Monthly Archives: September 2015

Similarities between managers, parents and English speakers

As you get older you become less flexible, especially if you are a parent with a child who is unable to compute putting their shoes away even though they are now actually taller than you.

Fact.

As you rise up in the food chain you get more accustomed to people fulfilling your every command.

Fact.

If you only speak English you assume everyone else really wants to speak it too to communicate.

Fact.

So this is how it works if you fall into one or more of the three above catagories.

Someone says something to you which will impact on your life. One of three things occurs.

  • It is not what you wanted them to say as it seriously inconveniences your life in some fashion because they have just stated they either can’t do what you want or won’t do what you want when you want it done
  • You don’t actually believe or understand what they just said to you
  • Everyone jumps to obey your command

If the third option does not happen your solution is to:

  • Say it louder and slower
  • Say it louder and slower and more insistently when the person keeps going ‘no missus, is not possible’
  • Ignore what they are saying and reply, ‘So it’ll be done by tomorrow, yes?’ and walk out to end the conversation in complete bliss that everyone will jump to your command in your absence

And you know what really irritates me in this situation?

The problem is STILL THERE tomorrow. Just because you commanded that tomorrow the moon needs to orbit the sun because an eclipse would suit you does not mean your minions/children/slaves can achieve the task, even if they stay up all night. Or in fact that they want to even if they tried.

I don’t understand how it is the people who are meant to be running things are often the most oblivious to the reality.

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Filed under anecdote, balance, learning

Just another day at the office

Feeling worn down by this office in general at the moment. It’s made me nostalgic for the old days.

I remember my second ‘permanent’ career posting years ago. The company was expanding at an exponential rate. I spent the first two weeks sitting on a temporary desk point as the person who was usually there was on her honeymoon. I had her slip slops under the table and a pile of paper on the side of me she hadn’t cleared before leaving. I could just about fit between her belongings as she had nested in there.

Moving onto my ‘proper’ desk was a relief as there was now a space for my own little pile of paper, even if the desk wasn’t very large. The office expansion had¬†also¬†meant that they had run out of phonelines to cater to the number of staff members. Squashed between me and a director was a new guy who turned out to be an ex pat from SA as well.

One of his favourite stories on meeting new people when I am present is to recount how he had a barrage of noise on either side of him from myself and the director. The director was particularly fond of loud screaming matches with people on the phone or in front of his desk while I just like to talk.

My colleague and I would literally eyeball each other before grabbing simultaneously for the phone we had to share due to the lack of phonelines. Often, having won the thing, you would dial for an outside repeatedly over ten minutes only to hit an engaged signal. There were more phones despite the sharing than lines going out.

We, at least, had a system. An old timer had a new guy put next to him when they ran out of space and shuffled all the desks round to put in extra people. They too shared a phone. The first time it rang reception placed the call without asking who had picked up.

‘Hello, Jay speaking. No, I’m sorry, there’s no Adam here, this is Jay’s phone. I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number.’

‘Did you just say that there was a call for Adam?’

‘Yes, wrong number.’

‘Adam, I’m Adam you fool. That used to be my phone, we have to share it. When you pick up and they want to speak to Adam, it’s ME, Adam, the guy who introduced himself to you this morning as Adam.’

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Living the good life

Last weekend was ‘Open House’. Basically, a load of buildings are opened up to the general public so they can look at what should be award winning or significant buildings in the history of the city. There are some mediocre offerings, old ones, new ones, super exclusive ones everyone wants to see, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I debated going to see the Bank of England as it has a Sir Herbert Baker connection – back to the homeland of the Union Buildings and Boys High in Pretoria. I got a bit put off by the full body scan and ID required thing, also the fact that compared to other years, this year an astounding number of people seemed to want to take part and I kept bumping into small groups of people with SLR cameras and green guide books. I couldn’t deal with the volume of visitors to even ordinary structures. Although some of them may have been designers, they can’t ALL have been so it’s clearly picking up as something nosy people like to do.

So we bagged limited entry tickets to see a block of flats out in Highgate. The original block had a service lift going into each apartment (think Poirot Agatha Christie). Apparently in the old days you called the greengrocer and they would send you food deliveries up the lift to be left by the door. Even today the building has a concierge although the rooms are not particularly large.

A second phase was built next to this first block. It does not have a concierge but it does have marbled floors and huge glass windows as it was the more luxury of the two.

They built over one of the tennis courts at the bottom of the garden the two blocks share. I say ONE. There are still two tennis courts and an open air pool- sheer luxury in England – and a formal garden in a sloping landscape for residents use only.

The four bedroom flats in the second block filled me with envy. Built midway through the last century, they have huge double volume spaces as you enter into the a very generous living/dining area. (Having the money to custom make the curtains to cover the door and the huge windows above would break a normal budget).

At a time when England was still feeling pretty austere after the second world war the flat has two bathrooms that mirror each other across the stair landing. Two big bedrooms and two smaller children’s rooms. The ability to shut the kitchen off via french doors from the original dining room so that the staff could work on the next course without obstructing the dinner party. Huge concertina doors that fold out completely so the balcony meets the living space.

Even today and even in SA where flat sizes are larger and generally airier and better lit than the UK I would be happy to live there.

This, I thought, this is how the other half used to live and probably still does live. Just why isn’t that me?

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Filed under architecture, families, review

Hearing what we want to hear

There was a study done that showed a group of ten year olds outperformed adults in a comprehension test. The adults read faster but also skim read in order to absorb information. This is a natural outcome in our having to learn to process huge volumes of information at quick speeds so we learn to pick up the essence of the document rather than the details. The children comparatively were found to read at face value and absorbed the salient points as a result.

This isn’t just true of reading. The older we get the more we do this in all aspects of our lives. Case in point, the conversation that ensued near my desk a week ago.

‘So we will upload the documents next week.’

‘Yes, okay but you need to speak to X because I’m away for the next two weeks after this.’

‘Oh… so you won’t be doing the upload?’

‘No, X is the stand in, you need to make sure she knows what you need before I leave. I’m checking coverage for when I’m gone.’

‘Okay. What if we do it the following Monday then. It can wait.’

‘Yes but I’m still not here the following Monday, you still need to speak to X’.

‘But won’t you be back from holidays then?’

‘No, I said I was going away for two weeks.’

‘But that will be two weeks later.’

‘That’ll be two weeks from TODAY. I’m still here. I’m only going away next week, see, that’s why I’m in the office still.’

‘Oh. So when are you away again?’

And of course, sometimes it’s just the two combined. England has what they refer to as ‘Poundshops’ which have big signs on the front saying ‘everything a pound’. They are a bonanza of random rubbish, it is sometimes amazing what you can find in there for a pound. The BBC has a documentary following a chain of these stores. The guy in the introduction sums it up when he says ‘Believe it or not, the most commonly asked question I get asked here is ‘How much is it’ – in a POUNDS shop.’

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Filed under anecdote, modern living

I’m just not a nice person

The news headlines a few days ago were filled with images of a three year old Syrian boy who had drowned trying to reach ‘safety’. I read a follow up article on the family a few days ago. The aunt in Canada had sent this poor boy’s father around 4000 euros in order to pay for passage for him, his mother, his sibling and dad into Europe. The only survivor was the father.

They had chosen to flee because a brother in law had been beheaded and an older brother had been refused refugee status to Canada due to paperwork he could not complete because of a collapsed government system so they felt absconding into Europe was the only solution.

This has become hugely controversial lately. Media is divided completely in the middle, there is no middle ground.

You are either xenophobic and say these people are infringing upon my home, my safety, my resources. They are not stopping to register at the first safe port for refugee status but in many instances are flocking en masse to countries they feel will be more likely to hand out substantial state aid and benefits, way beyond countries where their lives could be considered endangered and where they should have first applied.

Or you are of the second camp who say, these people, they have lost so much, noone would suffer so much risk to life if they were not more fearful of where they were before and they are people and should be treated as such. We owe it to ourselves and them to assist as far as possible in rehousing them where they want to be.

I’m neither.

I sympathise with their stories. I remember almost crying on a nightclub floor as a Zimbabwean I met told me he could never return ‘home’ in current circumstances. He was legally in England but he had nothing to go home to in Africa.

I do not understand some of the news stories however, I cannot help but question the parts of the stories people are not telling. How they were presumably shipwrecked but managed to keep their cellphones bone dry. How they think threats of violence are acceptable means to ensure welcome into the country of their choice. Even as I wonder at what terrible hardships they may also be hiding deep in their psyche.

The drowned boy’s family was a prime example of this. That was a LOT of money to send via electronic transfer to pay for passage. I find it hard to believe with that amount of money they couldn’t get counterfeit papers to appease the Canadian government to come to Canada as sponsored refugees. Corruption in places of war and fallen governments are fairly typical tales in most of history.

I couldn’t understand why failing that they had not managed a tourist visa for Canada which would have been easier to get and then flown over and ‘disappeared’ into the country after. Goodness knows South Africa is full of people who have done this. England is full of South Africans, Indians, East Europeans who have done this. It is no way to live and you are always on the breadline but you are alive compared to the horrors you may be trying to flee.

I feel like many of these refugee stories are only half told. I want the full story before I can really say I believe or I don’t in their plight. But noone likes a fence sitter in these circumstances.

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Filed under family, modern living

Worlds apart

I flew from the south of the United Kingdom to the north of Italy this weekend. An hour and a half flight. Negligible. It takes longer to fly to Cape Town from Johannesburg. Admittedly, you often leave dry, warm Highveld weather for cold windy Capetonian gales but the differences between the areas weather wise is not immense.

It is astounding in Europe though how such a short flight can take you to a whole new world.

In this instance we climbed aboard a plane under grey skies threatening rain, sweaters on the ready. We climbed out to a hot muggy evening with a fat full moon glowing down at us.

We woke up for three days to blue skies of my childhood and a humidity that was not, making my hair stick to my neck while my face went shiny in the heat.

It’s a good reason to stay slim and sleek. You don’t notice extra kilograms when it is easy to wear more clothing to hide lumps and bumps. Moreover, you don’t feel the lumps rubbing against each other due to the clothing in the way.

In Milan however, you could feel your thighs sweatily squishing against each other, even as the back of your skirt seemed to get stuck to your bum. The locals loved it though. Deliciously permatanned, they made looking summery effortless. Moreover, they, like my friend with the slender legs, stepped out in the shortest of shorts with the abandonment and confidence of people who looked good and knew it (which is partly what made them look so good).

The mirror in our room was, however, I was convinced, skewed to make my legs look extra stumpy. Although I could see they just WERE visibly chunkier in real life next to my friend. My knee injury hurt when I walked with my cabin luggage on my back, thereby adding extra weight to it.

I am terrible at diets. But I think it’s worth considering losing a couple of kgs. Just to make movement easier. Its bad enough weightlifting as part of a ‘fitness programme’. No one wants to be lugging around extra weight that’s just made up of bits of them in the way!

And (postscript) we climbed onto the plane in blazing sunshine and heat. We climbed out under a miserable grey sky, shivering with cold. Welcome back to England…

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Filed under Holidays, memories, travel