Monday, 28 September 2009

Refreshing news

The FT Weekend Magazine has just published its list of top 50 women in world business. It makes for some refreshing and inspiring reading. These women are all powerful and successful chief executives across a range of businesses, who have worked hard to achieve their positions and play by rules that may not necessarily appeal to everyone, male or female.
One in particular, however, put things into perspective for me. After leaving her hi-flying job as president of PepsiCo North America to bring up her three children, she returned to the fore seven years later and swiftly – ie, after one year – became chairman and chief executive of Sara Lee. Now if that is not inspiring in itself, it is her take on women entering the workplace and her comments about those looking to return to employment after taking ‘time out’. A misnomer in itself, it would seem.
The value women add to business can be phenomenal, and the talents they bring with them (multi-tasking being just one) should not be overlooked. To quote this woman’s exact comments about her own period out of work, “From a professional side, I feel like I went to graduate school”.
Now that has to be better than any internship on offer these days.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Wish you were here - postcards from the edge of sanity: Part Trois

Dear Mr Headhunter

When you say "do some background research on the company before the interview", how much faith do you truly have in my abilities?

I am only asking because in all my years of work in the City and past job searches (which, let's be honest, started before you were even a figment of your parents' imagination), this is actually a logical preamble to meeting a prospective new employer.

Just a point, you know. I could also read up on the latest footie scores and team players' shenanigans to add value to the small talk that invariably ensues. That's free advice for future candidates, by the way.

Yours loftily,


Dear Widget

I know you are only four. I know you love riding your bike and are quite a sight without stabilisers hurtling down footpaths and along the towpath.

However, there is something called proficient cycling - not that I expect you to be au fait with this at your age - which means that when you see two people walking side by side coming towards you, the aim is not to speed up and hope expect they will part and let you through. Even though they did. With rather astonished expressions and some curt remarks to me in your wake.

Two words: slow down.

Your slightly harrassed,


Dear Switchboard of Major Hospital in London

Putting me through - seven times - to a number that just rings and rings and rings and rings before going dead when anyone fails to answer it is not very helpful.

Especially when I am trying to be a dutiful citizen by actually canceling an appointment and rescheduling it, rather than simply not turning up at all.

And then we wonder why there is such wastage of time, effort and money in the NHS. I think it is called the 'personal touch'? Just an observation.

Yours rung out,


Dear Mr Weatherman

Overcast? Occasional light rain? Winds from the North? Glimpses of sun?

Tell me - is there a window in your office? It is glorious here with not a cloud in the sky.

Yours bewildered,


Dear Mr Headhunter (no.2)

When you say "I will get back to you by the end of the week", I take that to mean Friday. Or do you work to a different agenda perhaps?

Maybe I am just being a bit tetchy about this job situation, however if I gave any of my clients the same line and then actually responded some four days late, I somehow expect that they would be a little - how shall I put this succinctly - pissed off?

Just a matter of courtesy, customer care and all that goes with it, nothing personal. No placement means no commission, remember?

Yours (more professionally)

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Here we go, here we go, here we go...

No, I have not suddenly turned in to a footie fanatic. Rugby has too much of a grip on our household for that to ever happen. That and my refrains of "Boooooooo-ring" when the whole of the UK comes to a standstill because a gaggle of pretty boys are running after a ball which they cannot touch with their hands. Goodness, about as exciting as watching paint dry. Yawn.

Anyway, I digress.

So the good news is that the phone has been ringing, emails with interesting job specs have been coming in (not many, granted, but it is early days yet), some interviews are starting to line up, and - most importantly - the next school mothers' night of revelry lined up. The outlook is bright!

Just one small(ish) problem. When I mentioned the last item to Other Half he reminded me - subtlety - that the date was also his birthday.


So now along with the title of Neglectful Mother, I can also add that of Forgetful Wife.

Dear me, anyone would think I was far too busy to remember such trivial matters. It would appear that the less time I spend in the office (ongoing farcical consultation period notwithstanding), the more items I have to fit in to any single day.

Now where did I put those memory pills...

P.S. any comments that attempt to usurp my personal views on football will be deleted
P.P.S. why? because I can hee hee hee hee... OMG here come the men in white coats again

Monday, 21 September 2009

The ghosts of boyfriends past

Do you find that when you catch up with friends you have not seen (nor heard from) for over 20 years that your very cynical and extremely sarcastic streak suddenly becomes rather overbearing? Yes? I thought so.
Do you find that it also goes into overdrive when discussing details about an evening spent with past boyfriends from your teenage years? Aha, exactly!
What about the remarks as to who has improved/not changed/shown drastic signs of deterioration? Yes, all a laugh and a joke... until you wonder what they might be saying about you.

So - back after a short break sans entourage (that's "child-free" to those not in the know). Firstly, a huge thank-you to my generous hosts, Mrs Houston-Texas (you know who you are) and Mrs New Mum (who doesn't, English not being her first language she is unlikely to read this blog, let alone manage to comprehend it - no matter, I still love her dearly). And to Other Half of course who generously agreed to play sole child-minder for a weekend.

Friday night consisted of a fabulous reconvening of friends of old, a gathering of some 40 odd people who were thick as thieves from the ages of 15 onwards.  Many laughs as past events were remembered, funny incidents relived, and questions raised as to who was missing and why. Far too much food, amazingly little alcohol consumed (we counted the bottles the next day), and plenty of disco music from the 80s. My feet were sore by the end of the night (night? it was 5am when we got to bed), and my hostess had almost lost her voice from all the chatting/shouting above the noise.

And our summary of events:
- majority of the women have improved with age
- most of the men look exactly the same, give or take the odd grey hair and weight gain
- ex-boyfriends are either unchanged (giving you further insight as to why they were unsuitable even then) or so far the worse for wear that you truly wonder what you ever saw in them in the first place
- non ex-boyfriends, ie the ones you always fancied but never stood a chance with, are still single and decidedly intent on living the bachelor life... thus justifying why you were probably lucky first time round that they never succumbed to your charms

What also struck me as amusing was how all the men thought I was bonkers to be working full-time despite (or maybe because) having 3 young children, whilst all the women thought it was great. Explaining - or trying to at least, bit complicated in another language - about the status quo regarding redundancy did not seem to make much difference.

Although they all seemed to think this would mean I would visit far more often now. Hmmm... money trees anyone?

And as for the rest of the weekend - more catching up with friends and family and then spending equal amounts of time flying back and getting home from the airport. Crappy-air may be 'cheap' (I use the term loosely) and convenient, but it doesn't half take the fun out of flying when you feel like a teenager on a crowded disco dance floor, sandwiched between strangers and with music and adverts blaring at you from all directions, albeit at some 30,000 feet above sea level.

Age must be catching up with me in more ways than one.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Short Break

LCM is off for a reunion... to meet up with teenage-year friends, some of whom she has not seen for over 20 years. Scary stuff. Wondering whether I should wear a name tag and hold a photo of what I used to look like, just in case.
Girlfriend who is hosting (and putting me up for the night, most thoughtful, no problem with having to find my way home then) says - kindly - that I look "no less, no more" than I did then. "Less bosom, more wrinkles" I replied.

Either way, a welcome mini-break which, after the events of the last couple of days (childcare challenge was just one of them, more posts to follow about others soon) I am looking forward to. Even a couple of old boyfriends will be part of the contingent of some 40-odd people. Now that will definitely be interesting to see how they turned out.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Childcare challenge anyone?

Cutting costs means reducing Widget's attendance at nursery from 5 days to 3 as of this week. Now don't get me wrong, I love my children, I am just not very tolerant patient good spending entire week days with them when I am trying to a) network, b) phone headhunters, or c) work at my computer.

But I am making an effort. So this morning Widget and I dropped off the other two at breakfast club and then commenced the day properly, together.
Now bearing in mind that at nursery he is entertained and kept busy with all his peers for the best part of ten hours a day, I am loathe to start traipsing off to some play group/children's centre/mother-and-child venue on his days 'off'. Heaven knows I have even less tolerance for those places on the best of days (couple of nurofen before a kiddie party? that'll be me then).

Anyway, off to the train station we go (great excitement), one stop to reach our destination, and Widget needs a wee. Into Starbucks via newsagent to buy the FT (still unread on the kitchen table) and a pack of Gogos (horrible plastic alien things made in Japan, incredibly alluring to all SPUs, fortunately only 99p a pack - I can stretch that far).
Drag child to toilet who is now screaming that he does not need a wee but a pain chocolat. Five minutes later it is one-all: LCM has managed to get him to wee, but Widget has wangled a very expensive pastry. Out of sympathy he even offered me a bite. If you also have a four year-old, you will know how out of character this is.

Shortly after we are whizzing through the village green en route to the river. Widget has his scooter and is having great fun scattering the pidgeons. Horrified glances from old lady throwing breadcrumbs. Feel like asking her to swap places, hers seems far more sedate. Having said that not sure she could run alongside a speeding child intent on ignoring my every command.

By this stage I have already lost count of the number of times I have said "stop", "don't", or even plain "no". And it is only ten in the morning! How much longer? How many days a week? Will he be dialing Childline by Friday to denounce me? Stress, stress, stress.

Home again via friend's house - to post photos through letterbox, not for play date - and leftover pizza for lunch.
"Can you go upstairs for some quiet time please?" I ask nicely. Up he goes.
Five minutes later he is back. "Done it!" he says triumphantly. I disagree. Manage to entertain him for almost an hour with drawing and lego. All this whilst friend drops by for an impromptu lunch and our conversation is frequently interrupted by "Can you fix this?" requests.

Manage to read more emails (just) and answer two phone calls (interrupted, "I want to talk!"). At least he refrains from throwing a tantrum when I take my mobile back off him.

Off to swimming pool for an hour. Deserted before the pick-up posse descends. Bliss, I even manage to sit in the jacuzzi uninterrupted for five minutes whilst watching Widget splash around.

And now? Well, he is comfortably ensconced in the armchair watching some rubbish pseudo-cartoon on the TV. Totally against my principles and Other Half will be most displeased. Never mind. He looks the picture of relaxation, down to the crossed legs and the hands behind his head. Gorgeous.

Me? Writing blog at kitchen table, answering more emails and queries from headhunters, watching clock before we have to go and collect other two from after-school club (three at home post school on a weekday is more than I even care to contemplate - some things will not change I am afraid, shoot me now), and pondering what I have left in the fridge for dinner...

Dare I say it? I am exhausted. Hats off to the stay-at-home mums (and dads). This takes far more effort than running a business.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Redundancy through a child's eyes

Children, bless 'em. Where would we be without them? Mortgage free most likely, but that is entirely beside the point.

So here is my daughter's take on 'Mummy's job situation':

Blossom - Can I have a new pair of gym shorts?
LCM - No.
Blossom - Is that because you do not have a job?
LCM - Yes.
Blossom - Can I get a new bike then?
LCM - Where did that come from? Absolutely not. Money does not grow on trees and there is nothing wrong with your current one.
Blossom - What if I have ten gold stars? (Note: we run a star chart in our family, have done so for last 4 years, still seems to work a treat)
LCM - Great, good for you, but I would still have to pay for it.
Blossom - So if I get ten gold stars I can have a new bike?
LCM - Did you just hear what I said?
Blossom - That you do not have a job?
LCM - Yes.
Blossom - But you will get another one?
LCM - Yes, hopefully.
Blossom - So then I can get a new bike?
LCM - I did not say that.
Blossom - And some new gym shorts?
LCM - Now that would be cheaper.
Blossom - And can we get a puppy? Pleeeeeeeeeeeease?
LCM - No.
Blossom - (Friend's name) has a puppy.
LCM - Good for her.
Blossom - When you get a job can we get a puppy then?
LCM - No.
Blossom - When I am older? Like twelve?
LCM - Yes, when you and your brothers can feed, walk and care for a dog without adult supervision.
Blossom - Will you have a job then?
LCM - (mild swearing under breath) I would hope so.

Sunday, 6 September 2009


I have a confession to make. I am the world's worst cake maker. I am genetically programmed to ensure that the most basic fail-safe recipe turns into a melee of inedible proportions. This harks back to my first year at University when I attempted to follow the simplest recipe ever (3 main ingredients, same quantities of each) and still managed to turn out a brick that even the scavenging neighbour's dog refused to eat. I think I had the idea of chiseling it into a bone shape to entice the animal (the cake was that solid), but the mutt was having none of it.

This is doubly embarrassing as not only my mother, but also my grandmother, have been fabulous chefs in their time. My mother still is and as a former teacher at her own cookery school in the 70s, 80s and 90s easily puts some of my culinary efforts to shame (in truth she limits herself during visits to interfering when Other Half is on cooking duty, which sees me variously acting as referee, supportive spouse, or dutiful daughter, with my father in the role of back-up judge. It's a thin line, believe me).
Not that I have ever poisoned anyone, but hey, dinner guests may just have been polite in the past.
My mother's cakes and desserts are often the true 'proof in the pudding', a culmination of all the other preceding courses which would leave you salivating at the mere description.

Now, were any of my children to ask for a 'melanzana parmiggiana' or a plate of 'spaghetti alla puttanesca', or even 'carciofi alla romana', as a birthday substitute in place of a cake - voila'! - I would not even need to look so much as sniff at a cooking book for ingredients and instructions.

It is therefore with great pride that I can announce - and display - the following birthday cake concocted especially for Widget's fourth birthday today:

What would typically take my girlfriend Lady P (another amazing cake-maker, she is not a godmother to my eldest for nothing) probably no more than 20 mins to whip up, took me the best part of 3 hours. Over two days. With help from the children.

And yes, this is a mere Victoria sponge with some icing on the top to allow me to sprinkle the 100s and 1000s and ensure they stuck in place.

The good news? The candles, when inserted, stayed put. Even when blown out by a camaraderie of siblings. Twice.

The bad news? Actually none. It was even vaguely edible. However the mini chocolate muffins that Other Half bought (under the pretext of "getting some beer for the fathers") seemed far more desirable to all the children.

Sometimes you just cannot win. Guess I get points for trying though.

Happy birthday Widget xx

P.S. personally I blame the career aspect and choosing to follow this path more avidly than that of domesticity... having said that, M&S probably would have served my needs better, left me roughly quids up on the money front, and the young guests none the wiser. Isn't that what it's for?

Yadda yadda yadda...