Category Archives: Relationships

Diary Reads

I have to admit I’ve often thought if I was to become a bona fide author I’d consider a diary format novel. It has the simplicity of being able to start and stop and rant at random for long or short clips as it suits you. Because that’s what real diaries probably do.

The one possible exception being Anne Frank’s diary. I’ve always found that a tedious and difficult read, not to mention depressing. Almost every entry lasts forever as she had nothing else to do except write. Poignant yes. But I’ve never managed to share the enthusiasm so many others have for the book but saying that out loud is a no-no. Like admitting you are a blatant racist who kicks puppies for a hobby.

I took the latest Bridget Jones’ Diary out the library. I detested the first book and never read the second as consequence. Funny enough, I don’t mind the movies as much. My issue with the books are they really are written like someone who can’t be bothered to put words down for eternity but feels compelled to write something down. In truth, they also read a lot like emails from a certain member of my family who assumes you already know the context of whatever the story is. And who leaves out random words that would help the flow of language because somehow this works out as ‘abbreviation’ and ‘time saving’. Bridget Jones’ Diary is written in exactly the same same style. The style of one who knows better but can’t be asked to spell check or pause long enough between brain and keyboard to ensure that all the words in their heads have actually made it onto the page.

Most of all though I detest how ridiculously sanctimoniously fortunate Bridget is. Oh, yes, of course, especially in the third book she has undergone great personal tragedy. But then many others have too. Most people do not, however, manage to live in the very centre of London (even if it is run down and noisy) by themselves in a one bed flat. They don’t manage to not only stay employed despite blatant incompetence, personal issues and hangovers but get promoted, moving steadily onto a dream job. Despite gross indecision and rash behaviour have the option of landing a few men at the same time and being given enough second and third chances to pick the right one. They don’t naturally land up being able to somehow stay on the borders of Hampstead Heath where property is at a premium playing at being scatty, bohemian and despite everything, ‘lovable’.

I remember rewatching the movie when I was single and convinced I’d be alone forever. I still have those days. The movie was screamingly more funny than I remembered because I WAS now old enough to be that singleton, which hadn’t worried me so much when I first watched it. And tragically more sad when it ended and I realised in frustration Bridge had, despite everything, landed a man, The Man. And I was still, like she was at the start, sitting on my sofa in my PJ’s, in a dead end job, single, with no clear indication how to move on.

 

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Dying Young

Plus one and I were chatting and he mentioned how old he was before he attended a funeral. It was pretty old. Like university or beyond. This seems the English way. Either they don’t know anyone important to them who has died (first world problem, people live forever!) or they aren’t ‘allowed’ to go to the funeral when they are young.

I can’t really relate to this because, culturally, I was taught memorials and funerals were the last chance to say goodbye. (And potentially my parents were just bad at finding babysitters).

One of my cousins died when I was pretty young. He was a good few years older than me but on that side of the family, the closest in age to me. He was, however, eternally adult in my eyes, two heads taller than me. I did not particularly like him. He spent his time either ignoring me or teasing and tormenting me and I remember him throwing my dog into the pool while I cried hysterically in order to prove that ‘all dogs can naturally swim’.

My mother always thought it was quite tough on him, as he was so different looking from the rest of the family, he knew he was adopted. My aunt did dote on him but her brother was always one to rub in that blood is blood and he was clearly not blood so I’m sure my cousin must sometimes have felt the slight of this. That, and growing up in a small town in South Africa in the dregs of the apartheid era where being ‘different’ probably wasn’t the best thing.

His life and his hobbies are captured in his room like something out of ‘Boys Own’ of the 70s. There are vintage cars on the curtains, a crochet blanket on the bed. A weavers nest with pride of place above it. A loud ticking clock and framed butterflies which he used to catch in the veld beyond and then mount, neatly labelled.

That was the innocent side of him. The side that teased me got caught kissing a girl in the house when he thought his parents would be out and perpetrated mischief in the neighbourhood.

Still only 17 he and his friend went driving on his friend’s farm, both underage but not a big deal in farming society. I imagine they were still inexperienced and reckless and wound the windows down and went really fast, yelling and shouting with teenage joy. The car hit some stones, rolled and the friend was killed instantly. The coroner said my cousin lived on for a bit after the crash but it is unlikely he suffered, that he was probably not conscious due to the head trauma. I’m not sure that wasn’t said to make the family feel better. Either way, both died at the scene.

It was a closed casket funeral. The body was not in any state to be viewed. The men of the family who did in order to identify it said it was not a pleasant experience. I know the funeral was not shared with the friend who died. Strangely I have no real memories, which one would expect, of my cousin’s classmates rallying at the funeral or of them standing up and speaking for the dead. I mostly just remember my family taking over the whole day, the little that I do recall.

I remember not feeling particularly sad. If anything, a little bored. And maybe a little thrilled at wearing nice clothing for the day. It’s only when I got older I wondered how it would have been if my cousin had been with us longer, would our relationship have evolved as the age gap ‘narrowed’ in the way it tends to once you reach adulthood. Or would he still have remained the elusive tease I dreaded seeing?

 

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Not Indispensable

Part of being human is the intense desire to prove worth. To be worth something. The ego desires acknowledgement of the impact your life has made on those around you. And hopefully in a positive way, not a mass murder Columbine way, most people want to be remembered when they are gone.

Sounds extreme?

Yes.

But even on a smaller scale than life or death, it’s what we want. We start families believing being a parent creates little dependants who need you for everything. It makes us feel special. We own pets knowing we are the centre of their furry/feathered worlds. (If fish float your  boat, I’m not exactly sure how this works out for you although admittedly your screensaver behind glass is more dynamic than mine.) Sad is the human who did not realise one day their children will grow up and need them less. That pets can turn on you and bite if ill treated.

The thing is, we take this same attitude into work. Into jobs without soul, without fulfilment. With colleagues who annoy us and bosses who don’t understand us. And, for the most part, we persevere. Age, circumstance, experience (or lack thereof) meaning very often we try outlast the job. We tell ourselves it’s about stability, promotion, that we are ‘invaluable’. Sometimes our companies feed us the same lies, ‘we couldn’t do without you’.

The fact is, no one is truly indispensable. Not in a work situation. No matter how important you think you are. Empires may fall and rise as despots and leaders are executed or rise. But when they vanish, humanity does carry on and nature finds the vacuum.

That is not to say you shouldn’t enjoy your work and be important and significant in it. That you won’t change lives and make a difference to many.

You just have to remember it’s still just a job. It’s only a part of who you are as a whole.

And more importantly, if you hate it, yes, perhaps it’s not easy to change your circumstance. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. And the surprisingly thing when you do is how many of those people who told you they couldn’t do without you will understand and let you go with greater ease than you thought.

Sometimes because they didn’t like you and are glad you are gone. But sometimes because they are your friends and glad you are going somewhere better.

 

 

 

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Them that knows better

I am not a fan of social media. Especially quick witty snapshots of peoples’ lives in the form of photos, one liners, instant multimedia barrage updates.

Today I spent an unnecessary amount of time trying to block a feed from someone I used to know. I’m debating just unfriending him but that seems rude. Or blocking him but I wonder if he will know? I really should just get rid of him as we were never close friends but part of a much bigger circle way back when.

I knew him as the class smart ass who appeared to do no work but came out tops every time. He overcame bad eyesight (for which he refused to wear glasses) and thinning hair to bring off a certain, if not ‘cool-ness’, grungy indie look. He wore black tshirts sometimes with logos of rock/metal bands, drank pints of beer and shots of spirits with us and looked and acted like discordant youth who had no worries beyond passing class and trying to get with the pretty girls. Not a moral bone in his body, not a tie to anything beyond a house where his mom desperately tried to get him home for supper.

How times have changed. Since then he discovered religion. Or maybe he always had it but he hid it really well from the rest of us. But he’s now a CoE elder. He has a girl and a boy and bought into suburbia just outside the big smoke and posts pictures of his mediocre life in his mediocre house of his family and pets. All is as it should be really. They are not mediocre to him after all.

The thing that really riles me though is when South Africa held elections he started to rant and rave on social media about latent racism and how we had to stand up for people’s rights. I do not remember him having any black friends and barely tolerating the rest of our motley crew who were non-white (certainly, he never showed a romantic interest in them). Eventually someone told him they would give him money to shut up on social media and someone else told him if he fled the country he had lost his right to have an option.

So he moved on and started ranting about how refugees should be better taken care of and we should welcome them into the UK. Although he lives an area that is pretty Caucasian and English.

Now he’s blaming the fact that some people voted Brexit as the reason for every evil to befall England. From the possibility of visas being introduced to go to the EU (big deal, like the old days for me) to political uproar to deportation issues.

He rants non stop on social media. I think he might be writing to his MP (I pity them whoever they are). But often, although, he is intelligent I think, how one sided is your outlook? Have you considered the other side? Do you really know what the future holds and it will be so bleak because someone didn’t pick your side?

I’m a glass half full person but when it comes to politics, I figure the people spoke, so just get on with it already. If you do feel so strongly then post that picture of you going to the demonstration at Westminster against Brexit and the one for refugees. Show me you donate to the Syrian causes.

You didn’t do that did you? Too busy with your cat and your kids?

Then shut up already because noone wants to know.

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Old before your time

Plus One  often complains I don’t seem that interested in drinking with him but I will go out all hours with other people. I say it’s also his fault because he refuses to be baited into having a glass of wine with me at home, although he will do so at a restaurant. This means I won’t open the bottle because I don’t want to drink alone. (I wish I could say this means he doesn’t drink at all at home but this is not true. He necks cream liqueurs by the wine glass and tells me this is because they have the same alcohol content as wine so therefore it’s okay. I can’t seem to convince him by default of the cream and the fact it is a liqueur you are meant to sip them slowly not chuck them down like a thirsty American footballer at half time.)

So yesterday we compromised on being social not quite at home but at home by asking the flat above us if they would join us at our ‘local’ for the pub quiz. They promptly annoyed me by being nearly late. And on arrival, choosing NOT to get anything to eat and drink for the whole first half of the quiz. Which I found slightly strange and antisocial. The friend attached to them did get herself a drink. And another drink at half time with the rest and a third one when the quiz ended.

I was in an Appletiser mood so probably just fulfilled Plus One’s prophecies of my not wanting to drink with him. He pretty much paced with the friend – but in a more laid back fashion as we’d been there longer, having arrived early enough to munch and sip before the quiz.

The guy from the flat above did not comment on Plus One, perhaps because he didn’t know us well enough. But he put in at least three not very subtle digs at the friend saying she’d had enough, didn’t she think she’d had enough, didn’t she have work tomorrow, did she really think that last drink was necessary? Sort of ironic when his other half had said to me they would be delighted to join us because he never has drinking partners nearby.

I think they are younger than us.

I reflected that I have gotten to the stage where I don’t count my drinks but I try stay within sober enough to get home okay and feel not too bad the next day. But I am pretty sure I have done at least three if not more ciders as that girl did, plus other stuff, fairly recently in my past on some random evenings. I’m not saying that is wise or acceptable and it is over the limit the NHS recommends.

If I had had that guy judging me the whole evening I think I would have been tempted to break a bottle over his head. Maybe it is possible he knows this girl better than me and she can’t contain her booze, although she looked okay to me. But I just thought, you are too young to be this old. You are still supposed to be out there acting silly occasionally too not spoiling other people’s evenings being a dad.

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Last Friday

Last Friday evening was one of those magical nights when all was right with the world. Which was great given it was on the back of a not great week.

But, after having finally gotten bank cards back, I was flush with cash (well, not really but I was able to at least BUY stuff without borrowing off other people) , the weather was balmy and I was meeting friends by the riverside.

As usual a shambolic system as we are incapable of managing time or location very well. But we eventually managed to find each other and after forcing our way past a load of young men who had managed to Bring You Own with two crates of Fosters and bags of Doritos, we found a place on a series of steps leading off a pub into the river.

The Thames rushed in eddies and whirls past us, reeking pretty much of refuse from the boat just downstream from us, with river boats flying downstream and literally chugging with effort upstream. We pretty much took a safe bet on drowning if any one of us was suicidal enough to try get into the water. Not to mention if you managed to not drown, inhaling any of the Thames would probably kill you more slowly.

‘There are three things essentially that float’, declared my friend wisely as we watched a box float by and wondered what was in it, ‘wood, and there isn’t a lot of it on this river, plastic and condoms, which are mostly just plastic.’

‘WHY on earth did you choose that as an appropriate subject to prove what floats.’

‘Oh, you know, my friend used to kayak along the river but tired of all the condoms that would slap him in the face when the paddle came up bring up debris.’

I’m not sure that was a true story.

What was true was at some point a police boat raced up the river at speed. It was yellow and blue like police cars and vans here. Inexplicably it also had a whirling light and a very loud siren, both of which were on.

‘What,’ I found myself asking, ‘Do they need THAT on for? It’s not exactly like the river is so crowded they are going to be weaving between a traffic jam of ferries, it’s a bit show offy and extreme, no.’

That’s me, cynical.

Other friend pointed this out to me on leaving, that I needed to stop grumbling as she knew I didn’t mean it but other people don’t always.

That’s what true friends are there for. To point out the good and the bad.

It was a good evening.

(Until I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with a raging thirst regretting the last half pint – oh wait, does that make me sound cynical and whiney again?)

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Just like high school

I hated high school.

Actually ‘hate’ is too strong a word. I did not like high school. I never felt ‘cool’ enough or ‘pretty’ enough along with the usual multitude of teenage insecurities. Graduating was actually a relief. Being able to admit being a little bit geeky meant that I was bright enough to advance the rest of my life. The ‘cool’ kids who studied further all now claim to have been awesome in their high schools. But that’s easy to do when noone who was at school with you followed you any further because the ‘cool’ ones are now in blue collar jobs or popping babies and the others went elsewhere to do other things. Noone knows you, the now awesome ‘cool’ kid is just the least geeky in a bunch of geeks and your hair did NOT look like that when you were younger. And that you were not the uber whatever you claimed to be.

So I thought when ‘real life’ began I’d be beyond the reach of high school politics and influences. How wrong I was.

Even at an age when I should be well beyond peer pressure, my headphones are picked, not just off customer reviews, but off the fact that a certain Scandinavian brand was THE brand used by most of my colleagues where I used to work, coming in in a range of colours and limited styles.

It still hurts when a large group go to lunch and they don’t ask me even if I already brought lunch and would have turned them down, I wanted to have that option.

I still have to report to home -how late I think I will stay out and with who, even though it’s to Plus One rather than the ‘rents.

I still detest the teachers pet brown noser types.

I’m still trying to work out how to wear high heels all day.

I still get white heads. And I still try squeeze them, even though I know better. Only sometimes they are near wrinkles which is inconvenient.

I suppose I should be glad I am not so old yet that these things all still matter. But how annoying they DO still matter. I’d hoping to be zen-like above them all by this stage.

 

 

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Empowerment

At the bottom of this circular I picked up was one line. The exact wording is lost to me but the gist was ‘Only you can choose to be happy’. It was ironic as it was attached to a religious pamphlet, something you would expect to say ‘God will decide your will, trust in Him’. But I think it is telling of the fact that there is also something called ‘free will’ and you can only lead someone so far and then it’s up to them and good on whoever put that on there acknowledging that.

I went on this management/leadership training thing for half a morning that seemed intent on reinforcing the same principles. That we have to choose how we want to lead our lives. That saying ‘no’ is an acceptable response, that you have to pick your priorities. If I had read this in one of those self help books with the big serif sentences on the cover picked out in white or black on a lilac or white background, screaming an evangelical pick me, I would have gone, ‘yeah right’.

But that is mostly because I am inherently lazy. I’m incredibly bad at correspondence courses. I struggle to relate to some remote sentence out of a book, I really do require the person in front of me pointing out the obvious.

But what is even more motivating is MEETING someone who seems to have gotten it right. Of course those people exist but there just aren’t enough of them in the world. I walked back from my fitness class with one of the girls who pointed out our team captain was completely crazy but good fun and clearly comfortable in his circumstances although neither of us wanted to abuse that. (He’d basically spent the previous Saturday driving people around and paid off a number of small items semi involving the group and refusing to accept payment).

I had to agree with the girl – that where he was, a decade down the line from where I am -is where I would want to be. My very first conversation with him involved him saying he was fortunate enough that he could start work after 10am, allowing him to drop his children off at school and even fluff around a bit if he wanted to. It’s not to say he doesn’t work very long hours after the late start but that he had the freedom to do so.

In the one and a half hour drive he mentioned how even if he won the lottery today, he’d probably just carry on doing what he did now as he loved his job.

He probably would too. And carry on organising little social outings while balancing family, friends and an inordinate number of holidays, most of which he seems to be able to action by himself without the help of a PA. (I get the feeling his long suffering wife helps with the family end but I doubt was involved when he was emailing and calling all sorts of random people to organise the car ride, the event at the end etc)

It’s a bit like watching a slighly over excited terrier gambolling along. You can only really be cheered on by watching him but you do think THIS is a physical embodiment of what the self help books and courses try to mean.

 

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Je Suis

So now there has been a bombing in Brussels. And Paris and many other world locations will light up in the colours of the Belgium flag tonight in solidarity for this violent action against the west.

The left wing liberals will remind us again of the deaths in Lebanon, Syria, Nigeria, East Timor etc that are not recorded or publicised.

Many in the world will weep, somewhere I presume someone will be gloating and happy.

Why I don’t know.

It’s like the argument I had with Plus One last night where he resorted to calling me some really ugly names to reinforce how annoyed he was. It did nothing useful for our relationship and I sat there wondering what deprived childhood made him think hurling really nasty insults at me changed the way I reacted to him in a positive way or was in the least bit constructive.

Likewise the terrorists and bombers. What brainwashing process makes you think inflicting pain on others will prove your strength and win your argument? Clearly the concept of catching more bees with honey is not in the handbook of a war monger.

Instead the equivalent of trying to throw sand in your eyes in the playground or poke your eyes out seems to be the way to win you over to their way of thinking.

That’s not freedom of religion or freedom of choice.

At least the Scientologists offer the possible opportunity to hob nob with a plastic faced Tom Cruise. Rhema the chance to drive a fancy car on the church if you are high enough on the food chain.

Of course religion should be about enlightenment, feeding the soul, a glorious afterlife. But of course, in this day and age of instant gratification, creature comforts within the hope of salvation also go a far way!

*No fundamentalists were harmed in the writing of this piece. Freedom of religion, and the freedom to safely practice those beliefs without harm inflicted upon those around you or yourself should be a basic human right in this, the 21st century, hundreds of years later than the first Crusades. Something I know a lot of people who are supposedly of the same belief system as these terrorists would agree with me on.

 

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Equal rights

The UK government has just published that companies over 200 in size will have to declare earnings brackets between genders in offices to help close the divide between men getting paid more than women generally.

Today I was sent an invite to an management course being run by the firm. Most of the attendees are management barring four of us. Three of us I suspect have been primed for development the fourth is a thorn in my side. His unobtrusive blandness and ass kissing combined with lack of actual ability has meant he does a lot more ‘management’ than actual work because he lacks the skills to do the hard graft. He is also on the list.

I know it sounds like sour grapes on my side but as my old boss pointed out, I am essentially bad at politics but very aware of them. I know the reason I am on that list is because I fought tooth and nail through every assessment that I wanted better skills to manage myself and others and this is a concession to shut me up.

I know that that other guy who started after me and is almost a decade younger will possibly trump me on the next step up the corporate ladder. I know that this will be because he comes from the same country as the founders of the firm, that he is vanilla and inoffensive (unlike me who will instigate change but also ruffle feathers) and that mostly importantly, he is male and can be moulded into a mini-me.

I never thought gender played a part in jobs initially. I was granted my first real job because I tenaciously stalked my boss for an answer to my job interview after he said he’d review it. He figured that this ability would stand me in good stead against any difficult clients we had and I would follow through. And in fact, although the industry is geared to men, I was taken seriously despite being a woman and very much junior and inexperienced.

A friend in the UK pointed out that as long as we show signs of viable childbearing, there was always a possibility our climb in the ranks would be slower or paused. It is true in this industry it is very hard to be a part timer and not completely married to the job. Unfortunately I am starting to see her point.

My salary has surprisingly not been overly handicapped by my gender or the fact that I never bothered to recertify my qualifications in the UK. I could earn more but there are many earning less so I feel fortunate. But I have begun to realise I will always have to fight harder to be given a chance to be at the top.

Part of this is because I am a volatile personality but I suspect part of this is also because I am a woman. I see middle aged Caucasian men who run the companies look sceptically at me. Not the clients or the team, but the directors. They can’t always visualise a board in which they would have to sit dealing with me being temperamental or hormonal or trying to take maternity leave. It’s not even conscious but they can’t figure out how to relate to me. I can SEE them struggling to think of small talk when they sit near me socially. Which is ironic because one of the things that annoys me about the social climber is he doesn’t really relate to the client and consultant team. Whereas given the opportunity, I will be out with them til the end in the pub, being one of them and I will be professional as hell the next day at 9am. But it is a fact impossible to prove this without the chance to interact with these people and this is something that has been deemed ‘unnecessary’ in my position. The position of someone who is good at their job but is almost too good at the mundane stuff but not seen as being good enough to be trialled for better because when you have people who can do leg work and people who can’t rather oddly, you give the management to the people who can’t because that is all they can do. But this curbs my chances of attending the right meetings in the right places to pick up skills and connections.

This is not perhaps fully a gender issue but I can’t help but wonder if I had been a man if my ambition and bolshy attitude would be better accepted as a fighter than because I am a woman.

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