she closed the front door and let out a sigh.
"And a good evening to you too,cat" she said, hanging her jacket on the coat hook by the door.
She really had surprised herself in the amount of pleasure she'd had tonight, but now that it was over she needed to focus on getting ready for another busy day tomorrow.  Preparation would consist of a long, hot soak, a last glass of wine and a catch up on emails that she would have missed between leaving the office and getting home.
Although Luke's arctic blue eyes had seemed to have taken residence in her mind, she decided that maybe she wouldn't be calling him as soon as she thought she might when she said goodbye.  He was a nice man, and although the 'dark and mysterious' type wasn't normally the sort she'd go for, there was something quite enigmatic and attractive about him.  However, she'd already taken a risk in agreeing to a drink with a complete stranger and to push that any further might be asking for trouble.

As the bath was running, she poured herself a glass of wine from the fridge and scanned her email inbox for anything that might need attention before tomorrows staffers meeting.  The usual nonsense about non-disclosure agreements being contested (which happened a surprising amount of times, more than the general public knew), missing deadlines and the latest corporate guidelines on what constitutes a 'good' story.  In short, nothing worth sitting down and responding to right now.  Janine went through to the bathroom, carrying her glass, and called to Fitz,
"Stay out of trouble cat, I don't want to have to get out of the bath for at least half an hour".

As she undressed in her bathroom, Luke's voice played out in her mind - the dark, almost syrupy, sound of a man who would never have to raise his voice to command a room.  The slightest chill scurried down her back and caused her skin to tighten as she remembered his cologne... something woody, yet spicy.  She had a good idea that her dreams that night would be more 'adult themed' than usual.
The water slowly closed over her as she lowered herself, wincing slightly, into the hot soapy water.  The moan she let out was almost climatic in its intensity and she settled herself back with the water closing up to just below her chin.
"If there's anything better than this after travelling on the underground, I don't know what it is" she thought to herself.
The heat, combined with the earlier alcohol, made her feel light headed for a moment and she thought she heard her entry phone buzz.  She stopped moving and held her breath, thinking "no, no, no not my phone, I really don't want to have to answer the door". Ten seconds... twenty seconds...
And yes, there it was, the strident angry bee like buzz of the entry phone by her front door.
"Shit!" she exclaimed.  With a sigh, she lifted herself out of the bath, grabbed her robe, and opened the bathroom door emerging from the steam like a magicians assistant from a cloud of dry ice.  She tied the robe around her and snatched up the handset from the entry phone.
"Hello?" she snapped, thinking that although that might come across as a bit rude, she was in the bath, dammit!
There was no response.
"Yes, hello, who is it?" she demanded again.
Still no response.
"Hello?!" she said again, slightly louder this time.
As she was listening she heard the main entrance entry phone buzz, and after a few seconds the main front door open and then slam closed.
"Wrong bloody house, you tit" Janine thought to herself.
She replaces the handset and turns back toward the bathroom.  As she starts toward it, and her cocoon of hot water and soap, she hears movement just outside her own front door.  Like someone dragging some cloth along the wall.  She stops, and tilts her head like an inquisitive dog.  Her brow pulls down into a frown as she waits to see if there is any other sounds forthcoming.

Suddenly, there is a large bang as something is thrust against the front door.  The door itself seems to jump in it's hinges and the letter box opens and shuts with a sharp clap.
Janine lets out a scream - she can't help it.  She doesn't think of herself as a girlie, lady-in-distress type but that noise scared her.  Another thump hits the front door, this time making Fitz the cat jump up from his perch on the back of the sofa and hurtle toward the bedroom.
"Who's there?" Janine demands loudly.  If it's the same someone who just mistook her flat number downstairs, she's going to be mightily pissed off.  But the next thing she hears sends a lightening bolt of ice and fear shooting down her spine.  Her letterbox is eased up and a voice, still dark and thick but no longer pleasant - more like hot tar than chocolate - speaks to her.

"I told you I'd see you again soon".

Friday, 24 August 2012

Part deux

The evening passed in a blur of butterflies in the stomach, blushing cheeks and slightly sweaty palms.
Janine felt as though she were in some kind of film with Luke as her co-star.
After taking the plunge and agreeing to jump off the tube with him to stop somewhere for a drink, Janine felt as though she had spent a couple of hours being the complete center of Luke's universe.  All he wanted to do was talk about her.  Did she have any brothers or sisters?  Where were her parents?  Did she enjoy her job?  What were her hopes, dreams, aspirations?  Against her will almost, she was flattered into a state of quiet arousal and preening self-promotion.  She wasn't always at ease talking about herself or her life, she was very much a private person especially with someone she hardly knew.  But Luke seemed to have a way of asking questions and looking at her that made her want to open up and almost boast about herself.
The only slightly strange thing was that whenever she tried to ask questions about him, or his life, he seemed to be able to answer without giving anything in detail away, and would artfully steer the conversation back to her.
Not that she minded.  When she was talking to him, his eyes would track hers as though magnetized and she had the impression he was drinking in her every word, to be analyzed and remembered fondly later. This was the reason her heart would keep skipping and her stomach would feel like it was made of water.  The heat that was slowly rising from between her hips was not unwelcome either.
When the time came, she found it hard to have to suggest she leave as she needed to get the last train home. Much to her surprise she could have kept talking for a lot longer, but she was wary of the fact that she didn't really know this man and the amount of wine she had consumed was more than she had realized.

"Listen Luke, I have had a really nice time, but I must get back to the station so I can get home" she said.

"Of course, I'm sorry, I didn't realize how late it had got.  I have to get the tube myself, so I'll walk you to the station" he replied.

"Oh, great, thanks" she said, as she gathered her jacket and handbag and headed toward the door.

As they walked toward the tube station entrance, Janine felt more comfortable than she probably should have done, and she put that down to a combination of the effect of the cold night-time air on her alcohol doused brain, and the proximity of Luke's body as he walked by her side.  It felt as though he was a buffer against which she could lean as the exertions of the day and the lateness of the hour began to have a tiring effect.  She didn't quite feel ready for any kind of physical contact, but she knew she would reflect on these feelings later at home and they would give her a warm glow that would follow her into sleep.

They arrived at the platform and their luck was in as the next train was two minutes away.  Luke pulled a piece of paper from his inner pocket.

"Here, here's my email address and mobile number.  I won't ask for yours, that way there's no pressure for you to call me" he said with a smile.

"OK, great, thanks!" Janine replied.  She then thought to herself that that was a nice way of doing things... no pressure on her, but it shows she could be interested by taking the contact information.  She had a feeling she would be at least emailing in the next day or two though.

"I had a really nice evening Luke, thank you" said Janine, "it's such a shame the night has to end right now".

As the train pulled into the station, with the usual cacophony of rushing air and screeching brakes, Janine could have sworn Luke replied "It's not going to, I'll be seeing you soon".

"I'm sorry, what?" said Janine, raising her voice above the noise.

"I said, I think so too, I hope I see you soon" shouted Luke.

The train doors opened and Janine stepped aboard, turning in the door to wave goodbye.

"Thanks again Luke, I'm sure we'll speak soon" she said with a smile.

She turned, and went and found a seat.  She sat with her back to the platform and smiled to herself, thinking that for a spur of the moment decision, the evening had panned out very well.

As the doors closed, she didn't think to look over her shoulder and see if he was standing and watching.  So she didn't see Luke suddenly sprint to the end of the train, and dive into the last set of doors.

The night hadn't come to an end just yet.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Some fiction

Janine felt tired.  She often did on her journey home, but then working as a journalist in London wasn't an easy job.  It was demanding, all consuming and left little time for personal pursuits or meaningful relationships.  She had friends of course, a couple of close ones that she went to school and university with and a few Facebook friends but deep down she knew she was missing out on something important when her only affection came from the cat she had 'inherited' when she moved into her basement flat just off Ladbroke Grove.
She'd just completed another eleven hour day and was looking forward to nothing more than a long hot soak and some car-crash TV (the new series of Celebrity Big Brother had started the night before).  Not really nourishment for the soul, but it would enable her to switch off and prepare her exhausted mind for the next working day.
She wasn't really concentrating on the paper she was reading, just trying to avoid smelling the funny odor that was emanating from the Underground train she was travelling in, when she started to get the feeling of being watched.  Not unusual on the evening train home, but this felt...different.  Without wanting to draw attention to herself, she let her eyes wander around the carriage.  And there, opposite and two seats down, was the source of these feelings.  A dark haired man, mid-30's with a nicely cut suit and impressive looking shoes.  She caught him looking and although normally in this situation the man would look away quickly, embarrassed to be spotted staring, this man simply let his lips gently stretch into a half smile while maintaining eye contact.  Janine was the one to look away.  She was too tired, and being gawped at by people on the tube like this was just creepy.

"I don't bite you know" he said.

Janine heard the words but at first didn't register that they were meant for her.  The voice was quite deep, like she'd imagine dark chocolate to sound if she could hear it speak.  She looked up in mild surprise and said "I'm sorry, what?".
"I said I don't bite" he replied, with another slight smile.
Janine uttered a nervous little laugh and looked back down at her paper.  "What was this blokes problem?" she thought to herself.
"I'm Luke" he said.
"Blimey, he's not giving up is he?" thought Janine and looked back up at him.  She noticed his eyes this time. Something about the way the tube lighting shone on his face made them look like pools of ice water that had just had something thrown into them... shimmering slightly and alive with energy.

"I've seen you get this train a lot, and I thought it about time I worked up the courage to speak to you.  And now I have, it seems churlish not to ask you if you'd like to have a drink with me?" said Luke.
Janine was quite stunned - was he really being this bold?  Did he really expect her to say "Yes I'd love to!" to some stranger on the tube home?  But then something strange happened... she realized that she wasn't instantly turned off by the idea.  The voice, the eyes, and there was something quite sexy about the confidence he exuded.
"Is that right?  Well you're awfully brave just coming out with it like that.  But I don't know who you are and isn't that a bit dangerous for a woman on her own?" she replied with, what she hoped, was calm superiority and slight aloofness.
"Well as I said, I don't bite.  And I wouldn't have asked if I didn't think you were quite breath taking".
This made Janine blush.  "Breath taking?" she thought,  "Is he for real?"  But despite herself, she felt her heartbeat quicken and her stomach flutter.  Was she really going to say yes?  Was she really going to take a risk and see if that missing piece was sat opposite her right now, smiling like he knew how she would look in her underwear?


I've very recently gone through the whole 'applying for a new job' process again.  There is nothing wrong with my current role, in fact I'd quite happily stay here for a while with no problems.  But what happened was that a 'recruitment consultant' (agent) approached me about a new possibility he was looking to fill, and in a skill search my CV was the only one that came up that matched what he was looking for within 40 miles of Manchester.  I took that as a good sign - I mean, surely that means I will be in demand, right?

I made it clear, from the first phone call, that I was not looking to move on and was happy enough where I was.  However as an I.T professional (yes, I am, don't argue) it's always a good idea to keep an open mind when a new opportunity presents itself.  So this agent convinced me it was worth at least having a conversation with the company who were looking to recruit and to see how I felt about the role and how they felt about me.  This was last week.

Well the call obviously went well, as I was invited in for a face to face with the I.T Manager and a couple of the developers I'd be working with.  This was yesterday.  This morning I received some feedback from the agent about what the company thought of me... I will quote some of it here (I shit you not, this is copied and pasted from the emails I received)...

"I spoke to [I.T Manager] on my way home yesterday evening. His feedback was positive, and [Lead Developer] and [Developer] also gave a positive recommendation after having met you.

All felt that you came across well, and that you demonstrated the confidence to be able to make a strong contribution and look after this project that they have planned. [I.T Manager] also commented that he felt he got on with you well, and could see you fitting in but also getting on well with the existing team. All in all, a very favourable review – they are quite fussy by the way "

I replied that this didn't seem as 'gushing' as I thought considering the impression I got during the interview, and so he then said...

"They tend not to go OTT on feedback, but for them to have no concerns, is almost unheard of. They normally have some reservation about people they interview, whether big, or very small, but with you there were none. So that’s a first for me and a big well done for you I’d say.

When I mentioned they would be likely to pursue, [I.T Manager] actually suggested job offer, but I didn’t want to state that in case it doesn’t work out and then you feel like you have been lead along.

So for them to have already come to that conclusion, an hour after having met you for the first time, is something to be proud of!"

I've changed the names of individuals to job titles, but apart from that, that's what I received today.  Sounds good doesn't it?  Very positive, and with the impression they are willing to offer me a job.  Awesome.

However, over email the agent and I then discussed what MY package expectations were.  Salary, holidays etc.  When I told him what I would need to be offered to consider leaving (again, reminding him that I am happy here and it would really need to be the right offer for me to consider it) he... how can I put it.  He seemed to throw his toys out of the pram a little.  It seems that it's been forgotten that I did not categorically say I wanted to leave and would take what ever they offered.  The next three or four emails I received from him were one sentence responses.  He's obviously not happy!

And now, that's made ME feel bad.  How's that happened?? I almost feel obliged to take an offer (if one is forthcoming) just to keep him happy and not annoy or upset him.  That's not right is it?  I know that if they don't offer me an attractive enough package, I will feel very guilty about saying no.  And no matter that people will say "Oh don't worry, it's the agents job" etc. I will still feel as though I have led him on or something even though I have maintained throughout this I am NOT guaranteed to accept any offer that may come my way.

Why can't I be more ruthless?  I am in the lucky position that I don't need to move on from my current role, so why can't I stop feeling like the agent is doing ME a favor by sorting this out for me, and if I say no to him why will I feel as though I've let him down?  Am I weird?

Comments to the usual address (the comments box below).

Oh and by the way - I've turned ON the word verification thing again.  I know it annoys you but as soon as I turn it off I get hit with spam comments so it's back on again I'm afraid.  Don't let that deter you from leaving comments.


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

This is beginning to annoy me

Well, when I say 'this' I mean, 'I' - I'm beginning to annoy me.
I think I may have touched on this in the past, but after chatting with, and listening to the music of, someone I follow on Twitter (@nickyphillips) it's again brought it home to me.
It can be summed up in one sentence.  I wish I could perform on my guitar in front of an audience.

As some of you probably know, I play guitar.  Not brilliantly - I mean, I'm no Eric Claption or Slash, but I play well enough for my own ears and can often be found strumming to myself of an evening.  (OK, stop  giggling now).  It's only been fairly recently that I have got up the courage to sing out loud rather than in my head, and quite often if I'm alone now I can be heard belting out those songs that match my 'vocal range' (ooh, 'ark at me...).
I have sung in front of friends, but this is usually after a couple of glasses of vino when I'm more relaxed.  There have been a couple of disastrous occasions when I've had a little too much wine and sounded, quite frankly, shite - but on the whole it's been OK.
Now your friends are your friends for a reason and so I really don't think that if they thought I sounded awful they would say so.  They are too kind and wonderful and generous for that.  But I do receive positive feedback and it makes me more and more keen to want to try my ability in front of strangers.
First of all, busking is out. I don't like the idea of that.  I would want a 'captive' audience (God I'm evil), not a paying audience obviously, just some people who are there to listen to music and might appreciate my noise.
There are open mic nights - I think there is one in a pub right near me - but that kind of sends a shiver up my spine.  Playing to a group of people who could be pissed?  That could be a little scary.  Although, I suppose, if the vibe was right, it might be good.

Take a visit to @nickyphillps website.  There are two songs on there.  One on the home screen ("Chemical Reaction") and one under the Media link ("Sweet Rose").  This is actually a video and I watched it and thought "Yes - that's the sort of thing I could maybe do".  Go on, go have a look.  I'll wait...
See?  Good isn't it (and I think she's very talented by the way).
And this brings up another issue - I don't play my own songs.  I tried writing my own stuff some time ago that was honestly crap (well, some of the guitar playing was OK, but the lyrics... ouch).  Would people want to hear cover versions?  I play some stuff that people know (and are probably bored of) and some that they might not, and they sound OK.  I would imagine, however, that you'd be judged against the original and I would obviously be found wanting.

So I don't know quite where I'm going with this post - I would welcome your comments.  I know I want to do this, and I know I would probably absolutely love it after the event (if it went well, obviously), but I'm so annoyed at myself because I can't take that final plunge and do it.  I am very jealous of people like @nickyphillips who do have that inner confidence to be able to put themselves out there.  I've never had that.

Finally - this is NOT a plea for lots of "Oh but you're so wonderfully gifted Simon" comments.  I would honestly welcome peoples thoughts on this - have you performed in the way @nickyphillips does?  Do you know someone who does?  Have you wanted to do it and not had the confidence?  Send them all to the usual address (the comments box at the bottom).


Update:  Here's a link to a folder on the ol' internet with some songs I did in it.  Have a listen, if you like.
My Music