Home > My Not So Perfect Life(4)

My Not So Perfect Life(4)
Author: Sophie Kinsella

All right, this is a slight exaggeration. But not much. I’ve never met anyone as terrible at remembering names as Demeter. Flora told me once that Demeter actually has a real visual problem, some facial-recognition thing, but she won’t admit it, because she reckons it doesn’t affect her ability to do her job.

Well, news flash: It does.

And second news flash: What does facial recognition have to do with remembering a name properly? I’ve been here seven months, and I swear she’s still not sure whether I’m Cath or Cat.

I’m Cat, in fact. Cat short for Catherine. Because…well. It’s a cool nickname. It’s short and punchy. It’s modern. It’s London. It’s me. Cat. Cat Brenner.

Hi, I’m Cat.

Hi, I’m Catherine, but call me Cat.

OK, full disclosure: It’s not absolutely me. Not yet. I’m still part-Katie. I’ve been calling myself “Cat” since I started this job, but for some reason it hasn’t fully taken. Sometimes I don’t respond as quickly as I should when people call out “Cat.” I hesitate before I sign it, and one hideous time I had to scrub out a “K” I’d started writing on one of those big office birthday cards. Luckily no one saw. I mean, who doesn’t know their own name?

But I’m determined to be Cat. I will be Cat. It’s my all-new London name. I’ve had three jobs in my life (OK, two were internships), and at each new step I’ve reinvented myself a bit more. Changing from Katie to Cat is just the latest stage.

Katie is the home me. The Somerset me. A rosy-cheeked, curly-haired country girl who lives in jeans and wellies and a fleece which came free with a delivery of sheep food. A girl whose entire social life is the local pub or maybe the Ritzy in Warreton. A girl I’ve left behind.

As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted out of Somerset. I’ve wanted London. I never had boy bands on my bedroom wall; I had the tube map. Posters of the London Eye and the Gherkin.

The first internship I managed to scrape was in Birmingham, and that’s a big city too. It’s got the shops, the glamour, the buzz…but it’s not London. It doesn’t have that London-ness that makes my heart soar. The skyline. The history. Walking past Big Ben and hearing it chime, in real life. Standing in the same tube stations that you’ve seen in a million films about the Blitz. Feeling that you’re in one of the best cities in the world, no question, hands down. Living in London is like living in a movie set, from the Dickensian backstreets to the glinting tower blocks to the secret garden squares. You can be anyone you want to be.

There’s not much in my life that would score in the top ten of any global survey. I don’t have a top-ten job or wardrobe or flat. But I live in a top-ten city. Living in London is something that people all over the world would love to do, and now I’m here. And that’s why I don’t care if my commute is the journey from hell and I don’t care if my bedroom is about three foot square. I’m here.

I couldn’t get here straightaway. The only offer I had after uni was in a tiny marketing firm in Birmingham. So I moved up there and immediately started creating a new personality. I had bangs cut. I started straightening my hair every day and putting it in a smart knot. I bought myself a pair of black glasses with clear lenses. I looked different. I felt different. I even started doing my makeup differently, with super-defined lip liner every day and black liquid eyeliner in flicky curves.

(It took me a whole weekend to learn how to do that flicky eyeliner. It’s an actual skill, like trigonometry—so what I wonder is, why don’t they teach that at school? If I ran the country there’d be courses in things that you’d actually use your whole life. Like: How To Do Eyeliner. How To Fill In A Tax Return. What To Do When Your Loo Blocks And Your Dad Isn’t Answering The Phone And You’re About To Have A Party.)

It was in Birmingham that I decided to lose my West Country accent. I was in the loo, minding my own business, when I heard a couple of girls taking the piss out of me. Farrrmer Katie, they were calling me. And, yes, I was shocked, and, yes, it stung. I could have burst out of my cubicle and exclaimed, Well, I don’t think your Brummie accent’s any better!

But I didn’t. I just sat there and thought hard. It was a reality check. By the time I got my second internship—the one in east London—I was a different person. I’d wised up. I didn’t look or sound like Katie Brenner from Ansters Farm.

And now I’m totally Cat Brenner from London. Cat Brenner who works in a cool office with distressed-brick walls and white shiny desks and funky chairs and a coat stand in the shape of a naked man. (It gives everyone a real shock, the first time they come to visit.)

I mean, I am Cat. I will be. I just have to nail the not-signing-the-wrong-name thing.

“People,” Demeter says for a third time, and the office becomes quiet. There are ten of us in here, all with different titles and job descriptions. On the next floor up, there’s an events team, and a digital team, and the planning lot. There’s also some other group of creatives called the “vision team,” who work directly with Adrian, the CEO. Plus other offices for talent management and finance or whatever. But this floor is my world, and I’m at the bottom of the pile. I earn by far the least and my desk is the smallest, but you have to start somewhere. This is my first-ever paid job, and I thank my lucky stars for it every day. And, you know, my work is interesting. In a way.

Kind of.

I mean, I suppose it depends how you define “interesting.” I’m currently working on this really exciting project to launch a new self-foaming “cappuccino-style” creamer from Coffeewite. I’m on the research side. And what that actually comes down to, in terms of my day-to-day work, is…

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