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A week in the south of France, drinking for new work

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I flee the room, shouting ‘sorry, food poisoning’ in Latin

MONDAY. All bloody week I’m stuck here in Cannes. TIPPL, the annual swarming of the construction industry’s most clinically boring people – correction – ‘the world’s premier real-estate trade fair’.

God, I hate recessions. As a result of what my accountant calls ‘certain liquidity issues around yourself’, I’m now obliged to take jobs like this one: hacking out 3,000 words on how architects are re-tooling in a shrinking market to meet the challenges of converting solutions into business. Actually, it may be the business of converting challenges into solutions, I can’t remember.

Who cares? As long as I can find a few architects who’ll say ‘we must reverse-imagineer societal expectations’ or ‘reality is the new fantasy’ or ‘here, buy us a drink and you can just make something up and attribute it to me’, it’s job done.

TUESDAY. Finding it very difficult to leave the hotel room. The press pack alone is enough to make you want to self-euthanise.

It contains several guides to making the most of my time here. Speed Networking. Speed Cardswapping. Speed Conquest Shagging. Speed Workshopping. Speed… whoa, what? ‘TIPPL brings together leading conquest shaggers and prospective conquests from 89 countries! FYI, the ratio of men to women among 29,000 decision-makers is roughly 450:1 so you may need to reposition yourself sexually!’

It’s straightforward enough. You fill in an intranet form specifying what you’re prepared to do to get work, then wait and see if you get a nibble. I’m realistic, and put down ‘Desperate for conceptual gigs. Anything legal and blue-sky considered. No oral or PowerPoint…’

Feel sordid. Need a drink. At the bar, a group of over-inflated, ruddy-faced business managers swill cava and burp projected margins at each other.

WEDNESDAY. The keynote address today: ‘Innovation is a Verb!’ Well with great respect to the speaker, who looks like a smug narcissistic tosser, it isn’t.

You can’t ‘innovation’ anything, although I’m beginning to believe you CAN irritation people. Let’s face it, the only noun that’s definitely switched to a verb in the last few months is ‘budget’. Having made my point succinctly and with sarcasm, I decide to skip the keynote address altogether and stay in bed for a bit longer.

Later I check my inbox on ‘TIPPLShag, your exclusive sexual networking platform’. Nothing. Yeah, very exclusive. Must devise alternative strategy for finding work. 

THURSDAY. Skip the unparalleled line-up of leading international architects discussing urban planning issues. If THEY can’t organise themselves into straight lines, what hope for the rest of us?

FRIDAY. Hey, The Loaf’s arrived! My tousled friend the Mayor of London is here for the invitation-only Civic Bang Think Tank. Mayors from all over the world lock themselves in a big room with a cold buffet and champagne and talk about mayoral stuff. Last year it was outrage over ‘knife crime’ when they got plastic cutlery by mistake.

 As usual, Loaf and I converse in Latin. ‘Hey, an idea I just have had,’ says Loaf, brightening at the prospect of a jolly prank. ‘Why to be a mayor from Latin America do you not pretend? A right laugh would it be…’ I’m not sure. It would mean missing a special session bringing together pre-selected developers and an audience of investors, two of my favourite personality types. Plus I haven’t got a disguise.

Half an hour later Loaf’s back with an update – the mayor of Brasília has food poisoning and can’t make Civic Bang – and a false moustache.

I try to look mayoral as we take our seats. My English is not so good, I tell the other mayors, in an apologetic Geordie accent. Nonsense, says Loaf, we were at school together. Why don’t you tell them about your brilliant plan to turn Brasília into a wi-fi maglev hot spot? All eyes on me and my precarious moustache. I mumble something about installing wireless travelators under the pavements. You leave your house, ‘touch in’ at the nearest lamppost with a special Oyster, then sustainably sourced magnetism reverses gravity under your feet and off you go, on your invisible Segway, then my moustache falls off. 

I flee the room, shouting ‘sorry, food poisoning’ in Latin. Memo to self: kill Loaf.

SATURDAY. Cocktails. Still no work, but get the opportunity to meet over 600 international journalists and moan to them about it.

SUNDAY. Home. Low-powered gathering of self in the recliner.


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