Thursday, 26 March 2009


Austyn Allison is the editor of Middle East advertising and marketing magazine Communicate and he's looking distinctly nervous, beads of sweat breaking out on his upper lip as his shifty eyes cast around the white-walled warehouse. Those walls are decorated with insane pieces of highly complex black and white spirograph-inspired artwork, the sparse floor littered with industrial grade cream beanbags. Dotted around the room are groups of women, new entrants slowly building up to a crowd and Allison and I have clustered together for safety, a cocktail table between us and most of the attendees to the first ever 'TrendTalks' event held by Dubai's newly founded AdWomen group.

There are brightly coloured cupcakes and pizza at hand, a welcome diversion. I'm the first speaker, I've got 25 minutes on Social Media but everyone's on the cake course. There's a growing wind outside, a sandstorm that makes everyone a little nervous and I catch the outbreak of laughter as a gust batters the steel walls of the warehouse.

The sound of female laughter. I start to sweat.

Allison's laughing nastily under his breath as the group's numbers swell and it's clear that I'll be talking to well over 50 highly intelligent, creative, capable and empowered women. He's snarfing vegetarian pizza as fast as he can - in case the scene turns ugly and he has to bolt, I know it. He knows what's going down - I'll get it wrong, stumble and they'll be on me, tearing into me like a pack of ravenous terriers. He's glancing around now, his nervous, calculating journalist's eyes darting between seemingly happy groups of women. It's too friendly here, too collegiate. We know it can become twisted and boil up into a paranoid, howling frenzy on a moment and Allison is giggling under his breath like Beavis and Butthead at the prospect of me going down.

And then it's time, organiser Preethi introducing me as 'prolific', I take the microphone in a sweaty hand - I can't believe she called me a media slut in front of these women, we all know what 'prolific' means. Maybe they missed it - I scan the room quickly, trying to take the temperature of the place. They're all over the room, sitting encased in beanbags, standing at cocktail tables.

Allison's at the back of the room: I can just see him, wearing a fixed, cheesy smile. He's got a camera, the bastard! He's going to catch it, my moment of undoing and the rage of the pack. His smile turns evil and the shadows catch his conniving head, horns seeming to spring up on his temples.

I'm talking now, too fast, the slideset boring me and irrelevant-seeming, even as I bring up the colourful foils. Ohmigod, I can't believe I started the story of the Internet at monastic scriptoria, it's too disconnected, too geeky. I'm away, scanning nervously for the frowns and raised hands that'll start the feeding frenzy but they're listening politely and I find that scaring me even more. They're giving my half-thoughts and mad reminscences consideration and I know this is the wrong thing to do.

And then the hail comes from the skies far above us, a sudden swelling of tiny battering rams, dinning down on the iron roof of The JamJar, the volume cranking up impossibly, drowning me out in a sound like mocking applause, ice smashing out of the sky to explode on the bouncing steel plates, the noise echoing around the warehouse like evil laughter.

I stop talking, deafened by the hail. People are getting up, milling around wondering how we can ever go on with the evening - so many people have invested so much in this, to bring it all together. And then it happens: one of the audience comes up to me, her finger outstretched and her voice loud.

"It's your fault! If you hadn't gone on about the weather in your damn blog, this would never have happened!"

I gasp a denial, but it's too late. They hear her and others take up the cry: 'Blogger! Blogger!'

Allison's taking photos as they start to advance on me, I turn to him for help but the swine's got the soul of a journalist - all he wants is his damn photos to stand up his story. As long as they're focused on me he's safe and I know he's going to skitter out of the fire exit like the journo rat he is as soon as he's got enough of a story for his damn rag.

I'm cornered now and they're onto me. I feel the first nails tearing into my flesh as they crowd around, reaching out to take their revenge. I go down, blackness reaching up to me as I reach for sobbing, gasping breaths.

My last memory was of a striking, red-headed lady in a black dress who looked remarkably like Tori Amos saying she enjoyed my Campaign column. That' s when I finally knew it was all a dream...


alexander... said...

Of course this is an outrageous lie and I'd like to thank Preethi and the ladies of AdWomen Middle East, a wonderful group of smart people doing something worthwhile in a cool way.

I just can't see something good happening and leave it go, can I?

Anton said... and austyn as beavis and butthead of the UAE...that'd be a hoot ...

DUBAI JAZZ said...

saved by the hail, eh?!

seriously, i dread public speaking. I'd have made one fine of a celebrtiy had i not.

Leila Amar said...

OMG! Did you actually dread this moment THAt much Alex???? Well, it was all a dream indeed and we all really like your way of bringing a subject on the table FYI. Gearing up for the next one but in the meantime, we have some mighty pics of our brave couple beavis and butthead to send out for our second story!!

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