Friday, July 3, 2009

A beautiful exuberance dampened

I earn the bulk of my living consulting to large corporations about how they communicate.

One of my favourite things about being self-employeed is the luxury of working often from home, where my modus operandi involves a comfortable uniform of cargo pants and t-shirt, and the chiropractically-dubious habit of reclining in bed or on the couch with my laptop on my knees and a beverage close to hand.

Often though, I need to work from a client’s offices - as I did for four days this week.
I’m lucky to have the work and I appreciate it. Like most big companies in these global-financial-crisis-tainted times, this one has laid off many people. The corridors echo with their absence alongside the surreptitious presence of the many contractors smuggled in to do what needs to be done.

When not in meetings, I sat on a discretely navy office chair in a grey partitioned cubicle. The visual stimulation provided by a hot pink folder someone gave me was tempered by my anal retentive dissonance that the holes in the documents were punched unevenly. In an open-plan room containing close to 20 people, the only noise for long stretches of time was the clacking of fingertips on computer keys and the white noise of the air conditioning. Occasionally a phone conversation would break out and expose a glimpse of private life: an exhortation to a child to clean a room, a good bye to a husband tinged more with frustration than love. This corporation has the best art collection I’ve seen outside of a major gallery but even the beautiful exuberance of many of the pieces seemed dampened by their surroundings.

While I’m enjoying the mental stimulation of the work, it was a stark reminder about the aesthetic and sensory deprivation of many modern working environments and the subtly corrosive impact this can have on the soul. I bought the country house provide a way to plunge back into the world of the senses. This weekend I’ll really need it.

Today, I didn’t have deadlines or commitments and although my to-do list is long, my brain is sucked dry, so I abandoned myself to a day of pleasure. I browsed food magazines and blogs to plan for dinner at the country tomorrow night with my friends Tracie and Tim, who are bringing their young twins for the night. Then I went to the South Melbourne Market to pick up ingredients.

Still life with weekend menu planning in my apartment in Melbourne.

I will start by baking oatmeal cookies for afternoon tea (my scones are execrable, which is something that needs to be rectified in future). Tracie is bringing a main dish. As an entrĂ©e I’m going to make celeriac soup (inspired by the recipe in the Australian Gourmet Traveller May 2009 issue) garnished with the remnants of a jar of summer truffles I bought last time I was in Umbria. I’ll bake some bread rolls to have with butter mixed with garlic chives from the garden. (Disclosure: I’m planning to cheat and use my breadmaker to do the mixing and kneading so I’ll just need to fashion the rolls and put them in the oven). For dessert I’m going to use Granny Smith apples fresh from my tree to make Frangipane Baked Apples, inspired by a recipe in the May 2009 issue of my favourite food magazine, Cuisine.

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