Monday, March 21, 2005

Power in the workplace

Last Tuesday I had a meeting with our CEO and an IT guy to discuss some work we're doing. The CEO had popped out to another office so the IT guy and I were just chatting to the CEO's PA in the anteroom outside his office. The CEO turned up, put his arm around my shoulders, said something like: "Hello, my little Mancunian friend" and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. I was totally shocked and embarrassed. It irritates the pants off me, as I just see this as a huge powerplay on his behalf (and not the first time that inappropriateness has been part of his repertoire): he can do this to me but I can't do it to me. When we had finished, I shook his hand and he made some comment about me being 'very formal'. I thought: yes, and what does that tell you?

I mentioned it to a colleague to see what she thought and to make sure that someone else at work knows about it, just in case I run into any kind of problem later on with this kind of thing. She thought I should mention it in confidence to the Global HRD (my ex-boss) so he is aware that this kind of thing is going on. It's ridiculous that we run diversity training courses for managers, explaining what is and isn't appropriate in the workplace and our CEO thinks that kissing junior managers for no reason is OK. S disagrees that saying anything would be a good idea, saying that he thinks there is every chance the CEO will take it out on me and it could damage my career. In the end, I've decided to leave it but I hate the fact that I have to put up with this kind of humiliation just because I'm female.

Birthday Girls weekend!

Just had a great weekend, starting with a trip to Legoland Windsor with my sister and her 2 daughters on Friday. The weather was unseasonably warm and the kids just had a great time; it was so sweet to see A and Sasha (my sister's eldest) hugging and kissing when they saw each other. It's hard to imagine that T and Cassia (her youngest) will ever be so close but that is mainly because they are not yet at an age where they have close friendships.

Saturday was my 34th birthday and I was treated to breakfast in bed and pressies, including a karaoke DVD player and the Peter Kay Live DVD set. As a surprise, S had organised for me to have an aromatherapy massage at Sopwell House which was just dreamy. Luckily, I had opted for him to tell me what the plans were so I could shave - if not, I would have been mortified at asking someone to rub their hands on my hedgehog legs! The weather was so glorious that S brought the girls up to join me afterwards and we all had lunch in the gardens there. There was an Indian wedding going on and A was fascinated by the beautiful, sparkly dresses and headdresses of the women. A big, fat frog hopped across the lawn from the pond and T thought it was hilarious.

The girls had Zachary's party to go to in the afternoon, which was in a sports' centre with a bouncy castle and some other equipment. It's interesting to see how A is gaining in confidence as she rushed straight in and started jumping about by herself. Although S and I were around, she just got on with her own thing, hotly pursued by T. Only a few months ago she would have been a bit more likely to hang around us and try to pursuade us to come on the castle with her. They were thrilled to be at the party and even more thrilled with the rather swish party bags they got to take home!

Once we'd got the girls in bed and the babysitter was round, S whisked me off into London to meet my sister and brother-in-law for dinner - Malmaison at the Barbican. It was lovely with great cocktails. They had got me very funky Cath Kidstone-style serving dishes for outdoors as a present. Besides the A1 being shut, without any decent warning, which made us about 40 minutes late, the evening was perfect.

Sunday was T's 2nd birthday. We hadn't gone overboard on presents as we knew she'd get loads from other people and she is only 2! She was thrilled with the pressies she got and even more excited when Sasha and Cassia turned up with my sister and brother-in-law (and a Teletubby cake she had cleverly made). Somehow our 'small lunch with a few friends and family' at Zincos had turned into 45 people. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, although I find it quite stressful making sure that everyone is sat next to people that they are likely to get on with and are having a good time. T couldn't stop kissing William (Rachel R's youngest) and seems to be besotted with him. A was outrageously excited at having all her cousins and a lot of her friends round.

T has got a tonne of pressies so we've stashed quite a few and she can have them in stages during the week. S's parents and nieces came back to the house with Rachel's family and a couple of friends. By the time everyone had gone it was about 6pm and we were all knackered.

Anyway, all in all a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Well...I got on the plane!

I am trying to work out how I feel about flying now. Unusually for me, I managed to stay calm about flying until the day before. Besides waking up at 5am, I coped with the anxiety pretty well until 5 mins before flying. Switched to coping mechanism of alternating trips to the loo with cigarettes.

Got on plane and thought I would just relax then, particularly as it was only a 90 min flight. However, I just couldn't seem to relax properly and concentrate on reading or chatting. Finally sorted through all my receipts in my purse and did my make-up.

Unlike the last few times I have flown, I felt kind of OK after the flight and was able to just focus on having a good holiday. However, I did feel very disappointed that I wasn't able to just relax on the plane and still found it a bit of an ordeal. Kept thinking that I just would have to avoid flying and that was that.

A couple of days later though, I felt like maybe I would carry on flying. We had already planned to get a train home but S fell ill on the last day and I finally managed to get him on a flight instead. Maybe it was the knowledge that I didn't have to fly home that made me feel better. The flight was expensive so I went via train - a very long and boring journey indeed. Had easyJet had some cheap flights available, I would have just got on the plane with him. For the first time in ages, I didn't even feel anxiety from being in the airport - I usually do even though I KNOW I am not going to fly bizarrely.

So I really don't know how I feel now. We could do with booking our summer hol as we need to go in June. Do we go to Menorca as I would like to? What if I can't relax again and have a horrid holiday dreading the flight home again? Will I be better or worse with the kids? I think I will have to call Alastair Horscroft again and get some advice.

Anyway, the girls had a wonderful time with my parents whilst we were away and the skiing was fabulous.

A typical day in my life...

I meant to post this before my holiday but never got time...when you read this, then you will understand why!

7.15am Kids wake up and S goes to make warm milk for them and tea for us
7.40am Am finally driven out from under the duvet by bouncing children and S who seems incapable of finding anything anywhere
7.50am Stagger downstairs in my dressing gown for a quick cig and second cup of tea whilst S has a bath
7.51am Meet our builders coming in to work on the conservatory. Fear of condemnation as slacker mum leads me to skip the cig and escape back upstairs to put on something less revealing
8.00am Get dressed and spend next 1/2 hour chasing the girls round trying to get them dressed too
8.50am S takes the girls to a friend's house for an hour or so as I have to call Singapore for a work discussion
8.51am Plumber arrives and starts in-depth discussion about various pipe choices, of which I understand about 18% but nod wisely whilst keeping an eye on the clock
8.59am Make random decision on pipes and call Singapore
9.30am Finish work call and rush around house tidying up, loading dishwasher, washing machine and folding up washing that is threatening to take over the house
10.00am Drive to friend's house to pick up kids. They don't want to leave.
10.45am Finally get kids into car
10.46am Trap own finger in car door and stumble back to friend's house, cupping other hand underneath finger which is now pouring blood, accompanied by A shouting from her carseat "Have you got blood, mummy? Let me see!"
11.00am Finally drive home with finger bandaged up
11.15am Tidying up goes into overdrive as I get a text from a Norwegian friend asking me what time I am collecting her from the station - I had totally forgotten.
11.45am Get kids back in car and collect Nina from the station. Go to restaurant for lunch and T is the quite possibly the worst behaved child in the world. Finally take her into the disabled toilet for a good talking to - has no effect whatsoever.
12.45pm Friend drops off her son at the restaurant as she now has an appointment to go to.
1.45pm Realise that I don't have enough seats in the car for everyone so A has to sit on Nina's knee for the short journey home. She is thrilled but I am just dreading seeing a policecar and having to explain my terrible lack of car safety.
2.00pm Friend turns up for a cup of tea and to collect her son
2.01pm Nina is horrifed at the noiselevels in our house, despite working as a nursery nurse herself
3.00pm Kelly turns up with her 2 kids to see Nina and me. Nina now has total shellshock at the total chaos of 5 children running riot in our house. I can't face even looking at the state of the playroom
3.10pm Friend goes home with her son and I get T into bed for a nap. Noise levels now much more manageable. In fact, very quiet playing going on upstairs.
3.15pm Kelly's daughter comes downstairs to ask for a drink and Kelly realises that she is missing some hair. When pressed for an explanation, it turns out that A has been cutting her hair too. A is called downstairs and we see that she now has a fringe that looks great on an angular supermodel and retarded on a 3 y old!
4.45pm Kelly drops Nina back to the station - the relief is written all over her face
5.00pm Serve chav mum tea to children of chicken nuggets (luxury ones made from free-range chicken and no additives), oven chips and beans followed by ice-cream
5.30pm Finally find a video that all 4 children want to watch (Jungle Book) and Kelly and I escape to the kitchen for some peace.
6.25pm Threaten kids with terrible retribution unless some vague attempt at tidying up the mess is made by them
6.30pm S arrives home
6.50pm Kelly finally gets kids out of the house
7.30pm Kids in bed, bathed, teeth cleaned, stories read and asleep
7.31pm Sit on sofa with big glass of wine and wonder how long we can put off looking in the playroom

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Free Mojtaba and Arash Day

I've dedicated this page to the Free Mojtaba and Arash Day today. Speak to you soon...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Learning to hide your feelings aged three and a half

I just remembered an incident that happened a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to post here and I'm not even sure why I found it so affecting.

My elder daughter, A, aged three and a half, had followed me upstairs where I was talking to our friend who was putting up a curtain rail in our bedroom. Whilst we were discussing this, I hadn't noticed that she had picked up a screwdriver and was just starting to poke it into a socket on the extension lead. Our friend, Doug, caught sight of her and leapt across the room, snatched it out of her hand and shouted "You don't do that! You don't ever put anything into sockets like that!". He was totally panicked and shocked and not at all somebody who usually shouts. Doug is very gentle and friendly, particularly with kids, and A had been chatting to him as he was doing various jobs throughout the afternoon. By the time I had realised what she had been doing, it was all over.

However, the interesting part was her reaction: she just carried on smiling but it was very fixed. She didn't react when he grabbed it off her but just did a kind of floaty dance, singing. Doug was in shock - he doesn't have kids himself so isn't used to them almost killing themselves at least once a week and, in fairness, if she'd touched the metal part of the screwdriver and put it in one of the lower holes, she could have been seriously injured or worse. I told Doug that it was my fault for not keeping a closer eye on her and took her downstairs. As I wasn't sure that she understood properly why we had reacted as we did, I knelt down and gently asked her if she knew why it was very dangerous to play with sockets.

At this point, she started trying to ask me about the curtains upstairs but her voice started cracking and the tears began to fall. She then got cross and upset, still trying to talk about the curtain fabric until I was able to reassure her and explain to her what had happened. I wasn't cross with her because I don't expect a child of this age to know such things and she certainly hadn't intentionally been doing anything naughty. Eventually, I calmed her down and got her playing downstairs. Shortly afterwards, Doug appeared and he still looked shaken - I was very calm and told him that she is my responsibility and it was not his fault, besides which she is actually fine and knows not to do it again.

What interested me was that this was the first time that I had seen her try and cover up her emotions to any real extent. I think it was a combination of shock, embarrassment and upset that hit her yet she tried to pretend that it was all part of her game. Whilst I want her to be open and comfortable with her feelings, it is a normal part of child development to learn to be able to hide some of what they feel. For some strange reason, it made me feel incredibly tender and protective of her.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Back at my last!

Drove to work this morning through the misty Hertfordshire and Bucks countryside; the cows looked almost ghostly as they munched the frosty grass. Very atmospheric and romantic, except for the bit where I have to sit in the driveway for 5 minutes waiting for the windscreen to clear.

Hopefully, the girls are back to their usual healthy state and I can actually get a week's work done. The conservatory now has a frame around and on top of it and the glass is due to go in this week; it looks so big now that we can actually see its outline. All the bathroom fittings have arrived except the shower so I'm just hoping that Charles and his team finally turn up this week to get on with it. The only good thing about having various workmen coming and going every day is that it curbs my most sluttish tendencies and forces me to load the dishwasher, pick up the washing and actually throw wet nappies in the bin. For some strange reason, it does not have this effect on S...

Went to a Valentine's Ball at Parmiter's School on Saturday night which was good fun. A. thought it was wonderful to see me all dressed up with my hair in an 'up do' and even more wonderful that the babysitter was going to put her to bed. We won a raffle prize too - 2 weeks' free membership at a local gym and 2 sessions with a personal trainer. Maybe this is what is needed to push me further towards yummy-mummy-dom?

Sunday we went to Whipsnade Wildlife Park. The keepers were taking the elephants for a walk along the perimeter; there were even 2 baby elephants. We were only standing about 15 foot away whilst they pulled down the highest branches of the trees and nosed around on the ground with their trunks. S and I thought this was brilliant but our 'Generation X' 3 year old, A, asked to go and see something else after about 3 minutes. I felt a bout of 'these kids don't know they are born these days, when I was a kid seeing a squirrel was exciting, they are just so spoilt nowadays' moaning coming on, so we moved off in search of giraffes instead.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The hunt for Supernanny goes on...

..our new potential nanny came to see us today but I had somehow forgotten to check that she wasn't intending to bring her own child with her..and she was. This is not really what we want as I feel that if I'm paying a fortune to have someone else look after my children while we're at work, then I want to know that their interests will always come first. It would have to be a very weird mother indeed that did not put her own child first.

It's a pity because she was perfect in every other way and has great references. I think we'll have to just swallow the outrageous fees and go through an agency; it's not exactly easy to find a nanny for 3 1/2 days / week that will live out.

Meanwhile, we have a viewer for our old house today and S is going to show them round as the estate agent is not exactly filling us with confidence that he will really sell the house. It would be just dreamy if we could get a buyer; there is so much else we want to do here that we can't without the cash. Luckily, this buyer is coming at a fairly quiet time of day so hopefully the road won't be too noisy. It's a professor so, with a bit of luck, they could be a historian who fancies a house with a bit of historical colour and a story behind it. We're also going to try a private ad in the Evening Standard and see if that drums up a bit of interest. Failing that, we will just have to try and let it for 6 months and try to sell again in the autumn.

Monday, January 31, 2005

The Lesser Spotted Poorly Pigeon..

..poor little T (1 1/2 y) has chicken pox and is really miserable. Unfortunately, S and I are pretty miserable too as both girls had fluey bugs last week which meant we both missed some time off work to look after them. Chicken pox means at least 1 week off nursery and the 'caring yummy mummy, Florence Nightingale, my kids come first' side of me sees this as an essential part of parenting, the 'would quite like not to get the reputation for never being in the office and getting sacked plus I need my space' side sees this as a total nightmare. The quarantine thing is a nuisance as pound to a penny she will be feeling absolutely fine within another day or two but we'll have to keep her at home nonetheless. A (3 1/2 y) was desperately trying to convince that she was also ill and needed to stay off nursery: she got short shrift on this and was packed off promptly. Having already hammed it up on Thu and missed a day yet appeared in rude health all day, we weren't falling for her Camille act once more. The real problem is that I only work 3 days / week so, having missed Tue and Thu last week, I haven't effectively been in the office for a week.

My mother-in-law has irritated the pants off me and S by claiming to have a 'really busy week' and unable to look after T even for just one day: her 'really busy week' consisted of her cleaner and window-cleaner coming!! We only ask them (my in-laws, not the cleaners) a few times a year to help us out but more often than not she has some fabulous excuse. However, the minute she needs something, we are expected to drop everything and rush over there. To pile ossa upon pella, she then often moans and tells us: 'I haven't seen the girls for 3 weeks'! Arrgghh!!

Anyway, the good news is that S's birthday cum house-warming cum Burns' Night party went off really well. He took the kids off for the day whilst I cheffed up a Middle Eastern Feast for 40 people, courtesy of Nigella's new book. I hit a 'God, I hate parties, I hate cooking, I hate all our friends, I hate S for having a birthday, I hate Burns for having a Night' moment about 2pm but then felt much better after making a list of everything I had to finish off: once a project manager, always a project manager! The spread included Green Fatoush, Stuffed Potato Patties, Yoghurt, Aubergine and Mint Dip, Red Kidney Bean Dip, Pomegranate and Cucumber Salade and Spiced Meatballs on Couscous with Sticky Semolina Cake plus Chocolate Brazil Slice with Java Spices for puds. Everyone was very complimentary about the food, although a suspicious amount of the dips were left over at the end yet the 3/4 of the Victoria sponge A and I had made the day before as S's birthday cake disappeared! Maybe Radlett just isn't ready for this level of sophistication yet!!?

The house keeps filling up with various workmen and I feel obliged to keep making cups of tea with about 18 sugars in each one. Being as we are having the conservatory, ensuite bathroom and downstairs cloakroom redone over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to just leave all the stuff out on a tray and ask them to help themselves as 0ne sick child is enough extra nurturing for me already. I had the rather bizarre experience of seeing S's face plastered all over the side of the conservatory fitter's van: he did their ad campaign and starred in it himself. Being as he is playing a dodgy windows' salesman, it isn't exactly flattering but it made me laugh this morning, despite my general grumpiness at the ongoing sick-child saga.

Having caught sight of myself in the mirrored wardrobe doors today, I'm desperately trying to get hold of my dance teacher to find out when the classes start up again - I've only got a month to get into my formal dress for the ball!