I’ve always wondered what a name means, how much stock can be set by those couple of syllables. When I was younger, my stepfather made me change my name; he said names closer to the top of the alphabet were psychologically more likely to succeed in life. I followed his advice, dropped out of art school and ended up as a pen pusher for a media company in the West End. Some see me as successful but I’m thinking about changing my name again. This is a morning in the life of my three sides.
My alarm goes off at 7 o clock; I roll over and stretch my arm out, hitting the shoulder of the body next to me. I’m not really sure who she is. I stare at her for a few moments, watching the rise and fall of her ribs and examining the way her mousey brown hair cascades haphazardly down her back. She’s probably not the one, she’s not even the one I wanted to see there but she’s one, and that was all I needed last night. I briefly consider whether I embarrassed myself at the pub after work and decide I probably didn’t, save for scrambling around for my coat for fifteen minutes before I took a dive headlong in to another night of excess. I groan as I hit snooze and squint my eyes, rubbing my face for the feel of the week- long stubble I procrastinate about daily. Fumbling amongst the lines of odd socks lined up on my bedside table I find my phone discarded in the heat of disappointed passion and check my messages. There are a few from the lads; digital high fives and requests for an update on the latest conquest but nothing from her; I don’t know if I’m sad or glad. I push it to the back of my mind and swing my legs over the side of the bed.
Sitting on the side of the bed takes a few minutes as I’m forced to adjust to the swimming room. I look back over my shoulder at the sleeping girl and consider fucking her again but something doesn’t feel quite right and I slope off in to the shower room before my housemate can sabotage my morning ritual. As the door creaks I hear the body in my bed rustle and moan, waking up in a strange bed. I secretly hope she’ll be gone when I get back from the shower, and she is.
I don’t generally eat breakfast at home, my cupboard is usually distinctly bare unless I’m entertaining, so once I’ve rooted around in the pile of clothes at the end of my bed and sprayed myself with cologne I make a swift exit from the darkness of the basement, bursting in to crisp London sunshine. I’m probably the second hardest man in the area, save for “big blazer” who lives on the estate. I fancy myself in a fight against most of the estate youths, especially since they don’t know about my professional fighting history. As I walk I imagine their attempts to happy slap me being thwarted by my black belt in karate and smile, strutting smugly.
The next step of my journey is the tube. I always take the last carriage and since I skirt on the edges of punctuality there isn’t usually a crush to get on. I notice a woman struggling with a pram in my periphery and think about helping her but just as I’m about to reach out I see a girl with red hair grab the end of it, turning to pierce me with her gaze as she does. Something stirs but I’m not sure what and I’m unsettled for the rest of the journey, obsessed by my failure to help the woman with the pushchair. I can’t stop thinking about the way the girl looked at me as she lifted the pushchair off the train and as much as I try to indulge in fantasies about the brown haired girl from last night, nothing will shake my unease. Despite my trepidation, I make it to work by the skin of my teeth with an overpriced bacon sandwich between my hands and a happy ambivalence about the day ahead. As I round the corner to my seat my boss smiles and points to the seat next to me.
“This is your new manager”
It’s the girl with the red hair, and as soon as I look at her I know I’ll wish I’d never met her.
My alarm goes off at 7 o clock; I roll over and stretch my arm out on to the empty expanse next to me, briefly sad. I squint through sleep filled eyes and hit the snooze button, with a light sense of dread about the day ahead. My morning ritual fills me with distaste, but I’m happy, happy to be in London, to be looking for whatever it is people find in the big city. I hear my flatmate slam the door to the bathroom and realise I’ve missed my chance for the shower and will probably be late for work again, walking through the office with everyone’s eyes on me. I look over at my bedside table, see a line of odd socks, queuing for my attention and think about my work piling up on my desk. I’m nervous about working in London, I’ve only just started taking the underground and my eyes widened the first time I saw people trying to crowd on to the train. Some mornings I wake up and yearn for the countryside, the clean air and the smell of cut grass, but London is exciting. I’m fucked up in most of my free time, I ride the buzz of MDMA to oblivion and scream from the rooftops.
I swing my legs over the side of the bed and look back at the bed next to me, untouched, imagining her there. She’ll never be there, but I know I’ll try to grope her at the Christmas party.
I wait outside the bathroom angrily needing a piss as my flatmate preens himself in the mirror. Once it’s my turn I crank the shower up to full heat and wank aggressively with a blank mind under the scalding water, grabbing at a damp towel and running it over myself to dry. I stand, shivering in my room for a few minutes with a miniature hairdryer directed at my vitals before rooting around in the pile of clothes at the end of my bed and re-claiming a purple sweater from the chaos.
I’m fresh as I stride out of my flat. I don’t drink tea and I don’t care for breakfast so my morning routine is pretty low maintenance. I’m at the tube before I know it, cautiously pressing myself against strangers as we scrabble for the train that will deliver us all on time to work. I spend the journey reviewing my fellow passengers one by one, business women, fat women pretending to be pregnant for a seat and the oddballs of East London all crammed together in the moving metal tube. By the next stop I’m right up against the door and a girl with red hair hustles her way on, bowling through everyone in her path with a disgruntled face. We end up face to face but she doesn’t look at me, her eyes are firmly focused on some invisible spot over my shoulder. We’ve got four stops left and I’ve started imaging what her name is, what she does and who she is. I’m so close to her that I can smell her perfume and a faint hint of cigarette smoke. Her hair is wildly swept over to one side and she’s wearing far too many clothes for the packed tube carriage. When the train empties slightly she yanks off her coat and I see a sweat patch has formed at the small of her back. Something about the small damp patch is so erotic that I have to squeeze my thighs together so I don’t get a hard on. She looks at me then, fixing me with her green/grey eyes and an expression that says ‘Yes?’ a flicker of laughter crossing her face. We both start laughing and we can’t stop- tears are rolling down her face by the time it’s her stop. Neither of us have spoken and as she turns to leave she pulls me towards her and whispers in my ear ‘see you tomorrow’, biting my earlobe as she withdraws.
I can’t stop thinking about her as I make my way to work, the smell of her, the insanity in her eyes. I glide through the office in a daze- ignoring my bosses glare at my converse and forgetting that I’m due in a client meeting in fifteen minutes. I know that tomorrow I’ll wait for every tube to go past until I see her again.
My alarm goes off at 7 o clock; I’m tangled up in legs, skin and hair and the familiar smell of Lancôme. My stomach flips and I look at her sleeping- I trace the freckles on her back and the curve of her body, from the shoulder, over her hip and reach round to cup her stomach and kiss her neck. I press snooze five times and grab her as tightly as I can. My arm is around her and she’s holding my hand over her heart. I wish I could take a picture of this moment, before it all turns to shit. I want to bottle the feeling of flying high, fucking all night and writing mental poetry about this girl. We slip out of my room and shower together, laughing because neither of us is clean when we get finish. She complains that I never make her tea and asks why my towel is always damp but she doesn’t really care and neither do I. We watch the news and make fun of the newsreader to distract ourselves from how terrifying the world is. I just want to wrap her up in a duvet and get back in to bed to forget about all the shit I’m about to face at work.
There’s a brief time of the day, when I’m walking to work where I forget all my troubles. I hold her hand and my step starts to spring. We take the underground together; hers is the only body I don’t mind pressed against mine. I know every contour of her, we fit together. For now. She gets off three stops before me, biting my lip and squeezing my dick pretty conspicuously as she skips off the train. I watch her go, those long legs ambling down the platform and I feel a deep sense of foreboding about what I might do to her. I spend the rest of the journey reading last night’s evening standard and listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack on my headphones before making the short walk to work.
When I round the corner to my desk, something comes over me and a deep shiver shakes down my spine. I know something’s wrong. They’re all waiting for me at my desk, my secretary is crying-
- It’s her, I know it. She’s gone.
Love these girls!
I’m not very good at reading Vanity Fair. I love the concept of fashion thought pieces and regularly read The Cut for my fashion, beauty, sex, policy and celebrity but there must be something about my eye to paper attention span these days…
I recently bought VF at the airport on my way to Berlin. It was an optimistic trip, running from the office (although characteristically early) to the airport and grabbing some reading material in a flustered W.H Smith mess. My primary objective was to read the Kate Moss interview, the first time in years (if ever) she has bared her soul to the press. I heard she had spoken about Johnny Depp and was keen to live vicariously through her dating experiences (the cleaner ones at least).
Rarely does an interview like that lead to any discussion on my part, but when I arrived in beautiful Berlin I thrust the magazine in to my friend’s UK- magazine- starved hands and forced her to read it. After the six page epic, I came to realise why Kate Moss has managed to sustain her career, despite dating Pete Doherty and having her coke nose splashed over ever news outlet in the world. Mystery. Most of the photographers and designers agree- there’s always a side to Kate Moss you’ve not yet seen, a face she’s been hiding behind sultry lashes. She doesn’t just wear the clothes, she becomes them- one of the only models they trust to input her own thoughts in to the creative process. Kate is a canvas, waiting for direction, waiting to be told who they want her to be that day, but very few people get to see what exists behind closed doors. I have to say, it’s true. I can’t remember the number of times I have looked at an ad, then looked again and said ‘wait, is that Kate Moss’, the fashion chameleon.
Reading about the tears she shed over Johnny Depp, it turned out, was only the tip of the iceberg of Kate’s illustrious life- wife, mother, model and quiet Highgate dweller. I was fascinated. Last night she launched her table book, a photographic retrospective of her life and career. It seems that over 20 years after being discovered Kate is coming out of her shell a little. Although unlikely we’ll get much more than a peek through the key hole in to her inner circle, I think “good for her!”- and that mystery will keep people coming back for more.
My name is Amery Hall, I live on the sixth floor of a council block in East London with my older sister Henri. I’m sixteen years old and I haven’t seen my parents for five years.
In the morning, our modest two bedroom flat is filled with the rank smell of fat as the neighbours fry Chappati on their grease- encrusted hob. Sometimes, if you walk past in the late evening you can spy twelve of them, crowded around a fold out table in the kitchen, trying to subdue the cries of the reticent baby in his off-white romper suit. Everything about our world is off-white, off-white with frayed edges as it grips on to the crumbling bricks below.
My sister, Henri was the ‘bright one’ of the family. We grew up in Dubai, before the tourists took over. My childhood memories are filled with dusty sunshine and late afternoons running barefoot around the yard of our apartment. Now the dust gathers in our home as Henri struggles to find the will to finish each day.
My teachers say I have a bad attitude and I suppose they’re right. Sabotage is my middle name and I must take a subconscious joy in poisoning everyone around me with my negative thoughts and feelings. This is my eighth school. Every time I cross the road I imagine what it will be like when I’m hit by a car. If I see blood on the floor I slow my pace, stop and stare. Sometimes I find it hard to believe in other people’s misery because I’m so wound up in my own thoughts and feelings. I can accept that the holocaust happened, but I also wonder whether I can truly appreciate pain until I feel it myself and see the crimson gush of agony rushing towards me like a tidal wave. I haven’t shed a tear since the last time I saw my mother; I’ve started smoking cigarettes to bleach out the familiar smell of her cotton wash that sometimes catches me off guard after all these years.
My sister suffers from anxiety and deep- seated neurosis about every aspect of our lives. Sometimes she goes on dates, but she’s never truly satisfied- always obsessing over some past love and her desperation to identify what she did wrong. She’s a really beautiful girl, with mid-length, colour- saturated hair; a product of her ever present fixation with bettering herself. She’s a size 12-14 and constantly on a diet, grabbing her midriff and screaming when she thinks no-one can hear. At night, sometimes I hear her with some bloke through the paper thin walls. I listen to the rhythm of the bed squeaking but I feel nothing outside of a powerful sense of disgust. None of my classmates appeal to me and I know deep down we are both searching for someone who understands love, poetry and pain as we do.
Every morning I hear my sister calling me, irritated and exhausted after another sleepless night warding off demons and checking her own pulse; she doesn’t know I’ve been smoking cigarettes on my windowsill and fingering the dust which gathers on our furniture like multiplying bacteria. We have our own routines; she counts calories and creates a storm of trepidation everywhere she travels, angrily wiping makeup in to to the hem of her work skirt. When she’s gone, I have a few moments of peace and I can watch the bald man on the ground floor throwing a ball to his Doberman. Sometimes I unhook Henri’s washing so it falls down to the flat below. She doesn’t ever dare claim it, we’ve both heard the raft of domestic abuse from below. I giggle to myself as I imagine them collecting her satin underwear and debating what to do with it.
Every day I take the underground to school, which is in a relatively leafy area of West London. My journey on the underground is one of the most intriguing and disturbing parts of my day. Crowded on to the platform, I watch ‘thrill seekers’ who stand over the yellow lines, tempting their own end. Sometimes I stare up at the fixtures and fittings on the platform; the swinging ‘EXIT’ sign and the train timetable. I wonder how secure they are in their brackets and imagine the day that the constant motion will dislodge one and see it fall to the floor. On the way to school recently, I passed a cordon and flowers for a woman crushed by a falling window. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, the chance involved and the passers by describing her last breath. These sort of things concern me and consume my waking thoughts.
On the packed train I become familiar with the stench of armpit and the acrid scent of unwashed trousers in close proximity to my face as I dash to an available seat. Sometimes, in the late morning I have the fascinating pleasure of a closeness to another human I have never experienced before. I indulge in the ability to scrutinise the pores and fine moustache hairs of a businesswoman or the naturally long and scratching nails of a worn out old hag. These are all keen fodder for my active mind…
As a child I was a penpal collector. There’s something satisfying about the indulgence of telling someone about your life, leaving out the boring details and spinning a delicious web with your pen. Back then, everything was done by snail mail and adding a personal touch to your envelope or letter with drawings and glitter was part of the fun of the process. Whenever I went on holiday, even with my family, I seemed to collect a group of friends who I would correspond with over a year or so, telling them which horses I was in love with or writing about ‘lush’ boys in my class. The exotic joy of sending a letter to Beckinham, Swansea or even Europe was undeniable.
15 years later, my friends are all moving abroad and I’m re-discovering the art of the penpal. I recently lost one of my best friends to the bright lights of Los Angeles. Quaking with jealousy and sadness, I decided to start writing long letters to her, helping her through those first anxious weeks and she, in return helped me with my insecurities and uncertainties about the next few months of my life. Writing long letters helps to put your life in to perspective much more than instant message or even talking on the telephone. Sometimes I look back through my messages from years past and savour the feelings I was feeling at the time. At a point where fun seems to have dried up and the dark side of life is threatening to capsize HMS Rhiannon, these letters inject a little bit of happiness and bittersweet nostalgia.
Letters take time, thought and effort; most of which are in short supply in our busy lives, but once you pick up that pen or start that message it’s difficult to stop. The key is to find someone you are emotionally connected with, who understands your ramblings aren’t self indulgent or neurotic and who is prepared to give back the same amount as you. The truth is, I’m so proud of my friend in LA who has picked up her life and decided to give it a go on the other side of the world that the letters give me a small piece of sunshine as I imagine inhaling the American air or cycling down the promenade on a second hand bicycle.
Someone recently said to me, when thinking about the great unknown ‘it’s the difference between seeing a holiday in a brochure and actually travelling there’. Penpals help you taste the unknown, muse on your own situation or cement a decision that’s been playing on your mind for months. If I had no-one in this world, I would send letters to strangers to find out about their lives and re-assure myself that nobody really knows what this life is all about.
In the end, when we wonder what life is all about, it’s re-assuring to know there is someone out there in the great wide world sharing our insecurities.
I’m often credited with remembering too much. For example, I remember every positive thing said to me or done for me by any of the ex boyfriends I actually liked. I didn’t realise this wasn’t normal until I met up with one who couldn’t remember any of the things I had so aggressively clung on to and saved in my brain’s compliment vault. The whole thing is really uncomfortable, especially when you share your treasured memories with friends and then remember that they didn’t happen recently, they happened around ten years ago. I tend to avoid negative memories, push them to the back of my mind- they only manage to seep out of the sides like black gaseous matter late at night when I drop my guard- that’s when I start the nightmare cycle.
I only recently realised it probably wasn’t normal to remember all the songs on a mixtape in my ex- boyfriend’s kitchen 8 years ago. I also recently watched a documentary on Channel 4 about people who remember every detail of their life- the weekday, what they had for breakfast and the most trivial details of any date in the past thirty years. There were two people, one was quite a large American woman who claimed that this ability had ruined her life- remembering too much she had spent a huge amount of time going back over events, thinking about Sliding Doors moments and generally self flagellating. The younger boy from Cardiff didn’t seem too bothered about it; his friends thought he was weird but he had a great party trick and unlike most of us will never be tongue-tied when a work event requires you to give one interesting fact about yourself.
I got bored halfway through the documentary when I really started to question the woman and whether she liked being in that situation. She was so obsessive about her life she kept a journal scrawled in tiny letters, documenting everything- why would you do that if you had this amazing memory? They didn’t mention exams or tests either- why aren’t these people the richest in the world, exploiting those glorious information pits.
The brain remembers significant moments ‘Flashbulb Memories’. I can remember where I was when I heard the Twin Towers were hit, when we had a car crash on the way back from primary school and the class guinea pigs were on the back seat and when Princess Diana died. I can also remember when a boyfriend I really loved played Fleetwood Mac ‘Rhiannon’ on a pub juke box, burnt sausages, told me I smelt like easter eggs and lay on the grass in Hyde Park watching dogs.
I don’t know what sort of memories they are and whether I should be holding on to them. Is it better to let go of the details if they no longer mean the same to both parties?
“You cannot step twice into the same river; for other waters are continually flowing in.”
Have you ever wondered whether your life was already planned out for you before you were even born? Maybe each event in your life is based on a pattern learnt in your childhood? Without delving too deeply in to philosophy or behavioural psychology, I recently read a book which got me wondering if there is a simple framework for human behaviour which is simply tweaked and repeated constantly, and how this could be applied to creative marketing.
An author friend recently recommended a book known as ‘the original Sex and the City’- ‘The Best of Everything’ by Rona Jaffe. I was asked to read it and think about whether women still thought, behaved and acted in the same way as those in the book (written in 1958). I realised within the first chapter that this book, about the ‘lives and loves of Madison Avenue’, was the basis for pretty much all of my favourite TV shows, not least HBO’s Girls and ABC’s Mad Men. The set-up is brilliantly simple, and has been tweaked and repeated through the history of (mostly American) television
One of the first things I learnt in intellectual property is that you can’t copyright an idea, only the expression of that idea, the ‘fixed’ work. Over the decades, producers have been tweaking and bettering the outputs based on this original idea, four friends living together, experiencing the trials and tribulations of city life.
How does this apply to brands?
The fact that most of us don’t even realise that we are essentially watching the same programme but with a different cast and wardrobe bodes well for brands and marketers. Developing a premise, or theme, that runs through advertising creates a buzz and anticipation within an audience, lifting a weight off marketers’ shoulders. John Lewis and Waitrose are great examples of this- proof that a tried and tested marketing campaign can still be exciting. Everyone waits excitedly for the storyboard behind the John Lewis Christmas advert- rapidly evolving to be more like a film release than a television advert.
One of our teams has stuck posters around the office reminding us that just because we used an idea once, doesn’t mean it is burnt out. It prompted me to try re-visiting old ideas and putting a different spins on them, creating a central theme. When we think about leading marketers, they all have a simple idea at their core. Using an idea once is a campaign, allowing it to direct you and help you evolve is a brand identity.