Office Talk

A couple of weeks ago, a friend called and asked if I would help out in his office for a day or so as they were going through a bit of a “mad spell”.  I did, but it really wasn’t busy at all.  I spent a day and a half helping out with phone calls and some filing but there was no stress involved.  In fact, it was a very relaxed office.  He’s an easygoing boss and his team of four have a good time as they all get on well and know that they are on to a good thing.

It was all a bit quiet for me but it reminded me that what I miss so much about my old job, is the interaction with everyone.  There was always someone to have a laugh with and even in this little office, I found myself giggling away but mostly from watching and listening to the others.

For instance, the subject of jeans came up and how long it was OK to leave them between washes. One person said she washed everything after wearing it once, without exception, but the others said they let denim go a few wears before bunging it in the washing machine. However, the young office assistant said that she had bought a pair in March that she lives in when she’s not at work and they hadn’t had a first wash yet !!! She couldn’t understand why everyone was ughing and yeuching !!!

Then they moved on to how the supermarket checkout is fast becoming a place of huge stress as the whole packing thing is really difficult to do quickly and there was much discussion about whether they should make the cashier wait while they finish filling the bags even after the total to pay has been announced and the reward card has been asked for, or whether out of courtesy, they should deal with that first and then continue packing afterwards.. but then, of course, the next person’s stuff starts to join yours.  The conclusion seemed to be there was no right answer as whatever you do, someone will end up rolling their eyes and adding to the whole stress factor.  

It was then noted that one person (actually the girl who never washes her jeans) was wearing the same clothes as the day before and there was much cackling as the group cast guesses on why that should be the case.  She said that it wasn’t a problem as she always kept spare underwear, a toothbrush, toothpaste, perfume and make up in her desk which generated a whole new discussion about what everyone else kept in their drawers and I was really quite shocked.  All I’ll say is that young people clearly seem to be ready for any sexual opportunity whenever or wherever that might happen!  My drawers in my old job, just contained stationery, and files on past stories, and maybe the odd pack of tights…and go on then, biscuits.  But that’s really as naughty as it got! 

The same girl later asked, quite innocently, if her friends were right to make a fuss about the fact that she was taking a big suitcase that needed checking in and eight pairs of shoes …on a four day holiday ????  That really made me laugh – all the more because she couldn’t understand what was funny

And finally there was some considerable debate on why “Come Dine With Me” is such good viewing, so long after it started and with no change to the original format.

All in all, I had a good time.  Whatever job I end up getting, it will need to be with a good team that know how to laugh. 

Otherwise, how do you get through each day?


Getting On

I remember going into work one day and noticing that a colleague, who was in her fifties, suddenly looked old.  Her face just seemed to fall overnight and I was horrified how quickly age seemed to strike.

Since then, I have been waiting for the day that it happens to me and every so often I think it has.  For much of last week, for example, I just slobbed around in my pyjamas as I was helping my son with his final exam and spending a lot of time writing my book.  Pure luxury but on the Friday, I caught sight of myself in the mirror and I looked terrible.  Days of not brushing my hair, no moisturiser and no bra and the effect was truly quite frightening. 

I looked really old. 

Fortunately, on Sunday when we went out, I dressed up and put the slap on and looked OK again.  In fact, my husband whispered that I looked quite “sexy” !  I think though, he must just have been relieved to find out that I haven’t quite descended into permanent old hag status quite yet !! 

The thing is, one of these days, the make up won’t help, and I will suddenly just be an old woman and that thought is quite depressing.  I’m not ready yet.  I still feel about 25 in my head and I find it quite annoying that what I see in the mirror doesn’t reflect that. People used to be quite shocked when they heard how old I was but I’ve noticed recently that’s not the case any more, which is a bit of a slap in the face!

Birthdays for me are no longer any fun.  I used to love the cards, the presents, the attention….. nowadays, not so much !!  Birthdays represent another year gone. Another year possibly wasted. Further proof that I am no longer young. Increased pressure to admit that I am NOT actually 39 but in fact, nearer…fifty ! No ! Birthdays now, mean increased angst and mental torture! 

I’ve got to that stage now, where I can’t look at another woman without trying to calculate her age and then work out how she’s doing in the race against time. I admit to feeling slightly triumphant at the stupid ones who try (but fail) not to look their age but slightly put out at the ones who look good. 

My mother looks great but that’s because she has simply accepted that she is nearly seventy and behaves accordingly.  Maybe that’s the trick. To stop being so shallow and just accept where you are in life and get on with it.

But if that’s the case, look at Helen Mirren.  She’s in her mid-sixties and looks fab. Jane Fonda is in her seventies, and still wearing strapless dresses

Mind you, the hands are always a giveaway….

Oh, I don’t know.  I’m giving this way too much importance but I looked really quite lovely once and I don’t like the fact that I have become….well, a portly woman approaching her fifties.  I don’t like that my age has made me invisible!

A few weeks ago when the sun came out for a bit, I took my little white skirt out of the wardrobe.  I love it as it is comes to just above the knee and is very flattering. I felt very cute as I looked at myself in the mirror but then my children questioned if I was really going to wear that out as wasn’t it “ too short for someone your age” !!!???!!!

I looked back in the mirror and saw a fool. What’s worse, an old fool trying to look young ! 

It’s in the charity bag now.

The thing is, I really want to take it back out. My legs are still OK – fatter knees than I would like and maybe a bit puffy round the ankles at times – but they are quite long from the knee to the ankle which gives the impression that I’m showing a lot of leg when I wear a shorter skirt but actually I’m not! It’s not as if I wear miniskirts like my daughter that barely cover her pert little bottom. Maybe though, at my age, shorter flirty skirts are quite simply a no-no.

I don’t want to dress like my mother or my daughter but I don’t quite know what to wear now. I shop in mumsy places like Wallis and Monsoon and Marks which cater for my increasing weight and I’m careful to buy things that I think are “elegantly” timeless and not fashionable.  Even if I was a size 12, I wouldn’t want to dress like all the youngsters, as bizarrely it has the effect of adding on decades. Teenage clothes don’t make older women look sexy – they just make you look old. Even I know that much.  The women who look great are the ones who dress in the way that’s best for them and I seem to have lost the knack of how to do that.  Deep down, I know that it’s not OK to wear a mini-skirt. But goddammit, the skirt in the charity bag isn’t a miniskirt, just slightly shorter than I normally wear.

Oh bugger it! I’m off to rescue that skirt and whatsmore when the sun returns,  I’m going to wear it again, and again….and again!!! So there.

If I’m going to do this getting old thing, I might as well do it disgracefully!

Twittering Away

Can I just say..  I LOVE TWITTER !

It was a struggle to get me involved and I turned my nose up at it for a long time as I just couldn’t see the point.

A bit like Facebook and LinkedIn.  I’ve recently signed up to them too but not with any enthusiasm.  Facebook is a convenient place to put photos I fancy sharing, but it feels like such a waste of time scrolling through and reading what everyone has been up to.  I usually just read whatever is at the top of my timeline when I visit, which is pretty rare in itself..

As for LinkedIn, I keep thinking it will be a good way to find a job but I guess, I need to actually involve myself with it and put on an extensive CV….rather than just my name and nothing else!

But Twitter is different !

I noticed about eighteen months ago, that my colleagues were keeping in touch with breaking news by following Twitter and so when I expressed a vague interest in how it worked, one of them took me aside and showed me all its uses…..and I was hooked!

Initially, I just stalked a few people and companies and then I started putting out a few tweets about news stories I was working on and now I regularly treat the world to my personal insights and although I haven’t got a huge following, I feel like I’m part of a community.

At first, I was a bit disappointed that I enjoyed it so much, as I wanted to maintain my curmudgeonly attitude to it all. But it’s OK as I can still do that with Facebook !

The thing is, I totally get Twitter as a work aide but now I’m not working anymore, I obviously don’t use it for that and so I really don’t understand the pleasure I get in announcing that I’m about to watch #Jamie Oliver. Who cares?  Well, the replies I get back saying “me too” suggest some do !!

I’ve been trying to work out recently exactly what the appeal is, and for me anyway, I think it’s the following:

– it makes watching telly so much more fun as there is often someone talking about whatever it is I’m watching

– it has resulted in new real-life friendships

– it offers fascinating insights into people’s lives

– it often makes me laugh out loud, which can be embarrassing as I usually read it when I’m on a bus or a train

– the 140 characters limit forces writers to be concise with their points and not waffle on and on

– it has kept me in touch with major news (and gossip!) now that I’m not working anymore

– I can drop in any time, join a conversation and then just leave without saying goodbye, and no one thinks that’s rude (well, I hope they don’t!)

– I find myself chatting to people from different countries, of different ages and from a variety of backgrounds that I certainly wouldn’t meet naturally

Now, on the negative side, I also follow a few celebrities.  But I keep falling into the trap of thinking when they tweet, somehow they are interested in my response …amongst the thousands of others they get ! And then I feel stupid that I replied, and that everyone can see what I sent, even though I’m not doing it as a pathetic fan desperate for their attention but as someone they may remember who has perhaps interacted with them in the past ….even if only for a few minutes!!  I really must realise that they won’t and just stop doing that.

Of course, the blogging community has now opened up a whole new realm of people to follow so if you notice an unfamiliar reader responding to your tweets, it’s probably ME !!

Tweet-tweet !!


It is fourteen years since my Dad died.

Fourteen years.  I can’t believe I have spent all that time on this earth without him, as it just doesn’t seem possible. I still haven’t really got used to the idea that he isn’t around. I often find myself thinking that I must tell him of a funny event that I know he would appreciate and then suddenly remember that he just isn’t here to tell, and each time it’s like the wind has been knocked out of me.  He was so wise and I used to ask him for advice all the time. Even now, I feel lost when I realise he isn’t around to double check something with.

One of my favourite photos is one of him with me when I was a baby. It was taken in the park and I am on a blanket on the grass with him looking at me as he is lying next to me on his side with his protective arm over me. The love, amusement concern and wonder in his face is all evident and after he died, I couldn’t stop looking at it.  And it still moves me now. 

As an only child, I was always going to be his princess. There is something special about growing up knowing that you are so adored. It’s probably what has given me a certain level of confidence.

He cultivated that even further by putting me on the stage.  Such an unusual thing for an Indian father to do but he loved the theatre and knew it would be right for me so he signed me up to our local amateur group when I was just eight or nine.  As I was the only youngster in the company, there was often a part for me and he would watch the productions proudly from the audience, and then collect the newspaper clippings and photos into his special file. 

He was so laid back and rarely got angry.  Even when Mum was kicking off or I was having a temper tantrum, he always just stayed calm and refused to rise to either of us.  

He was well-respected, incredibly popular and generous to the extreme.  Our house was always full of people.  Mum made fantastic food and he always had a full drinks cabinet which was very popular with his guests.  He was a great storyteller and I have great memories of watching on, as the people around him fell about with laughter.

We did a lot of things together when I was young. There were frequent visits to the swings at the park where we’d also feed the ducks, and on a Saturday afternoon, we always watched the wrestling together and he used to laugh as I’d scream for Big Daddy or Giant Haystacks to win.

But most of all we talked. Through the years, I used to love telling him things and I would make a big dramatic story of everything, complete with different voices and accents. I could always make him laugh even while he was rolling his eyes and begging me to please, just get to the point.  And if I told a story in company, he would listen rapt, as if he’d never heard the tale before!

I only ever wanted his approval and so tried never to behave in a way that could let him down.  As a result, my teenage rebellion never really happened, even though I longed to be out at parties or off with unsuitable boys!

He suffered from asthma and bronchitis from birth but when he came to London (from south India) in the early sixties, the climate here seemed to cure it completely.  For a few years he was fine, and then he got caught in a thick pea-soup fog which were so common back then.  He was wandering the streets for hours, trying to find his way, and was eventually found by a policeman collapsed, literally yards from home.  That brought his illness back with a vengeance then, but he managed it pretty well for a couple of decades.

When I was in my early twenties, he had a major attack which left him in intensive care.  It was touch and go for a while but he pulled through. After that, he was a different man – very careful and much more spiritual and still wonderful. He was never really well again though and would often succumb to terrible attacks which would put him in hospital for weeks at a time.  The doctors told him that his lung capacity was dangerously low and he knew, though he never told us, that there was every chance that his next attack could be his last.

My mother always said she was lucky to have married such a “handsome” man which made me laugh, especially while I watched him style his Reg Varney hair!!  But then, I married a man pretty similar to him.  Kind, quiet and totally encouraging – but minus the Brylcreem!  In fact, they got on very well together and I would often hear my dad warn him not to let me get my own way – much to my frustration!

I think it was my children that kept him going for so long. He absolutely adored them and was the perfect grand-dad.  I still spend a lot of time watching home videos of them climbing all over him, even though he could barely breathe, and him making them laugh. They both still remember him and how he always had sweets for them.  I know for a fact that he would be unspeakably proud of them now.

Fourteen years ago, he had a major attack which was so bad that the doctors decided to sedate and ventilate him so that his lungs could get a rest as the machine breathed for him.  He was in that state for over three weeks and it soon became clear that his lungs just weren’t strong enough to support him any more. On the 9th June 1999 at 4pm, his body finally gave up and he slipped away.  We were all there with him.  My mum was so strong and prayed for him as he went, while I held tightly on to his hand, making sure my tears were silent and dignified, just as he would have wanted.

God, I miss him. I really miss him. He shaped me as a person and loved me for who I was and I was so privileged to have him as a father.  I feel overwhelmed with grief all over again now just from writing this because I realise, that whatever anyone promised me, it really hasn’t got any easier over the years.

I still wish that he was right here with me, making everything better.