Home > My Not So Perfect Life(10)

My Not So Perfect Life(10)
Author: Sophie Kinsella

On the shelf beside Demeter is a row of books on branding, marketing, and design. They’re mostly standard titles, but there’s one I haven’t read—an old paperback entitled Our Vision—and I look at it more closely.

“Is that book Our Vision good?” I ask.

“Brilliant,” replies Demeter, pausing briefly in her typing. “It’s a series of conversations between designers from the eighties. Very inspiring.”

“Could I maybe…borrow it?” I venture.

“Sure.” Demeter turns her head briefly, looking surprised. “Be my guest. Enjoy.”

As I take down the book, I notice a little box on the same shelf. It’s one of Demeter’s most famous triumphs, the Redfern Raisin box, with its dinky little red string handles. Everyone takes those string handles for granted now, but at the time, no one had ever thought of such a thing.

“I’ve always wondered about Redfern Raisins,” I say impulsively. “How did you get those string handles through? They must be expensive.”

“Oh, they’re expensive.” Demeter nods, still typing. “It was a nightmare persuading the client. But then it all worked out.”

“Worked out” is an understatement. It was a sensation, and the sales of Redfern Raisins rocketed. I’ve read articles about it.

“So, how did you do it?” I persist. “How did you persuade the client?”

I’m not just asking to make conversation; I really want to know. Because maybe one day I’ll work on a project and want to push through some super-expensive feature, and the client will be all stroppy, but I’ll remember Demeter’s wise advice and win the day. I’ll be Kung Fu Panda to her Master Shifu, only with less kung fu. (Probably.)

Demeter has stopped typing and she turns round as though she’s actually quite interested in the question herself.

“What we do in our job,” she says thoughtfully, “it’s a balance. On the one hand it’s about listening to the client. Interpreting. Responding. But on the other, it’s about having the courage to go with big ideas. It’s about standing up for your convictions. You need a bit of tenacity. Yes?”

“Definitely,” I say, trying to look as tenacious as possible. I lower my brows and hold the hair dye wand firmly. Altogether, I hope I’m giving off the vibe: Tenacious. Alert. A Surprisingly Interesting Junior Member Of Staff Whose Name It’s Worth Remembering.

But Demeter doesn’t seem to have noticed my tenacious, alert demeanor. She’s turned back to her computer. Quick, what else can we talk about? Before she can start typing again, I say hastily, “So, um, have you been to that new restaurant in Marylebone? The Nepalese–British fusion place?”

It’s like catnip. I’ve mentioned the hottest restaurant of the moment, and Demeter stops dead.

“I have, actually,” she says, sounding surprised that I’ve asked. “I went a couple of weeks ago. Have you?”

Have I?

What does she think, that I can afford to spend £25 on a plate of dumplings?

But I can’t bear to say, No, I just read about it on a blog, because that’s all I can afford to do, because London is the sixth-most-expensive city in the world, hadn’t you noticed?

(On the plus side, it’s not as expensive as Singapore. Which makes you wonder: What on earth does everything cost in Singapore?)

“I’m planning to,” I say after a pause. “What did you think?”

“I was impressed.” Demeter nods. “You know that the tables are handmade in Kathmandu? And the food is challenging but earthy. Very authentic. All organic, of course.”

“Of course.” I match her serious, this-is-no-joking-matter tone. I think, if Demeter had to put her religion down on a form, she’d put Organic.

“Isn’t the chef the same guy who was at Sit, Eat?” I say, dabbing the brush into more gloopy dye. “He’s not Nepalese.”

“No, but he’s got a Nepalese adviser and he spent two years out there….” Demeter swivels round and looks at me more appraisingly. “You know your restaurants, don’t you?”

“I like food.”

Which is true. I read restaurant reviews like some people read horoscopes. I even keep a list in my bag of all the top restaurants I’d like to go to sometime. I wrote it out as a jokey thing with my friend Fi one day, and it’s just kind of stuck around, like a talisman.

“What do you think of Salt Block?” Demeter demands, as though testing me.

“I think the dish to have is the sea urchin,” I say without missing a beat.

I’ve read that everywhere. Every review, every blog. It’s all about the sea urchin.

“The sea urchin.” Demeter nods, frowning. “Yes, I’ve heard about that. I should have ordered it.”

I can tell she’s fretting now. She’s missed out on the must-eat dish. She’ll have to go back and have it.

Demeter turns and gives me a short, penetrating look—then swivels back to her computer. “Next time we get a food project, I’m putting you on it.”

I feel a flicker of disbelieving delight. Was that a vote of approval from Demeter? Am I actually getting somewhere?

“I worked on the re-launch of the Awesome Pizza Place in Birmingham,” I quickly remind her. It was on my CV, but she’ll have forgotten that.

“Birmingham,” echoes Demeter absently. “That’s right.” She types furiously for a few moments, then adds, “You don’t sound Brummie.”

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