Friday, 30 August 2013

30/08/13 - Juniper Berries

There are around sixty different species of juniper, scattered generously across the northern hemisphere like confetti on a bridesmaid’s hat. It’s a coniferous plant of the cypress family, ranging from sprawling shrubs and bushes to tall, sylph-like trees depending on variety and location. Their leaves can be needly or scaly, and they’re perhaps best known in the cultural sphere as the bushes owned by a crazed naked hermit with a massive beard in The Life of Brian. (‘They’re all I’ve bloody got to eat…’, etc.) And here we arrive at the crux of the matter: juniper berries. They’re very versatile little things. Aromatic, spicy little nuggets with myriad uses. You may think that they’re just the fleshy accoutrements of some obscure and uninteresting plant, but they creep into your daily life more than you might think. Behold, JuicyPips reader, the many functions of the juniper berry…

The world  would be a pretty shitty place without gin.
The good ol’ British gin and tonic is one of those beverages that’s entirely unfathomable to a juvenile palate. The first time you taste your mums gee ‘n’ tee as a kid, your immediate thought as you stick out your tongue in bewildered disgust is ‘why on Earth would anybody choose to drink such a revolting concoction for pleasure?’. But of course, kids are stupid. And when you grow up, you learn that gin and tonic is one of the best fusions of flavours since, er, salt and vinegar or rhubarb and custard. As standalone drinks, they’re pretty gross – gin isn’t really a supping spirit, and tonic is horribly bitter. But stirring one into the other, with a sliver of ice and a soupçon of lime, brings forth a sumptuous concatenation of flavours. Nothing beats a good gin and tonic.
…and it’s the glorious juniper berry that makes gin so damned effective. There are all manner of botanicals that go into different kinds of gin to create their unique flavours; anyone who’s been to Vinopolis and played with the ingredients in the Bombay Sapphire bar will be well-versed in the addition of angelica, coriander, liquorice, cassia, orris root and grains of paradise, but basically all gin is juniper-flavoured. It’s alcoholic juniper juice. It’s one of your five-a-day.

Another thing the world would be pretty shitty without: cured meats. When my wife was pregnant, there were a number of things that she wasn’t allowed to ingest that she craved to varying degrees: gin, brie, red wine, pâté, heroin… but one of the hardest to miss out on was cured meat. So as soon as the nipper appeared, I hightailed it to Sainsbury’s to stock up on prosciutto, salami, bresaola, chorizo, saucisson, and any other charcuterie I could lay my hands on. (Well, no, that’s not the first thing I did. The first thing I did was to cut the umbilical cord with a tiny pair of scissors. Have you ever done that? It’s like snipping the rubber hose on your barbecue’s gas bottle with a pair of nail scissors and finding that it’s full of cherry jam. But I digress…)
Prosciutto crudo is pretty labour-intensive to make, taking anywhere from nine months to two years to mature. The raw ham leg is cleaned, salted, then left for a couple of months, during which time it’s very slowly pressed to drain the blood. Then it’s cleaned again to remove the salt, hung in a dark room and left to dry for a load more months. Now, the regional variations of prosciutto (Parma ham, San Daniele, etc) have their own unique characteristics, much like different kinds of gin, thanks to the various herbs, spices and other botanicals that are used to season and flavour them throughout this drying process. The prosciutto of Tuscany uses a cure made from juniper berries, salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic, and this is obviously the best one because, er, we’re talking about juniper berries.
I could really go for some prosciutto right now, actually…

Pralines & Cream
One of Häagen-Dazs’ most popular varietals is Pralines & Cream. Or, as anyone who’s ever watched Wayne’s World will be utterly unable to prevent themselves from calling it, ‘Pralines & Dick’.
My favourite fact about Häagen-Dazs, incidentally, is that the name is entirely made up. The company was founded by a Jewish couple, Reuben and Rose Mattus, in the Bronx in 1961; they chose a fictional name that they thought sounded kind of Danish in honour of Denmark’s favourable treatment of Jews in World War II. They even put a map of Denmark on the label. The fact that he was from Poland and she was born in Britain (and that, er, the umlaut doesn’t even exist in the Danish language) seems entirely immaterial.
But anyway. Pralines & Cream has earned its inclusion in this list for the fact that the flavour of pecan-based pralines is notoriously difficult to sustain at low temperatures. The addition of juniper berries to the pralines acts as both a binding agent and a flavour accelerant. Again, you’re eating fruit without even knowing it. Häagen-Dazs is health food.

Formula One fuel
Race fuel is very different to the stuff you pump into your car at the Texaco garage, right? Well, no, not always. For dragsters that run on methanol or historic racers that use tetraethyl lead then yes, that’s not really all that similar to your average unleaded pump fuel, but Formula One petrol is surprisingly close to what’s swishing around in your Fiesta. Those Shell adverts that talk about selling ‘Formula One fuel for the road’? They’re not that far off the truth. F1 regulations force teams into developing ingenious workarounds for tight restrictions - current engines, for example, have to be a 90-degree V8 of 2.4-litre displacement, with only one fuel injector and spark plug per cylinder, no variable valve timing tech, and so forth; for the 2014 season, all-new engines will appear in each car, due to the new regulations stipulating turbocharged 1.6-litre V6 engines with energy recovery systems, fuel-flow restrictions, and numerous other things to make it all less environmentally impactful. They must also use a control fuel that’s very similar to domestic petrol. Using everyday constraints to create clever and super-efficient race engines is something of a black art.
But what is it that turns common pump fuel into fancy Formula One fuel? Why, the juniper berry, of course. In the same way that it acts as a binding agent for flavour in ice cream, mixing juniper extract with petroleum exponentially increases its octane rating, making it highly potent while also remaining stable under extremes of pressure and temperature. Is there anything those berries can’t do?

OK, I totally made up the thing about the petrol. And the ice cream. Juniper berries can do two things, gin and ham. They’re not even that nice to eat.

Japan World Cup 3

This is the maddest video game ever created. Stick with it, it just gets more and more bonkers...

The Inner Workings of Stuff

A cute way to convince your nippers that their gadgets are controlled by tiny people. Behold.

Crashing Thomas

A compilation of various train crashes from Thomas the Tank Engine. The horror!
(Drowning Pool soundtrack works well, too.)

Selfies at Serious Places

What began as an amusing blog of idiots taking light-hearted selfies at locations of grim historical significance has taken on a whole new level of pathos, now that some of the goons in question turn out to be lucid, rational human beings. Click here to see.

Magic Beard

Stop-motion antics of the facially hirsute.

In Memory of the Devenish-Phibbs

This is one of my favourite internet things. Click here.

Dino Prank

One Direction, minus the music

Best way, I'd say. *awaits ire of murderous Directioners*

Massive, beautiful data

...about the global arms trade. Click here, it's incredible.

Super Mario Brothers Parkour

Brilliant, this. Great soundtrack too.

Friday, 23 August 2013

23/08/13 - Thrilling Tales of Aviation

Air travel is so ubiquitous and commonplace these days that we don’t give it a second thought, but it really is a phenomenal thing. The trajectory of early airplane development was in itself a staggering rush of innovation and cleverness, quicker than pretty much anything else you can name; the first manned flight happened in the early 1890s (or 1880s, depending on who you believe and how you define ‘flight’), and yet by World War I there were military biplanes whizzing about the place, their dapperly begoggled pilots wanging grenades and grappling hooks at each other in the spirited genesis of aerial combat.
Nowadays we think nothing of hopping on a plane to go on holiday, even though it’s pretty much the most unnatural thing we’ll do at that time (well, I don’t know what you get up to on your holidays, I’m just assuming), and its bargain-basement cheapness means that anyone can be a flying person. It’s open to all.

This wasn’t always the case. I can remember my first flight clearly. When we were kids, I never saw us as being ‘flying people’ - it was expensive back in the eighties to go on holiday in a plane (I imagine – I had very little concept of money at that age). Holidays as I knew them involved climbing into the family car, sitting very still while 80% of the contents of the house was packed Tetris-like around me, and then setting off to Dover to get on a rusting Sally ferry (ooh, or a Townsend Thoresen – they were iffy. Type ‘Herald of Free Enterprise’ into Google Images) and chugging off to France. So when my dad announced that we’d be flying to Spain for our summer holiday, I was giddy with excitement. At the age of 5 or 6, this was pretty much the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. He might as well have said that we were going to the moon, or he’d bought me a dirt bike. It was that outlandish a concept.
The excitement grew when I learned that we’d be flying with an airline named ‘Monarch’. How swanky does that sound? ‘That has to be the best airline,’ I thought. ‘With a name like that, it must be the one the Queen uses. Maybe I’ll get to sit next to Prince William? He’s about my age, we could play about with the tray tables and make the stewardess bring us things.’
Obviously, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that Monarch is far from premium, but that was totally irrelevant at the time. I had no frame of reference, you see, I didn’t know if it was the best plane in the world or the worst. All I knew was that I was flying. We were flying people after all.

Since then, of course, flying has become commonplace. Think I mentioned that. I have more flying stories than I have fingers. Wait, do I? No, I have five flying stories. But that’s more than, er, none. And if you count the above then we’re talking six flying stories. How modern.
One of them you might know, I’ve banged on about it before – Ryanair being pricks. Remember that? Click here, it’ll all come flooding back. Another one is kind of unremarkable - I sat next to Ruby Wax on a BA flight to Toulouse a few years ago. She was asleep under a blanket for most of the flight. Er, that’s it. OK, three more stories…

A while ago I went to the Dominican Republic with my family. It was the first time I’d ever been out of Europe, and my first properly long flight. I wasn’t really prepared for the monotony of being wedged in a cramped seat for ten hours. That sort of time-frame spans several meals, it’s hard to work out a structure for your day. There was a TV screen in front of me which showed a map of where the plane was (which was bloody depressing, frankly – once you’ve had breakfast and read a whole magazine, you don’t want to see that you’ve basically only just left home and have a whole load of blue ocean yet to cover), as well as one episode of The Simpsons – that’s twenty-two minutes taken care of, then – and a variety of films that I didn’t want to watch. Still, I didn’t get the choice, as the chunky lardarse in the next seat fell asleep pretty much immediately, and spent the entire flight jabbing at my TV control panel with his elbow, changing the channels in his blubbery slumber. It’s probably the most annoying thing that’s ever happened to me. But I got my own back by weeing in his water bottle, then aiming the aircon vent toward his mouth to make it go all dry.
(Obviously I didn’t do that, that’d be revolting. [Or did I…?])

Two more.

I got married in 2010. We went to Cuba for our honeymoon – something which I thoroughly recommend. If you haven’t been to Cuba, sell something (car/kidney/whatever) and go now. It’s brilliant.
However, one thing I did discover is that my body has a strict tolerance for the lifestyle of the gourmand. It can take so much, but no more. In our all-inclusive hotel, I learned that I can happily take on three delicious, meaty buffet meals a day, along with an absurd quantity of Havana Club, for a maximum of twelve days. From that point on, everything within me liquidises into an emerald-green fluid and tries to escape. (Too much detail…?)
Our honeymoon, as you may have guessed from the twin-laws of comedy and sod, was fourteen days. Meaning that at the end of it I was faced with the prospect of a ten-hour flight with a severe case of what doctors describe as ‘the slapstick Swarfegas’.
Plane toilets are nasty. And they get a lot nastier when that’s happening all day.

OK, last one.

We flew out to France last summer – me, my wife, and our little baby. She was only five months old at the time (the baby, not my wife, get your mind out of Yewtree you sicko), and I was a little nervous about it. We hadn’t really travelled any great distance before, I was concerned that it would, well, freak her the fuck out. And although it was just a brief jaunt from Gatwick to Toulouse, it still monkeyed about with naps and mealtimes to a complex degree.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. She slept in the car on the way to the airport, she stared about in amused fascination at the terminal, and we were hurried to the front of the massive easyJet check-in queue because of her tininess. There’s a special passport control area that I’d never seen before, just for people with babies – it has little tables to lay them down on while you fish out your tickets and everything – and then you get to board the plane first. She also slept through the entire flight. Travelling with babies? It’s a doddle.
What? No, of course it fucking isn’t. The flight back home was a bloody nightmare, she screamed for the ENTIRE journey. Trust me, there is no situation in the world in which you’ll feel more hated than an early morning flight when you’re holding a screaming baby. Everyone on the plane looks at you like you’re the worst kind of scum. And there’s nothing you can do.

Sorry, my plane stories are rubbish.

Derek Thompson: Hamilton's Water Breaks

Watch this. You'll cringe your face inside-out.

...and if you didn't get the reference, it's life imitating art.

A variety of interesting maps

...forty maps, in fact. Click me.

Jaws 19

Someone's got a lot of Jaws movies to make...


Want to kiss the rest of your day goodbye? Here, play Sega games online...

‘An American Coach in London.’

Make-up Shapeshifter

This woman's really good at making herself up to look like famous people. Clicky.


Four totally unrelated adverts here. No theme, just thought I'd lazily lump them in together... all wonderful in their own way.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

15/08/13 - Customer Service

Customer service is really good these days, isn’t it? There’s an undercurrent of fear in the dead-eyed, nervous smiles of the average cashier, salesperson or support operative, as they’re scared to bits that you’ll report them for being rude or unhelpful. They have every reason to be scared too – with the ever-tightening squeeze of the global belt (or whichever shit recessionary metaphor you prefer), there are dozens of people lining up to pounce on any job that comes onto the market, and company bosses are keenly aware of this – if your staff aren’t being smiley and happy to a level somewhere beyond creepy, then there are plenty of others who will.

Social media has exacerbated this trend exponentially. In pre-internet times, if you were given crappy customer service by BT, say, or the kiosk attendant at the Jet garage, your best bet was to report them to Watchdog. Or punch them in the face. Or just take your business elsewhere. But nowadays it’s so easy to immediately vent your displeasure to a vast audience, many of whom might say ‘hey, yeah, those pricks mildly irritated me once too’, and company chiefs are watching this with some trepidation. Businesses have always lived and died by reputation (just ask Gerald Ratner) – the old adage about ‘if you get good service you tell one person, if you get bad service you tell seven’ (insert made-up numbers at will) remains true in principle, but the numbers are getting ever-bigger. So there’s really no reason for a business to give an employee a second chance if they’re having an off day and forget to be smarmy or overly familiar with a customer. And I think that’s a bit of a shame.

You see, with the relentless surge of corporate cheerfulness, I end up not trusting or believing anyone. It’s dishonest – if you’re a nice person then yes, that will shine through in your workplace manner. It used to be the case that, once in a blue moon, you’d come out of Boots or Topman thinking ‘that person on the till was really nice – I’ll probably shop there again’. But everyone’s that nice today, and very few of them actually mean it: they’ve hijacked the genuine behaviour of real nice people and smeared it as a dirty pastiche all over their smug, cynical fucking plastic smiles. We’ve lost the ability to differentiate between pleasing and mediocre service, because everybody’s so bloody nice.
The thing about this that really winds me up is that they’re so damned brazen about it. Take the example of my recent customer service experience with Sky…

I recently wrote an article about an old Ford Escort for a magazine. The Escort was owned by a chap in Ireland, and I needed to interview him over the phone. I only had a mobile number for him, so I wanted to see how much it’d cost me to call an Irish mobile from my UK landline. (I’m giving you far too much detail with this story, but we’re this deep into it so we may as well push on.) Sky provide my TV, broadband and landline, so they were the people to speak to. Having Googled briefly and found a number of conflicting tariffs, I decided that it was probably best just to speak to them. I spotted that they offered live customer support on their website, so I used that.
Now, the guy who helped me was very efficient and polite, and gave me the answer I wanted within a couple of minutes. No problem there. But after he’d done so (and, by rights, our conversation should have ended so we could both get on with our lives), we had to go through this absurd scripted rigmarole. He asked me to confirm the question I’d initially asked, and then to confirm the answer he’d provided, and then to confirm that I was happy with the answer and that there were no further questions I wanted answering. Then I had to answer a load of questions about the quality of service I’d received. It took far longer to do all of that than to go through the quite simple process of just asking one question and having it answered. Sadly there was nowhere on the form to write ‘it started well, but I fucking resent having to answer all of these mad questions which are being relayed to me through a veneer of false friendliness’. You could sense the desperation in the guy’s tone – please, please give me a good evaluation, otherwise they’ll post me into the memory hole to be consumed by the flames beneath. Poor bastard.
(The tariff was 48.9p/min, incidentally. In case you were lacking a sense of resolution.)

I preferred the good old days when wankers were wankers in the traditional sense, rather than pretending to be pleasant, functional members of society (which, of course, just reinforces the fact that they’re wankers). We should be able to spot who’s nice and who’s not without having to wrench aside the heavy veil of insincerity.
About ten years or so ago, I had to return a VCR to Comet. I was wearing a Wildhearts t-shirt at the time and, by some serendipitous quirk of fate, managed to find a shop assistant who was a massive Wildhearts fan too. This made things awkward. It’s difficult to open a discussion with a stranger through a shared interest and then immediately have to shift the tone of the chat to ‘I’m not happy about this thing you sold me, what are you going to do about it?’
He was shit, he really was. No idea what he was talking about, agonisingly stupid, and his manner swapped from friendly to aggressive in a heartbeat. He was clearly a dick. But then, you see, I could tell that he was a dick, he was wearing it on his sleeve. I never went to Comet after that. Especially since he called out ‘stay wild!’ as I was leaving – something that I’ve never before or since heard anyone say, Wildhearts fan or otherwise.
This logic didn’t follow with Currys/PC World, because they confused me. The branch near my house is an awful place to be; I don’t know if their staff work on commission, but they will never, ever approach you to help if you’re standing by something cheap – a £30 printer, say. If you want any assistance, you need to go and stand beside a £1,000 TV and poke it thoughtfully until they start swarming around you, then say ‘so, about these printers…’
They’re awful people. But at the same time, they’re overly nice. The smile is a yawning chasm of befuddling cheer. Just like every other shop assistant today. So, like the chump I am, when I wanted to buy a new laptop recently, I went to Currys/PC World and got it from there. I rewarded their reprehensible behaviour by giving them loads of my money. What was I thinking…? I was bamboozled by the fake smiles and ‘have a nice day’ aura. Fuck it.
You see what I mean? It’s not fair when they’re all pretending to be nice. You lose your bearings, and your principles soon follow.

Still, you can find havens of poor customer service in 2013. If you really want to be made to feel like a worthless, unnecessary piece of filth, try shopping at B&Q in Wandsworth.
I quite like going there – their disdain and indifference is so refreshingly honest.

Abandoned Tanks

Monuments to forgotten skirmishes, the breaking point of over-stretched budgets, radioactive infection... whatever leads these military machines to be abandoned, they all look kinda cool. Clicky.

Massive High-Five

Love or hate Jackass, you can't deny that this is inspired.

Thick people confused by The Onion

Oh, humanity. There's little hope for you.

Who put this dick on my back?

It's the effort that's gone into the gag that makes this so special. Anyone can lean in and make a funny face or whatever - this is a little comedy sketch.

A rather sweet flashmob

Mentos Proposal

Props to Mentos for making THE WEIRDEST AD EVER.

Friday, 9 August 2013

09/08/13 - Office Parties

It’s common knowledge that Leo Burnett London likes to party. And last week, on an incongruously Mediterranean Thursday, a fleet of coaches spirited us all away from the railway lines and car parks of West Kensington and out into a bit of the country that had some green bits, basking in the shimmer of some vast, unidentified orb in the sky. We found ourselves deposited at a sprawling country pad that, contrary to the belief of everybody present, wasn’t the weekend retreat of the Finance Director, but in fact belonged to an affable old buffer in a sunhat who inexplicably roamed amongst as we got smashed in his garden. You know those TV shows Sarah Beeny does, featuring an old-money chap in a massive country house who can’t afford to keep the increasingly financially cumbersome family estate ticking over, and is desperate for a solution to get the electricity bills paid? And she always suggests either weddings or events in the grounds? Yeah, it smacked of that. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, of course – he had five grand in his pocket, we had a sizeable swimming pool and a bevy of impeccably manicured lawns to cavort and gambol around… the drinks were flowing, the sun was scorching, and all manner of unspeakable indiscretions presented themselves in the shadows. What more could you possibly want from a weekday?
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Leo Burnett London has enjoyed a hedonistic cavalcade of whimsy when they should have been high-fiving clients, writing pithy remarks about burgers and pushing numbers around spreadsheets. Here are some highlights from years gone by…

The midgets
Working in advertising is underpinned by a daily struggle to appear to be credible, sensible grown-ups who represent a safe pair of hands for the vast swathes of cash that the clients bring to the front door in an endless stream of wheelbarrows (I have nothing to do with the financial end of the business, I’m just guessing about that bit), while also trying to suppress the general public’s perception of the industry: that we’re positioned somewhere between Mad Men and a kind of nineteen-eighties pastiche of whisky, red braces, Porsche 911s and illicit Colombian substances. The validity of this perception varies from agency to agency, but it’s generally considered good form to tip the scales more toward the ‘we’re grown-ups’ angle than that whole hedonism bit.
…so, choosing ‘Studio 54’ as the theme for the Christmas party a few years ago was a bold move. There were fire-eaters, waitresses who were as close to naked as made no odds, and all manner of dark, secret corners. There were also midgets. Lots of them. Remember that old rock ‘n’ roll tale about Freddie Mercury having midgets circulating at his party with trays of cocaine on their heads? Yeah, it was like that (but without the coke, obviously). Some thought it was funny. Some thought it was cute. Some thought it was the most horrendous form of exploitation and were really rather cross about it. But hey, no-one forced the midgets to do it. Well, someone may have forced them to strip down to their pants and slather themselves in gold paint but c'mon, it was a party.

Giles’ Flowers fantasy
It’s very important in any workplace to have a genuine human connection with senior management. We’re fortunate in that the CEO is perhaps the most inappropriate and brilliantly awful pottymouth since… well, there’s no-one to compare him to, really… while the MD genuinely seems to believe that he’s The Killers’ Brandon Flowers. It was no coincidence that our 2012 Christmas party featured a sort of extended gig for in-house musicians, chief among which was said bigwig living out his Flowers fantasy on the stage.
Now, you want that kind of thing to be awful. You want it to be so heinously embarrassing that it’s thereafter referred to as ‘the incident’, and the boss in question is too busy cringing to ever make it to another company function. And at most workplaces, this would undoubtedly be the case.
…but not here. Not with Giles Hedger. He was magnificent, frankly. That man can shake a tambourine with Bez-like panache whilst singing like some kind of filthy angel, incongruously dressed in a Sgt Pepper jacket and Bono shades, hand-clapping like a lunatic. It’s tricky for a boss to pull that off.

‘Team-building’ is a horrible concept. The forced jollity of ‘all mucking in together’ to perform some arbitrary task in order to make you bond as colleagues is so much nineteen-nineties bullshit. And when ‘team-building’ is mentioned in the same breath as ‘summer party’, hearts sink.
However, we do know how to throw a good party. (Did I mention…?) Our summer bash around five years or so ago involved ferrying everybody out to somewhere near Heathrow, splitting them up into teams, and providing each team with the following: some oil drums, a length of rope, some planks of wood, and more alcohol than is physically possible for anybody to drink.
Sound like a health-and-safety nightmare? Yeah, possibly. But until you’ve tried riding a raft that you’ve lashed together yourself whilst sweating Jagermeister in the London sun, you’re really not in a position to judge.
The fact that most people got into the water fully-clothed – having not previously been informed of the afternoon’s activities – speaks volumes of their enthusiasm and tenacity. And those that didn’t get in fully-clothed? Why, they stripped down to their undies and dove in. But of course.

Harry Dromey taking a pounding
‘Mexican wrestling’ is a pretty unbeatable theme for a summer party. Particularly if you have a full-size wrestling ring, a selection of masks and costumes, and are positively encouraging people to leap in and hurt each other. Turns out that something you can’t describe as ‘unbeatable’ is Harry Dromey’s face. (For those not in the know, Harry is a chap who used to work here. An affable ginger chap – son of famous politicians, but you’d never know it. Despicable guy. Very nice, really good bloke but, y’know, filthy.) He burst into the ring – which is exactly the kind of thing he likes, oi oi etc – and challenged the entire room to, er, give him a pounding in the ring. (Heh – two ‘in the ring’ gags in one sentence. Brilliant.) And lots of people did. Over and over again. Christ, that dirty, lovely man can take a beating.

Paying with nifties
The summer party of 2011 (I think) took place at China Boulevard – a riverside Chinese restaurant in Wandsworth which happened to be five minutes’ walk from my flat. Handy. But that’s an irrelevant detail. Don’t know why I brought it up, sorry.
Anyway, as the summer party always happens somewhere near Founders Day, we’d all been furnished with a £50 note on arrival. (Founders Day being an annual Leo Burnett tradition - on the date of the company’s founding, every LB employee around the world gets the equivalent of one dollar for every year the company’s been around. By a weird quirk of economics, this converts into exactly fifty pounds for the London employees every single year. Funny that. What a coincidence.)
The parties are always, of course, all-inclusive, so everyone spent the afternoon getting smashed for free and eating Chinese food. And when it was time to vacate the premises, everybody migrated next door to The Ship – a lovely little pub with a huge barbecue for the summer months and a roaring log fire for winter – and continued drinking. And every single one of those 300-odd revellers tried to pay at the bar with a fifty pound note.
Not the most enthralling tale, granted. But if anything’s going to cement the common public perception that advertising people are wankers, it’s sending a large group of them to a pub armed with £50 notes.

Kicking the boss
The first summer party I went to at LB LDN happened a few months after I joined in 2006. Again it featured the dreaded ‘team-building’ concept, and again it turned out to be brilliant. It was basically a giant version of It’s A Knockout in Battersea Park, with enough gin-and-tonic to swim in and a great excuse, as if one were required, to writhe around in the mud like animals.
I was new to the industry as well as the company, and the parkland debauchery was like nothing I’d hitherto experienced. I also didn’t know very many people. The point at which I drunkenly slithered over a huge inflatable sausage thing and inadvertently kicked somebody in the face with my gloopily mud-caked shoe was, as you might imagine, rather embarrassing. And the red-facedness heightened when somebody subsequently pointed out that the recipient of my ham-fisted (er, ham-footed?) dirty protest was then-CEO and world’s-nicest-man Bruce Haines.
He didn’t fire me. He laughed. That’s advertising for you.

Stealing the MD’s Porsche
When a colleague and I stole the CEO’s 911 Turbo (well, he was the MD then; the hierarchy’s very complicated, no-one really understands it) during a Hallowe’en party about six years ago and parked it where he couldn’t find it, we swore we’d never discuss it. So I’m certainly not going to bring that up here.

The bin
Last year’s summer party was a corker – a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, set in a leafy square in West London, surrounded by Maseratis and people in deck shoes. It was very posh indeed. Folk were circulating with Martinis, I think I saw a bowler hat, nobody seemed to mind when a stray ball from the coconut shy took out the window of a passing car, there was moneyed cheerfulness in the air. Even us lowly paupers of the agency were made to feel as if we’d been part of something opulent, something magnificent, something that would happily bleed into the lifestyle of an oil sheikh, a footballer, a property mogul, even Jay Gatsby himself. Hell, no-one would have batted an eyelid if a waiter had emerged brandishing a tray with a glistening pyramid of Ferrero Rocher perched grandly atop.
It was something of a surprise, then, to receive an all-staffer from HR the following week, suggesting that we wouldn’t ever be welcome at that particular venue again, because somebody had done a poo in a bin.
Now, it’s not the JuicyPips remit to name names, and there’s no evidence to suggest whose poo it was. No DNA tests were conducted (that I’m aware of). So it really isn’t my place to suggest that it was probably Tim Harvey. (No, not the ex-Touring Car driver, the ex-Leo Burnett employee. I wonder why he doesn’t work here any more…?) 

Oh, there are other stories. But I’ll never tell.