Unpaid Leave

English: Logo for the United States TV series ...

English: Logo for the United States TV series “The Office”. Français : Logo de la série télé “The Office” diffusée aux États-Unis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the first time in 9 years I am taking unpaid leave from my job.  I am going to Colombia to visit family and leaving my colleague, the husband (strictly speaking my underling as I am Chief Executive and he is my deputy with special responsibility for “financial services and support”) in charge.

Now without wishing to cast aspersions on my colleague’s abilities, I do have my reservations about leaving him to run the “office”.  I am not convinced that he really understands the full extent of his new responsibilities and what the day to day running of this extremely busy “office” entails.  Not only will he have to deal with the administrative nightmare of scheduling but he will also have to deal with three of my most difficult clients for a whole week.  These clients can be particularly demanding and do expect to have someone on call 24/7.  It is not unknown for them to call me at 3 am and expect me to perform a full laundering service or the like.

Of course, being such important clients, it is vital that my colleague and I manage a seamless handover of responsibilities and that these clients are virtually unaware of the temporary change in their client relationship manager. I have warned my colleague not to expect much praise or affirmation from these clients – indeed rather to expect numerous complaints and a regular and often harsh critique of services provided.

Unfortunately for my colleague, the “office” driver, chef and laundry assistant are also away the same week as me so he will have to perform their duties too.  I realise that he will feel this goes way beyond his job specification and I can only apologise for asking him to do the impossible and carry out my job responsibilities and that of three other “office” workers.

I am of course aware that I am asking a huge amount of him.  To this end, I have produced a manual which outlines all the responsibilities and the schedules of our three most important clients.  I have stressed the importance to him of ensuring that the schedules run like clock-work and that our clients will not tolerate lateness or a lack of preparedness.

I am very grateful to the large number of female colleagues in different “offices” who have offered their support in my absence and have provided a telephone tree of emergency numbers in case he should find it all too much. I am much comforted by the thought that there is a strong network of very capable women ready to leap into action if required.

I am very keen to let my colleague find his way on his own, prove himself to me. To this end, I would encourage my female friends in other “offices” to hold back unless strictly necessary.  Examples of situations which do not require intervention: one or more clients dressed in totally inappropriate, clashing-coloured clothing (to be expected), one or more clients arriving at least 20 minutes late for any appointment and one or more clients appearing in unexpected places at unexpected times.  An example of a situation which does require intervention would be if you see my colleague with two clients but not the third – in this situation it would be perfectly acceptable just to ask him where the other client is (just check – in case he has dropped one of the juggling balls).

So I am going to go off on Thursday and try very hard not to think about work for a week (of course I shall be available for nightly skypes with my three most important clients) and leave my job in the very capable hands of my colleague.  Hasta Pronto!

Advertisements

If I could turn back time…

je ne regrette rien

je ne regrette rien (Photo credit: Diana Torres tatuajes)

Imagine your life so far as a film played in front of your eyes.  Imagine you have editorial power and you could cut out or change various scenes.  What would you change?  What would I change?

– Perhaps I would have done a different degree at university.  Latin and Ancient Greek are all very well but let’s face it, they are not particularly relevant in professional terms in 2013.  People always ask me whether I speak Latin/Ancient Greek – no, I reply, they are dead languages.  Really useful. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my degree subject but I hold it partly responsible for my total lack of ability to decide on any one career. Classics is not what you would call vocational (unless you want to be a classics teacher of course) and apart from all that very worthy “it is invaluable in learning any of our modern European languages” blah (which is, by the way true), the only time I have used Latin since 1996 is when people ask me to translate inscriptions on monuments – something which I fail to do almost 100% of the time, thereby looking like not only someone who did a fairly irrelevant degree but was also not particularly good at it.

– I would have had long hair when I was a child.  Looking back at photos of me between approximately the ages of 3 and 15, I had a deeply unflattering short layered cut. My sister, who is only 20 months younger me, had very pretty long hair in plaits, bunches and the like.  Why didn’t I, you may well ask?  Well, some misguided hairdresser informed my mother that the only way to thicken up my very fine hair was to have this hideous bowl-like short hair style.  My mother, rightfully bowing to this woman’s supposed superior tonsorial knowledge, kept me shorn for the next 10 years.  Result – I’ve still got very fine hair and I’m emotionally scarred from my hideous childhood hair.

– I would have been slightly more circumspect about my teenage crushes.  Boris Becker (why o why?), Bruce Springsteen (cried when he got married for the first time???) and James Dean (he was dead for God’s sake).  OK so things have improved since then but I can’t help but feel it says something rather concerning about me that my room was a shrine to a dead man, that I fell for a middle-aged rocker and  Boris Becker…well, what can I say about that…

–  I would miss out my slightly goth stage (admittedly it was a blink and you miss it one) – purple paisley shirts, dark hair, dark mini skirt, dark tights (ripped), dark boots, dark eyeliner, dark lipstick, white face and a penchant for Jesus and the Mary Chain. It was definitely not one of my finer moments.  Although, now I come to think of it, I am not sure that my “brown suede jacket from Kensington Market” (which was second hand and stank) stage was that much better.

– I would definitely not have worked in a Harvester restaurant when I was 15 (despite making one of my best friends there). Not only did we have to face the daily humiliation of wearing a see-through brown and yellow checked outfit, but we had to ask the same mind-numbingly repetitive questions to each and every customer – “Have you been to a Harvester before?” and “Can I show you to the salad cart?”.  The tedium was only temporarily relieved when a customer found a large piece of concrete in his lancashire hotpot.

– I would have passed my driving test first time.  I know everyone says that the best drivers don’t pass first time but that is just one of those rubbish statements made up to make you feel better (along the lines of acute morning sickness is a sign of a strong pregnancy). Anyway, it is not relevant to me as I didn’t even pass second time. Admittedly going through a red light in my first test was fairly fatal to my chances and doing my 3 point turn in about 17 turns didn’t boost my chances in my second test. I eventually passed third time and this was probably only because I don’t think I saw another moving car during that test. I imagine that my chances of passing nowadays with the theory test would be slim at best. Although perhaps marginally higher than those of someone I know who when presented with a road sign of falling rocks, declared that it meant “No falling rocks allowed here”?!

– I would have taken a different career path – journalism.  Now, I would be a successful writer with best sellers to my name and the odd Airport exclusive…and as I count backward from 10, you will open your eyes at 3 and be totally awake by 1…instead of a 40 year old blogger who has tried her hand at more careers than most and who blogs about largely irrelevant issues and just doesn’t seem to be able to start that novel…

Actually, as Edith Piaf sang “non, je ne regrette rien” – all of the above have made me who I am today.  I guess it’s good to still have dreams at 40 and actually, you know what, just perhaps this is my time to start fulfilling some of those dreams.  Watch this space.

The Jeans Diet

English: Mannequins wearing jeans in Sânnicola...

Finally we are having some good weather here in the UK…don’t get excited, the rain is returning tomorrow.  It seems to me that David Cameron et al are missing a trick here.  When you have just been trounced in the local elections, why not just go for a really cheap but effective publicity stunt – make today a spontaneous bank holiday.  After all we have fewer bank holidays than most other countries and let’s face it, the sun only makes the odd rare appearance in the UK of late. I am not suggesting that we are fickle voters, but an extra bank holiday in the sun might just get a few more people off their politically apathetic behinds.

Anyway, it’s not like me to get political, so let’s return to much more important matters  – not matters of state but matters of weight.

When I was in my twenties, I could eat anything…and I mean anything, as often as I like and in whatever quantities I liked and I never put on an ounce. All to do with metabolism apparently.  I would happily eat an entire box of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers (a personal favourite) in one sitting.  Now, even if I look at a chocolate finger, I can feeling it pointing accusingly at me and saying, “go on, eat me, I dare you,  you know you can’t just eat one and even if you manage to stop at 3 or 4, you will immediately gain a pound”.

It doesn’t seem fair that as well as having to deal with the injustices of ageing, we also have to deal with a slowing metabolism. For women, this weight likes to sit around the waist sort of like those rubber rings you had for swimming as a child.  Apparently, we’ve got to build up our cores (which incidentally, biologically did not exist before the year 2000). Well, I’m sorry but my core is less steel and more jelly and I don’t believe that will ever change.  My theory is that anyone born before 2000 is at a distinct disadvantage in all this core business as we were born without the genetic modification required to have a core.  Having a core will be seen in generations to come as a part of the evolution process and I was very much born pre-core.

My problem is that since I don’t even have the discipline to stop myself having two large slices of swiss roll (at 9pm last night), how am I ever going to have the discipline to follow a diet. In any case, most diets are so flipping complicated, you need a degree in nutrition to follow them.  Also these diets always tell you to have one day off to eat whatever you like.  The problem is that whenever I read about celebrities on diets, what they eat on the day off (the naughty day) is usually what I would be eating on the diet days – they allowed themselves a piece of bread…shock horror.

So I have decided a new approach is necessary.  As my husband said yesterday, I am 40 and I have had three children, so just accept that I am not going to look like I am 21 ever again.  OK so that’s not rocket science (my eldest son’s favourite expression at the moment) but it is completely true.

We women stress so much about weight, do men?  I don’t see many men calorie counting obsessively, or eating quinoa (or whatever that stuff is) or substituting beef mince for quorn (frankly, a crime against bolognaise in my book).  I am not suggesting that I am going to go back to eating a whole box of Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers in one sitting (tempting as it is) but nor am I going to starve myself for the next 20 years in an attempt to get down to some magical weight that is totally unrealistic.  Anyway, until someone invents a low calorie white wine which doesn’t taste like rats’ p***, then I haven’t got a chance in hell – life is too short to give up all the pleasures.

One practical thing I have done to put my new attitude to the test is that I went through all my jeans (I have (or rather had) more pairs than the average Levis shop) and threw out all the impossibly small pairs that I really am never ever going to get into again.  I did the knee test – i.e. if I had trouble getting the first leg above the knee without cutting off the circulation, out the pair went. Very therapeutic. The jeans diet – cut out all the pairs you will never wear again. Slim down your wardrobe rather than yourself. Don’t cut out all the foods you love, just cut out all the jeans that will never ever fit you again.  Much simpler and I can highly recommend it.