Mark Etting's Christmas Diary

Mark Etting, Media Week’s alcohol-soaked diarist, has kindly agreed to send his thoughts every day, despite being hell-bent on doing nothing but party for the rest of the year.

Friday 24 Decmber - Bring on the New Year

It’s official: I am the saddest man in media.

After getting thrown out of the shopping centre yesterday I came straight to the office. Yes, the bloody office. Not home. Not that Wetherspoons that opens early. No, I came to the office.

I have no explanation for this behaviour.

It was so early, not even keen Kevin Keane, the 20-year-old teacher’s pet who treats acne-growing like a competitive sport, was in.

I beat him by ten minutes - you should have seen his face.

The bits that weren’t already red were soon glowing.

Just before lunchtime the phone rings for the first time and I close down the Thai website I was viewing (out of respect to the caller)

This is not good news. It turns out that I left a business card behind at Santa’s Grotto. And the shopping centre is a major advertiser in one of our magazines - Precinct Power.

The cretin on the other end of the phone is the marketing director. He wants a discount.

Well, I say a discount - he wants all of next year’s advertising for free.

I know it’s the season of goodwill, but he has to be joking.

How am I going to get out of this one?

Mark Etting will be back in Media Week’s print edition on 11 January.

Thursday 23 December – Last-minute spot of shopping

Daylights forces its way through my locked eyelids at half past seven this morning.

There is a sleigh by my legs. I do not own a sleigh.

As my senses return to something approaching consciousness, I notice lots of red. And lots of white. There is a 6-foot inflatable Father Christmas in the room.

This room is not my bedroom.

It takes the best part of an hour for me to piece together the events of last night…

Just after lunch, Ralph ‘Raif’ Strickland called, inviting me to his agency’s Christmas bash.

It was all fairly civil in the restaurant, and I was getting somewhere with a rather attractive planner/buyer.

But my chances fell quicker than a Krankie from a beanstalk when her lesbian lover turned up.

Honestly, I thought we’d seen the last of Dyke’s in media this year.

Refuge was bottle-shaped, and by the time Raif produced a book of tickets to Rhinos, I was powerless to resist.

The rest is hazy; how I ended up inside the shopping centre, under the Christmas tree at Santa’s grotto, is anyone’s guess but I remember thinking that it would be a good idea to start my Christmas shopping this morning.

The security guard who found me thought differently.

Wednesday 22 December - Bored, bored, bored

This is hell.

Three days before Christmas and I’m one of the only people in media still sat behind their desk; Tina should have been here, but she has been given the rest of the week off.

Having said that, I’ve done no work since last Friday. The working day is spent playing online poker and viewing gentleman’s recreational websites.

Or watching Joe squirm as he tries to explain to the chief exec why sales has missed all of its targets this year.

Our IT man - who inexplicably calls himself ‘Cyber’ - dropped by for a friendly chat this morning.

I know what you’ve been looking at – we monitor everyone,” he sneered.

Now Cyber smells in a way that makes you physically retch. It’s a heady cocktail of stale body odour and juicy fruit chewing gum, topped off with roll-up cigarettes.

I do not want to exchange breathable air with this cretin, so instead I turn to Sandra and ask her how she is getting on with ‘The Tickler’.

“I’m not really sure what it does,” she says. “Is it a vibrating shoe horn?”

Got to go now. An e-mail has just popped up from Ralph (pronounced ‘Raif’) Strickland at Mediapants, inviting me to his agency’s festive knees-up.

“Got to meet a client – big deal in the offing,” I say to Joe on my way out, not waiting for a response.

I crack open a miniature in the lift on the way down. I intend to be very naughty this evening…

Tuesday 21 December - After-party woes

Dear diary, I am a sick, sick man.

Took the lovely Tina home last night.

She's still here as it goes and just 19 years old apparently... controversial. Although, somehow I don't think she'll be aound too long now she has regained her vision.

The Christmas lunch at TDI McHappys (just off the ring road) took a turn for the worse yesterday when one of the HR staff got a bit '80s on us and pulled out a bottle of poppers to help get that festive feeling really going.

Butlin's Joe had a good old toke on it and his face was redder than a red-coats' coat by the time he'd finished.

Tina got the wrong end of the stick... she thought it was one of those little bottles of vodka and necked the lot before anyone could stop her.

Poor cow - we took her to casualty; they gave her stomach a pump and said she should regain her sight within the next 12 hours.

Talk about a shoe-in! The amount of times a woman has told me she'd have to be blind to go anywhere near me... well, this was the chance to test the theory.

On the way back from the hospital, Joe got out of the cab first, but some sort of mix up seemed to take place in Tina's muddled head and she though I'd got out rather than him.

She's been calling me Joe ever since the door slammed shut behind him.

Far be it for me to stand in the way of a girl's dreams, so did the decent thing – I put on the accent and played along.

Somehow I still managed to inject my usual lack of success into proceedings though – the girl fell asleep in hallway before I could even shut the door behind me and get Barry White on... bugger.

Monday 20 December - A new kid on the block

If there’s one thing that puts you off Christmas, it’s party songs.

Especially when they are being played on the office stereo at 9.30 on a Monday morning.

Honestly, the last thing I needed when I walked in with a vodka-induced hangover was the sound of Black Lace singing Agadoo and Butlins Joe shaking pineapples while wearing a Santa hat.

But today is office party day, so it follows that people like Joe must wear their loudest cartoon-style shirt and encourage colleagues to play festive games (all of which happen to be related to our new year sales targets).

Oh well, at least the pain only lasts until lunchtime, when we all leave for the Christmas lunch at TDI McHappys (just off the ring road in the new Lakewater shopping complex).

My tastebuds are literally tingling at the prospect of the chicken goujons and other beige-coloured foodstuffs that will be on offer.

The only redeeming factor about today is Tina - who has joined us as a junior sales exec.

God knows why the powers that be didn’t let her start in the New Year, but I’m glad they didn’t.

She’s a real treat, and no mistake.

Blonde? Tick.

Busty? Tick.

Legs that go all the way up? Tick. Tick.

I popped over to introduce myself after checking my breath in the gents (musty, but acceptable) and she gave me a little smile.

That’s one cracker I’ll be hoping to pull this afternoon.

Friday 17 December - It's the giving, right?

We packed round the 'silent assasin' that is our office coffee machine for the secret Santa gift exchange this morning.

Turned out to be quite a turn up.

The present I got Sandra didn't quite provoke the response I'd hoped for. The poor girl's a bit wet behind the ears and though 'The Tickler' was an imitation cactus - she's given it pride of place on her desk, next to her Sylvanian Families and desktop Christmas tree.

The table top looks like a cross between a nativity scene and a Salvador Dali painting.

Funny coincidence though, some clown brought me a 'Tickler' as well! Joe could clearly be seen stifling a giggle when I un-wrapped it.

Cheeky bugger, he's always trying to shaft me - and now he's suggesting I actually shaft myself by the looks of it.

Still, we've got the office Xmas lunch on Monday at TDi McHappy's.

Hardly The Ivy, but should give me an opportunity to level the score.

Thursday 16 December - You can't beat a Lucky Dip

Butlins Joe bounds into the office like a demented dachshund, blurting something about a “Sea Sultana”.

Now my knowledge of dried fruit isn’t the best, but this is a new one on me.

Must be some kind of festive target-related sales push. Oh tidings of joy.

It’s only when the garbling fool approaches my desk with one of his famous insincere smiles that I manage to translate the words ‘Secret Santa’.

Apparently I have to spend £5 on a gift for someone else in the office, who won’t know who it’s from. In the spirit of Christmas, I delve into the bag of names.

Imagine my surprise when “Sandra” pops out.

My mind moves effortlessly into sleaze mode, and thoughts of skimpy underwear – along with some kind of clue that will point her in the direction of yours truly.

The risqué lingerie shop brings me back down to earth. Have you seen the price of thongs? A fiver is just about enough to buy a pair of furry handcuffs.

It is only when walking past the bargain bin on my way out that I notice the ideal gift - ‘The Tickler’ is reduced to just £4.99.

Christmas is coming early for Sandra.

Wednesday 15 December - Out of home...and out on the street?

Went to an agency bash last night courtesey of the one remaining contact at Chunky Norris I had yet to alienate.

Billed as "the fastest-growing out-of-home agency", MyScreenMedia have definitely mastered the art of giving a chap a sore head in the morning - not only the booze, but the ever-observant security staff certainly know how to put you on the floor.

Still, just because you wander in to the ladies' loos (by accident), mistake the sink for a urinal and then start using a stranger's lip-stick to do impressions of an excited dog doesn't make you a criminal... does it?

Don't think Tim from Chunky Norris will be too pleased he got me in to the party now. Ah well, I suppose I did have a reputation to live up to, so what did he expect.

To make matters worse, judging by the state of my love life I'm looking down the end of a Bernard Matthews' turkey meal for one on Christmas Day, followed by a jaunt to the park for a glass of festive cheer with the local street drinkers.

Still, at least that'd be more uplifting than watching Eastenders.

Happy days.

Tuesday 14 December 2004 - The only thing I need is a bash to go to

Media sales is crap for Christmas parties.

Our last issues go to press this week, and we’ve pretty much closed things off for 2004, but the opportunities for corporate festive naughtiness are decidedly thin on the ground.

When I was in marketing (god, I sound like Uncle Albert off Only Fools & Horses), the invitations arrived thick and fast from agencies trying to worm their way into my good books.

But no-one loves you when you are in sales. Bah humbug.

Anyway, called Tim, one of my old charges at Chunky Norris Foods to see if any agencies with out-of-date contact books had invited me to a bash.

Result: one invite. Pretty poor – looks like my name disappeared off those mailing lists quicker than a Thierry Henry free kick.

Still, a party is a party – and who am I to refuse a free glass of bubbly tonight in the company of “the UK’s fastest growing out of home and screen media business”.

Pretty appropriate, really. I’m planning to spend as many evenings “out of home” as I can this Christmas.

Let the festivities commence!

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