So for anyone out there who wonders what the heck I’m on about – I have news. The Man-Hog has only gone and got himself cancer. Seriously?? In the life-long series of attention-seeking acts this pesky porcine has pulled, this has to be the cream of the crop. The prize willy-shaped marrow. The unfortunate boob-shaped cherry on the bakewell.
He was diagnosed last Tuesday week with classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a literal pain in the neck as it turns out. He starts chemo – ABVD it’s called for anyone who wants to Google it – on Monday.
So…..OK, alright – I guess he’s kind of got my attention.
So how has this news affected the jolly Pigletinapoke household? Are we all deflated, depressed and down in the mouth? Moping about and bemoaning our fate?
Nah. Not on your nelly. We are – as is our norm – ignoring the possibility “that word” even exists, having a good sarcastic poke at his impending baldness (Oh please…oh please…oh please let him decide to don a wig like the blonde dude in Wayne’s World *every finger crossed*) and trying on woolly hats because being bald is OK but he has a Mini Pig who plays football in the winter – chapped, frosty and bald is perhaps not so cool. We are embracing fleece as a fashion choice. And thinking of creative sexual acts we can perform on each other with ear thermometers. Don’t judge. That sort of thing is actually not that unusual.
And never forget this is the Piglet household, after all, it’s not about how you feel – it’s about how you look, dahhhhling!!
The Mini Pigs are handling it remarkably well so far. They are stoical porkers and are really just slightly pissed off that there will be even more stricter cleaning, hand washing and lick-ably hygienic bedroom regimes to adhere to and to try to avoid good old Dad contracting amoebic dysentery from their discarded, mould-growing yoghurt pots on top of what he already has!
The best part, actually, the humbling part….the part that makes me the most proud….is how the Man-Hog himself is dealing with things. Understandably there is a bit of jelly-belly apprehension about what the treatment will be like on Monday and beyond, and what the next few months will bring. Yet mainly, he and the rest of us Pigs are absolutely 100% convinced – perhaps naively so – that he will be fine and that this is just a bump in the road. Keep calm and take the micky. It’s what gets us through.
Frankly, as you regular readers will know, I’m not one to mince my words much. I’ve told him – get your arse in gear, get better…..or I WILL KILL YOU! You will beat this thing. Failure is not an option. Man up and all that! He’s on board with the message. It’s not everyone’s way, but it is ours – crafted over many years together. This isn’t going to be a triumph for chemical advances or medical brilliance – the cure effected in this case will be as a result of positive mental attitude and relentless bursts of dark humour. Well, that, and the odd slap. :)
It’s been a while, my friends. Somehow I’ve just not been in the zone enough, not felt funny enough or interesting enough to write anything down. I claim fay knights and ‘av ‘ad no time, guv, honest. Oh, I’ve sputtered and started in a kangaroo-petrol kind of way but not actually seen a blog post through to the end for many months.
Which is a shame really as I do enjoy my writing. And I am in particular need of therapeutic relief right now….
Our story begins aeons back when men were hairy – but not in a coiffed and trimmed metrosexual way – and women were hairier and did not yet wax. Yes, a loooong time ago.
I switched jobs – leaving a long term boss after many years and taking a job which did not, in the end, work out. I luckily got another job – my current job – and that’s really when the writing dried up. Lack of time. Lack of oomph. Lack. Basically.
A recent near death experience has started the writing juices flowing again. You know how I love to share.
So……the moment of screaming fear went like this:
I’m driving to the station and the rain is like stair rods. I’m pushing it a little because I’m late for work – so what’s new?? I am just coming up to my turn off and I hit a massive puddle literally the width of the dual carriageway. Alan – The Super Mini – goes into a total spaz tailspin and I’m suddenly careering across the road sideways heading for the side of a road bridge. Oh shit, oh shit, ooohhhhhh shiiiiiiiiit is coming out of my mouth. Luckily, the old training kicked in and I managed to steer Alan out of the spaz skid, spin it in a curving S shape around two cars who must have thought their numbers were up – sorry! – and ended up heading the right way towards the roundabout. In the meantime, my fudged up iPhone containing synchronised random music from GOD KNOWS WHO has switched into 100 Greatest Christmas Songs mode and I’m fighting for my life to the sounds of Perry Como imitating a mule accompanied by jingly bells music! It was squeaky bum time, I can tell you, but the worst of it was that in my mind I saw my dead squished body in that car and all I could think of was the shame of the emergency services prizing off the roof only to be greeted by my corpsed face stuck in a frozen grin to the plinketty-plunketty tune of “Dominic the Donkey” blaring out at 90 decibels!
Tragic. Shameful. Please care.
So the new job is based in Swiss Cottage. A strange microcosm of a place. I know Jonathan Woss waves about it but I think he’s thinking of the other Swiss Cottage? Maybe IN Switzerland? Potentially, my one has mob-up potential galore…for example, I’ve honestly never seen quite such a collection of horror wigs walking the streets. Wigs pulled firmly down the forehead to meet bushy beetling eyebrows and rendering their owners’ crinkled eyelids shut, causing visual disturbances and uncertain food purchase choices in the local Waitrose. Wigs usually resplendent in shades of “Screeching Slasher Red” or “Sad Owl in Moult”. Terrifying.
Nor quite so many hoodies worn in all seriousness by respectable women over 50. Gives a whole new meaning to the term sister-hood. Or woman-hood for that matter. None of which apply since they are mostly just scary-ass-gangster-hood with fags dangling from their lips, sitting outside the corner cafe with empty pushchairs trying to work out how to pick up their mugs of caffeine despite claw-like false nails so long they must surely prevent any decent standard of personal hygiene? Yes, I said it.
There is then the daily trauma of walking in – shock horror – a skirt and heels to the office through the Sista-hood’s manor and clocking the looks of genuine and utter confusion on their faces (“What exactly IS that?” they muse “Is it…could it be…a woman? Dressed like that? Doesn’t she get cold around her ears with no hood”.) you get the gist. I do not belong here.
Anyway….That particular morning mountain climbed and survived without too much spit down the coat or lip-curling and I arrive at the office only to find one of the land team in tears because a pigeon has flown in the open window and crapped down the front of his designer trousers. A swift leg-it to the dry-cleaner next door is the only thing that might save him from the nightmare of a client presentation held while everyone studiously tries to ignore chalky residue stains around his crutch area? Ew. Never a good look. I try not to imagine him cringing in a corner in his boxers behind Mrs Jenkinson’s plastic-wrapped Jacques Verte crepe de chine while he waits.
The day starting off this way engenders a certain sense of paranoia. Foreboding even. This morning – hideous almost-car crashes and a pigeon. This afternoon ….what? A rhino with the trots broken loose from Regents Park – a mere stone’s throw away and within summer wafting distance – and leaking all over the contract weave chosen specifically to blend with Kelly Hoppen’s complexion? (that’s trade-marked by the way – and will be available in a beautiful Matt housepaint in Autumn 2015)
I go to the window to take a calming breath. Only to be greeted by the site of the dog shrine that has appeared overnight in tribute to the next door neighbours’ dearly departed rover. The shrine has a suspicious pet-shaped hump in the middle so I fear the grave itself may not have been dug quite deep enough. Perhaps the waft is not the zoo after all??!! Yikes! On closer viewing, the planted basket-weave dog marking the grave is listing at a somewhat jaunty angle as whatever is underneath swells and emerges balloon-like from the mud. Slam window shut. Turn on computer. Do. Not. Think. About. It.
Suddenly one of the assistants bursts in through one of the closed doors. “Sarah!” She gasps. “The dishwasher is broken and there’s like….soooo much washing up!!! What should I dooo?” The panic in her eyes is reminiscent of the hostages at Entebbe Airport. Then the other door is almost ripped off its hinges as the company’s driver strides in brandishing what on first sight looks like a disturbing tickling stick with which he is going to teach that damn assistant a lesson, but turns out to be a pressure washer extension wand. “Sarah!” He cries. “This stick…me, I broke it. It piddles, not pump. I need a new one and I need it NOW!” There are tears in his eyes. Or he has hayfever. Who can tell? Real problems, people, that somehow land on MY desk before I’ve even had my first cuppa. Did I mention I do not belong here?
I make them both a soothing gin and apply Bachs Herbal Remedies to their temples as I turn them into the recovery position on the hitherto-unstained-by-escaped-rhino-or-pigeon-shit carpet. I go in search of a pair of rubber gloves. This level of crisis requires a real woman to sort it out. One in heels. With all her own hair. Who will clearly get on with her own actual job somewhat later.
So as you can see – time for writing has been short but don’t hold it against me. In the words of Arnie S, that rhino-like acting legend, I’ll be back.
DISCLAIMER: This entire blog is all made up or exaggerated by me or usually both. Please don’t take any of it seriously…I don’t!
Does anyone else suffer from “Spring-itis”? You know….that funny little disease that hits around the time of the emergence of the smell of wild garlic in the hedgerows? The cheeky little virus that pops up when the tulips slump their faded petalled faces into the mud. Well I do. And this year – I’ve got it baaaaad, baby.
I’ve never really been one to sit still and just….be. Don’t get me wrong – I am generally happy and positive and have counted my blessings until I’m cross-eyed with the sheer numbers of them on more than one occasion. I live a charmed life, I know. But still…there’s always a bit more isn’t there? More to see. More to do. More people to meet. More places to tick off. More, more, more. Sometime around the rising of the spring sap, an insidious germ sneaks into my breakfast cereal and starts to make me restless with my lot. It’s happened every year at this time for as long as I can remember and has nothing to do with being happy, contented, fulfilled or otherwise. Those are pretty constant drivers, but this frenzied wistfulness is an annual side effect, where everything I’m doing currently or have done in the past seems to be a bit too…safe.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t yearn for a new man(Hog). I do sometimes yearn for a new sty to keep him in…but he’ll only mess it up with his untidy ways so that soon passes. I’m not trapped by difficult circumstances – in fact I have more freedom than most, I suspect. I’ve just been sailing around Scotland for the past weekend, for example. The thought of picking up my current house and dumping it down in a new town/village always seems to appeal…logistically difficult, however, and tends to play havoc with the sewers and the wiring. I’m not looking for work (although am always open to offers!) particularly and my kids are on the rails so far, not off them.
This year, then, the itchy unexplainable plague seems particularly virulent. I’ve retired (finally) from competitive netball – I am nearly a hundred years old after all. I’ve been forced to fork out for my first pair of proper spectacles (as opposed to my usual rock chick Raybans). The Teen Pig is leaving college and starting out in the world of work – how did that creep up on me? My Scottish niece has just finished an amazing gap year in Africa and is just starting out in nursing. My nephew is applying for engineering courses at Uni, and one of our other nephews has just had a baby, for goodness sake! Something about all these eras ending and new ones beginning has perhaps set me off and now I feel like a slightly rubbish, four-eyed, under-achieving stick-in-the-mud because I haven’t produced a baby, finished a Masters degree or started my own business. Ridiculous – but there it is.
Maybe it is just hormones….perhaps it’s me glands, as the Man-Hog likes to say when questioned about medical issues. Could the warm air rising and the sun finally shining trigger a release of “oomph” hormone somewhere in the body, causing us who suffer from Springitis to morph into a state of needy perpetual forward motion? Perhaps the winter months of lethargy and sloth are a “dormancy” of sorts, a state of catatonic mental stillness which is then released with the first Spring daff. Oh Christ- I am a dormouse! Great.
I don’t really know. All I know is I need to do something or else tie my hands and feet together with string so I stop being so annoyingly fidgety. Is it normal to want to do something positive, something that yields a gain, either tangible or intangible, but only really once a year – in Spring? Odd, non?
Well hopefully there are others of you out there who are feeling me, Felix, if you see what I mean. Some of you also suffering from excess sap? Let’s start a club then. We’ll call it the “Fidgetty Digit Club”. Quite catchy, don’t you think? Now all we have to decide is what to do. Any suggestions? Before I start hammering things together for the heck of it? Answers below. Thank you!
I don’t know if you have noticed but it has been raining a lot lately? Anyone? Anyone?
Well of course you have! And so have I. Notice is hardly the right word. More like constant drizzle peppered by exciting and dangerous bouts of Armageddon. Mixed with more hail and then odd mini-hurricane.
Getting to The Job That Never Lets Up has been challenging, to say the least. Today, for example, I got up at the un-Godly hour of 5am – this is necessary because a) Sussex is sinking therefore I have to drive uphill all the way and it takes longer b) Bob Crow has not yet been assassinated by the members of London TravelWatch so cannot be trusted not to call a wildcat strike over the lack of pork scratchings available in the staff vending machines and c) SouthEastern trains simply stop working if so much as a badger’s pube drops onto one of their tracks. Since I am at the somewhat rural end of the line, the badgers have no truck with “badger tunnels” under the railway and insist on dropping their trolleys and depilating their striped behinds wherever and whenever they like. So the trains don’t run. Cheers Brock!
Anyhoo….so got up, splashed water half-heartedly about my person, jumped in Keith (my Mini – named ‘cos he’s bang tidy) and headed up the A21 only to be blocked by a fallen tree somewhere around Bewl. A swift swerve off down the lanes and around the back of Goudhurst to score a crafty “in from the side” was a bold but ultimately fruitless move – the road was further blocked by the river splurging its entrails everywhere.
Finally got to Tonbridge via Aberdeen and the East Coast and managed to sling Keith into a handy passing ditch – marked out car park spaces having disappeared several weeks ago so one simply has to pick one’s chosen rut in the overpriced concrete and hope for the best. I kid you not. So I got on a train.
After a scuffle and a bit of a set to with the guard who wanted to evict me mid-eyeliner from First Class (entered stubbornly because I was buggered if I was going to stand all the way to London), we agreed that he was a Knobjockey with a capital K and I am quite clearly a menopausal old bat. After that, we actually got on quite well and ended up having quite a good chat 😄 – El Guardiola loves gardening and doesn’t know what’s happened to respect and common courtesy these days. After what I called him in the heat of the eyeliner moment, frankly I have to agree.
Anyway – eventually got into work so that made me today’s super trooper – please send medal and gold star in the post! Settled down to the normal tense politics and inter-departmental strife and then – get a text “Don’t cum home!!!” from a well-meaning if slightly over-dramatic friend.
Eh? Who? What? Oh….I’ve still got half a biscuit left. These were the initial thoughts that limped across my tired brain. Then the fog cleared and I realised it could mean only one thing…trouble ont trains.
Several hours later, having established that yes, there is quite a bad storm going on in Ye Olde Sussex and yes, there are trees down on the main line and no, it probably won’t be sorted out by tonight or by 5AM tomorrow when this unhappy experience expects to repeat itself groundhog-stylie …. So….Here I am. In a cheap hotel. Alone and with only a stale Pret yoghurt for my tea.
One has to ask…is the Government aware of this hidden distress behind their inability to hire Joe the River Dredger? Granted my house is not knee deep in watery sewage but there are many forms of personal misery and this exhausting attempt to commute each day is one of them. Are the politicians aware of the families forcefully separated this evening by the economic need to turn up to work while the means to get there continues to erode daily? Have they ever had the “Late again Stratton!” eyebrow raise from their superior as I slope in still swapping my flatties for heels at just before 11am? The raise that says there’ll be no raise this year. Or bonus. Or family holidays therefore. The hidden cost of flooding.
Will it only be when Westminster itself and many sleepy members of the House of Lords are 6 inches deep in water with a coating of kebab fat on top that anyone will begin to act?
Who knows? I’m honestly too tired to think about it. I know there are many much much worse off than me and I do sympathise greatly – it must be terrible to see your assets and possessions slowly ruined by the creep of water but….come on people! This is me, for Chrissakes!! I don’t do struggle and difficulty – I only do comfort and ease. I’d be the first to evacuate to the nearest spa in any form of emergency. Especially if it looked like it might mess up my hair. Manning up in a crisis relies very much on personal coping limits. Mine are, admittedly, lower than the average.
All I know tonight is that staying in a hotel without the Man-Hog or the Mini-Pigs is dead boring. Abandoning Keith in a station furrow feels very wrong and I want to report myself to ChildLine for Mini-abuse. And eating stale yoghurt as my main meal of the day is utter pants.
Before I start I will have to write a disclaimer. Dogs mentioned in this blog bear no resemblance whatsoever to the gorgeous twin set and pearls that are Pugsy and Ted Godwin-Crowhurst. If I don’t put this in, my friend Lorna will hunt me down and probably hurt me. With sharp things. So there you have it, Lorna, put your pitchfork back in the shed until the next time I commit an inadvertent canine faux pas!
The festive season is fast approaching and, as usual, I’m seeing far too much of the inside of various capital city hostelries. Against my will, obviously, dragged there kicking and struggling (to get out of my coat) while silently mouthing “Mine’s a gin, Jock!” as I am manhandled to the bar. Sit down before you fall down. Good advice, never forgotten.
Anyway the point is I would like to pay homage to the humble London pub. I have lately spent time in The Burlington Arms (does a nice scotch egg, bar staff slower than sloth on Mogadon), The Harp (handy for the station when Network Rail decide to play 7-card rummy all evening instead of running a train service), The Windmill (dark, seedy, strangely exciting) and a particular favourite lunchtime haunt of mine – The Market Tavern. This last is pretentiously posh and not really a pub at all but a holding pen for beautiful, delicious smelling people who have got fed up waiting in the queue for Burger & Lobster and are getting royally tanked up instead. “Bugger the lobster!” they scream into their Tanqueray martinis. Cruel – but then if you don’t want to eat it I can see how you might consider that as an alternative, given the price you pay for them. Lobster love not to be undertaken lightly however – there are still the nippers to consider. And I’m not talking about the side dish of little prawns.
The thing is….the thing IS….these pubs each have a charm of their own and remain true to the spirit of “public house”. Not everyone’s home is the same and it is this individuality and stubborn disregard for the majority taste that makes these places so great. Where would we be without a collection of photos of Princess Margaret and some faux cacti on the windowsill? Who doesn’t want harlequin patterned curtains because the fabric can be bought in bulk and the design doesn’t show the phlegm? The Tavern even has velveteen sofas. Pretty convinced they wouldn’t mind if you slipped on your comfy trousers and watched an episode of Corrie from them. So long as you smell delicious.
Whereas….the local joints in the village and surroundings where I live are…well, as I said to a mate, they are dire. One which shall remain nameless – a particular favourite of several friends of mine – smells constantly of nursing home wee. Another has been painted in a shocking shade of clotted cream, rendering it so dazzlingly uninviting and operating-theatre-bright that I wouldn’t go in there even if I had just had Botox pumped by concrete mixer into every inch of my face. Not to mention the locals sitting there harrumphing into their mulled Guinness with faces on like pugs with piles. I’ve heard of overbite but surely your lower teeth should not gurn their way up to your eyebrows?
Something is lacking in Sussex when it comes to atmosphere and ambience. We’ve tried lots of places and – sadly – it is a county-wide issue.
So, if you’re looking for me, I will be mostly drinking in the smoke this festive season. Places where you can meet a giant bloke called Tim – a good sort with half an arm, an army career under his belt and a great line in Irish jokes. Or Sheila – 94 if she is a day – who has been drinking in the same pub for about 40 years and can tell you how every bit of sticky floor came to be there. Amazing people.
Sussex – you need to man up and get your act together. Having the nation’s monopoly on old black-beamed boozers is not enough. Come to London and have a look – it’s all going on up there, you know. Cheers!!
In a life filled with work and family responsibilities, it is easy sometimes to forget the simple things. The down times that make all the hard work worthwhile. The reasons why you wanted the mortgage and to build a family of your own in the first place.
These past few days have been a rediscovery exercise. An interlude of fun and relaxation in the hustle and bustle of daily life when I have tried to stop and smell the flowers. Not actually, obviously – I mean, no-one has time to do that!
It began last Friday when I gave up the day job for a couple of days to head back to my sailing roots. I was asked to help out with the launching and display of the Team GB yacht entry into the Clipper Round the World race 13-14. Being there on this gorgeous new racing yacht plumped slap bang in the middle of Trafalgar Square – an amazing sight – was a privilege and an absolute pleasure. I spent two days meeting and greeting thousands of people who crossed that famous London square and introducing them to my love of the boat, the race experience and the legacy of sailing that catches all who take part and never lets go. Four years on from my own exciting voyage across the Atlantic, my enthusiasm for it is still undiminished, although two whole days of smiling and chatting has left me with lock-jaw and a need for Botox around the crow’s feet. I would leave with this year’s crew to set off around the globe on this mad race in an absolute heartbeat, if only I could. Ah! Jealous? Me? Abso-bloody-lutely!
Anyway. Having had that lovely catch-up with old crew and Clipper pals, including the brave and wonderful Rachel about to set off for a seven month sojourn in Switzerland before joining me back here for our Coast to Coast walking challenge next April (!), I moved on to some even older friends and a lovely Sunday in the country.
I have known these two particular good buddies since the heady days of our times together in investment banking in Canary Wharf. Many a lunch hour was whiled away setting the world to rights over curly fries and a bottle or two of fizz – would be totally frowned upon in these days of austerity and belt-tightening but in the mid-90s it was all completely normal behaviour.
Without them, I would have been an even worse employee than I have eventually turned out to be! They saved me, nurtured me, made me a better person and we will be – I have no doubt – lifelong friends. Babies, annoying and inconvenient health issues and my stubborn refusal to lie down and live quietly will never affect our close bond. We meet rarely, owing to geography and intruding life, but when we do it is as if we have not been apart in the interim. We can, literally, talk for England.
So having finally got our diaries synchronised, we all met up close to our home in Sussex at a bizarre and eclectic pub called The Bell at Ticehurst that we had been recommended to try. As it turned out, it is a great pub with a friendly atmosphere but, sadly for us, not a marvellous restaurant for a big group of chattering people. The quirkiness of the staff and surroundings palled quite quickly when faced with cold plates, wrong orders and slow and eccentric service. The men folk that accompanied us to lunch returned bemused at having had to pee literally into a trombone – an experience the Man-Hog described in excruciating detail later that day. Ew. Nevertheless, it was a lovely – if expensive and slightly weird – day with our friends and we shall just have to re-group at a better researched venue next time!
The following day was family day. A fab, sunny morning meant it would be rude not to hit the beach in some form. That beach turned out to be Deal in Kent. Via a brief stop in Sandwich. It was a treat to be out with the kids all day. I call them kids but, of course, one of them is not really. I sometimes hyperventilate at the thought of the Teen’s impending adulthood – come November she can legally get locked in at a pub without me! So these days spent all together are all the more precious because of their rarity and their approaching end. How much longer can I realistically expect her to hang out with her old Ma? Burying your Mini-Pig sibling up to his neck in beach stones will not appeal forever – although when he is annoying her it is ALL she wants to do!
A flying visit to the Isle of Wight by ferry and some exciting Colin McRae driving in the Mini ended our travelling days out – they know how to do a cream tea on that island. Devon and Cornwall – beware!
Some final shopping with the Teen and a sprinkling of CVs around neighbourhood in her continuing search for the Lesser Spotted Saturday job completed a relaxing and enjoyable week. Tomorrow I go back to work – ugh. But just for a while there, it was nice to do – and think about – practically nothing at all…..
Airports are strange places. Dislocated islands populated by all the nations of the world brought together for a short time in a false sense of camaraderie. An ever changing montage of sizes, shapes, colours, accents and behaviours.
Take the lady of African descent seated two rows in front. She chews gum for three beats then scratches her nose for one. She’s been doing it for an hour. Is she allergic to the very gum she masticates with such enthusiasm? Every now and then her head drops to reveal an unexpected bald patch on the top of her head. She traces her hand across it periodically leaving me to wonder: which came first? The bald patch followed by a concerned-to-be-balding hand? Or an involuntary head stroke tic leading to a gradual wearing away of her hair?
To my right is the shifty dark-haired gentleman who has just been turned back at the Air France gate. I overheard the word “standby” followed by a derisory laugh from the airline attendant. Clearly he stands nowhere, let alone “by”. He is left tapping his knees with a nervous set of fingers while he awaits a similar rejection from the British Airways staff who are already wise to him. How did he get through security without a boarding pass? He is the man from nowhere going nowhere. I fear he may be here some time.
Then there’s the so obviously British business suits. The ones with ties still tightly fastened for the flight who insist on queuing just in front of the doors a good forty minutes before boarding. They glare directly at the staff and defy anyone to try to board before them – even the unaccompanied minor waiting patiently to the side of them warrants a tut and a curled lip.
Poor love. There she perches atop her purple Trunki, wild-haired and hollow-eyed. Is she the unfortunate commuter ferrying between two estranged parents? Is she visiting grandparents who dislike her father and his presence in her life – the father who I watched drop her off at the airport and leave her in the care of a complete stranger?
Who knows what people’s stories are? We are all baggage in the end, waiting to land and for someone to claim us. Just passing through this airport island on our way to the real world again.
As many of you know, I have taken a new job back in the smoke and – so far, so good. I have already had a great bonding dinner with the other girls in my team – lots of wine and cocktails somewhere in the Kings Road, a missed last train home and some rumours of a 4AM finish for some of them? My lips are sealed……
I am slowly working out the company dynamics and trying to blend in while still being at the “haven’t a clue” stage of company knowledge. I have also broken two secure password thingamajiggas that has confounded the IT chappy, spilt coffee down a colleague’s shirt just before his lunch with a client and tripped over my own heel exclaiming “Sh*t!” in front of the Chief Exec and his guest. So, all good. :-D
The downside to it all is the hours. There are many of them. All spent at my desk in London. All spent away from the family. Many more hours than in my previous job. Such is life – I’m happy to be in work and, to be fair, the hours have all been necessary and not just pfaffing about. I cannot complain.
Last night I managed to give myself a break from late night commuting and booked into the newly refurbished Café Royal Hotel which re-opened its doors in Summer 2012. Just off Regent Street, the hotel couldn’t be more convenient and – all credit to them – they have done a spectacular job of it. The lobbies, staircases and quirky Art Deco lifts take you back to a bygone age in the Café’s heyday. It was like entering an episode of Poirot for the evening, watching the needle pointer curve over the halfway mark as the ancient-looking elevator ascended through the floors. Polite and penguin-like staff are EVERYWHERE. You cannot move without someone wishing you a good evening or safe travels. Eh? I just walked here from down the road. No matter. If they start to gather in the hallways in groups just punch them gently out of the way. It’s the hospitality industry, they’re used to it.
Once inside the rooms, however, all thoughts of penguin-punching vanish. The world and its demands fades away as you take in your sumptuous surroundings. There is apparently a selection of more “blokey” style rooms – Mansard they call them – all wood panelling and musky scented but I didn’t get to see those on my short tour. No matter as I am, in fact, a girl. Yes, its true and not a cross-dressing version of me. So I had booked into a Portland room – beautifully furnished with every modern convenience, according to the brochure and with walls cloaked in smooth stone. Sounds odd but it really works and you feel…..safe, sort of cocooned for some odd reason.
Un-flipping-believably, I was upgraded. No bog-standard Port-a-potty room for me. Oh no. I was to be the jammy-bugger one-night owner of a fabulous junior suite! The place was bigger than my house. Ri-di-cu-lous. With its own sitting room, kitchenette with coffee machine and a bathroom big enough to hold the cast of Les Mis, it wasn’t half bad I can tell you. I could have moved the family and a couple of stray dogs into it, no trouble.
I struggled a bit with all the electronics – I am challenged in the techy department as we know. Having stupidly stripped off my dress first, I tried to shut the drapes by button and instead managed to open the sheer curtains and give the offices opposite a wonderful view of me in my bra and knicks at the naked window. Sorry peeps. Not intentional.
Having ducked down behind a pink leather chair, I fumbled my way to the perfect curtain state and then tackled the lighting. This is all at midnight, dear friends, several rums up and with thumbs that would not respond to direct instruction. The lights, I finally discovered, worked by simply stroking them. *As do I – note to Man-Hog.* How marvellous. But best of all was the B&O TV which, if you get your thumbs to behave on the controls, turns to face you wherever you are in the room and booms its little movie-playing heart out through fab surround-sound speakers.
Having tried out all the nice smelly bottles of goodies in the bathroom and resisted raiding the mini-bar, I finally decided to hit the hay. In a bed the size of Africa. It was H-UUUUUUU-GE. I felt like a hobbit in a B&B. Supremely comfortable and with Frette linens – aaaahhhhh. You fellow textile fetishists will understand. It was an absolute pleasure to starfish inelegantly and still have room to roll over three times and not fall off. I’m getting me one of those beds. And a punchable penguin to say good morning to me on demand.
Considering its central location, you honestly couldn’t hear anything from the streets outside or from the hallways. It was actually a shock when the alarm woke me up this morning. After a dip in the marble bath which was more like swimming than washing, I got myself dressed and regretfully left this oasis of calm and opulence. Back to reality tonight alongside the Man-Hog, snorting, wheezing and gurning his way through the night altogether far too close to me and in a bed nothing like the one at the Café. Ah well. Marriage is a blessing.
If you get a chance and you’re up on a theatre/shopping trip sometime, try the hotel. There is a restaurant and bar, and a soon-to-be-ready spa and gym. For one night of crazy, over-the-top pampering and quirkiness, it’s well worth the price tag. Don’t ask the price first, it has no truck with economic decline and will only spoil it for you! Enjoy!
Café Royal Hotel
68 Regent Street
London W1B 5EL
Ph: +44 20 7406 3322
Photo Credits: All my own
It has been a strange few weeks here at Pig Central. Having never really been at home for more than a week at a time during the whole of my adult life, I suddenly found myself thrust firmly into a weird new world of family life – together with inordinate amounts of unexpectedly free time.
Firstly, let me say I have enjoyed it. I have loved being here to make breakfast for everyone. I have really loved being here when the Mini Pig gets home from school: that fresh air smell that fills his hair and the increased noise level from the minute he enters the front door – precious moments. I have laughed aloud at the Teen and her mates as they loll around snacking after college and telling me all the gossip and funny bits. I have even enjoyed the slightly bemused by it all presence of the Man Hog – all day, every day. We’ve had a lot of fun and too many pub lunches – in between the barbed banter!
What I have realised however is:
A) Staying at home will, in my particular case, lead to diabetes, morbid obesity and eventual death. Fact. All I do is bake. Endless buns, brownies, batter-based goodies and all manner of sweet homely treats. Fantastic, some would say. But this is far from the truth. There is no consistency: said baking veers wildly from the sublime to the completely inedible. It’s anybody’s guess how some of it will turn out. I’ve produced a bun whose surface was not unlike the face of Barack Obama – go figure? Maybe a dodgy oeuf? Who knows? I’ve also produced a batch of brownies that were so hideously vile the Man Hog actually retched as he tasted one. When it’s good, I devour more than I should. When it’s bad, I devour it anyway because no-one else will and it would be a shameful waste of ingredients if it went straight in the bin. This has to stop. I must step away from the baking. And the eating!
B) If I continue to stay here, I am well and truly under the Man Hog’s feet. I inadvertently perch in “his” corner of the sofa. I tut openly when he sneaks in from the garden for a round of Hobbit-Second-Breakfast toast. I am in the kitchen cooking or ironing something when he wants to wash his shoes in the sink (a filthy habit I knew nothing about until now). The home, at least during daylight hours, has been his personal fiefdom for over ten years now. And he wants it back. Sans moi!
C) I simply cannot afford to stay at home. I see too much that needs to be done: repainting the ancient crumbly windows or, failing that, replacing same crumbly windows; a new kitchen; a complete garden overhaul; painting everything inside and then buying/making/stealing the necessary soft furnishings to go with….the list goes on and on. The Man Hog scoots away like a whipped puppy with his tail between his legs when I start any conversation with “Do you think you could just…..” I find myself chasing him from room to room with my prioritised snagging list while he harrumphs and insists he needs to check the oil in the car. The iPad glows a sickly red with the sheer strain of all the bookmarking I have done on the John Lewis and Dulux websites. I had less time before now to notice the endless decay that accompanies owning an old house but now…I see it all. It’s a little bit like Steve Austin, the bionic man….it is a house barely alive. But Gentlemen –
we can rebuild him. Or knock the bugger down and start again? Actually….put that on the snag list: New house.
D) I have discovered I’m unable to relax and am therefore not very relaxing to be around. After years of work, deadlines, ego massaging and deftly managing my own usually very limited time I now find this lack of structure means I simply cannot sit still. We went on holiday right at the start of the redundancy and that was fine – away from home I cannot meddle or control or tidy and so all is well. Back home: all bets are off. I’m literally driving the family bonkers – I think the Man Hog may even have developed a slight tic.
E) I actually need to work. The most soul-searing and honest thing that has come out of all of this is that I truly do love my family to distraction, but….without a job I am rootless. Surplus to my own requirements. Pointless. I truly like going to work and most of the time, I’m quite good at it. Staying at home – it’s a really tough job fraught with constant decision making and the potential to fail at the most basic of tasks.
So I have taken another job – a tougher one than the last and for less money, with longer hours, sporting an unknown group of people to try to win over. Daunting? Yes! Scared? A bit. Swap it for permanent retirement? Not on your nelly!
Call me a monster but I have come to the conclusion that I am a better wife, mother, friend, sister or whatever I am simply for going to work. It’s what I know. It’s what I do. It’s my function, my contribution, my commitment to the life we have built. More importantly, it’s what the family knows I do. It defines me for myself and for them. Without it, I am genuinely uncomfortable. So I’m off to do it all again – with the family’s blessing.
I am looking for a new job at the moment and – boy – have things changed since the last time I dated recruiters way back in the late 90s.
I don’t know if it is the anonymity of on-line recruitment ads but something seems to make it OK for these agents of job selection to descend into utter drivel when describing the various roles on offer. Perhaps it is just me getting old and crotchety but honestly? I am up to here with their bullcrap already and I’ve only just started the process.
One of today’s particularly special on-line ads includes a job whose key criteria isn’t a firm command of the Queen’s English or years of valuable experience but “a sense of urgency”. Really? I have that when I need to pee but I’m seeing a doctor about it. No-one has ever expected me to exude it from behind my desk. Sounds awful.
Come to think of it, I don’t actually know how one would display urgency while sitting down? Should I crease up my forehead to indicate inner urgency in action? Wouldn’t I just look like I have a severe case of irritable bowel?
I’m intrigued by what this phrase actually means in a work environment. Does it mean grabbing one’s computer mouse in a swift ninja-like move before double-clicking furiously for no apparent – yet clearly urgent – reason. Or frantically taking down super fast telephone messages before the caller has had a chance to actually state their business? “Get on with it, caller, it’s urgent!” Should I sprint, bearing said message, into the principal’s office, fire it into his face then back heel out as swiftly as I entered? Or do I just shout “Yes sir! On it!” each time he utters a single word? Hmmm. I don’t think I fully comprehend this particular criteria.
Similarly with this one. The “ability to push back”? WTH? I can push around, push forwards, push through, Pushy Galore and Push in Boots – do they count? Push back has vaguely disturbing sexual connotations which have no place in a job ad. Laid back. Comatose. Static. These I do with ease. But “push back”. I have no idea what that means.
So, dear recruitment people, please please please dispense with phrases found somewhere up your own back passages during a pushed back lunch hour. They’re not helping anyone and frankly just make me want to click with a sense of urgency on to the next job that makes more sense to me.
Please also refrain from over-using the words “meticulous”, “pro-active”, “can-do” and “polished”. No-one is all of these things all of the time. You cannot, for example, have a sense of urgency whilst remaining polished. The sprinting delivery of messages alone would mess up my hair and is not conducive to the smooth application of eyeliner. Neither can you push back while remaining pro-active – that’s basically going nowhere and sitting on the fence isn’t it? Surely you’re paying me too much to be so indecisive?
Here’s a draft of a job ad I would like to see:
Person wanted who is not a complete numpty, has no emotional problems or nervous tics, doesn’t eat smelly food in the office and actually wants to turn up to work. Someone who likes a pint when work is finished on a Friday night and is a good giggle at the Christmas do. Someone who gets on with it, doesn’t whinge and realises what’s what. Someone with common sense and a right good belly laugh. A person we realise is here predominantly because we are paying you and who has no unrealistic expectations of Utopian employment or Elysian fields. An all round good egg. Please send CV.
There. Honest. To the point. I’d apply. Wouldn’t you?
Photo credit: http://jobsandcareersmag.com