Category Archives: Commentary

Sipping bubbly on Centre Court: impressions of a Wimbledon virgin

First published on  on 03 July 2013 in MagazineTravel

wimbledon scoreboard

Me in front of Wimbledon scoreboard

If you’ve ever thought of going to Wimbledon, I’ve got one word for you: Corporate.

Beg, steal or borrow – but get your hands on corporate tickets.

Take it from a Wimbledon virgin who has glammed it with the likes of Pippa Middleton on Centre Court this year: huddling under a plastic bag in the rain on a soggy Murray Mound with the masses just isn’t the same.

As it happens I didn’t have to do anything untoward to find my bum cushioned on a coveted sponsored seat to watch our Andy thrash some unworthy opponent.
I only had to be married to my husband, who won tickets in a lottery at work. I’m hoping this signals a drastic improvement in the perks of being his wife.

The dress code

As I desperately filed through my school run-inspired wardrobe in search of an outfit that would stand up to the potential glare of international television cameras, I panicked.

I had nothing suitable to wear and no time or budget for an elaborate shopping spree.  Enter my fairy godmother in the form of Kate Battrick @TwistedSkirt – a personal stylist I stumbled across in the TK Maxx Lounge at Britmums Live who transformed me from frump to fabulous faster than you can say Game, Set and Match. Read more here.
Tip: Heels are a must for first impressions, but take a pair of sensible shoes for later as you’ll do a lot of walking.

The company

Hospitality marquees filled with executives (or scientists in the case of a life science company) can be daunting if your corporate speak is rusty.

As we walked in, a confident woman in a stripy suit held out her hand, announcing:  “Caroline, Rare Diseases.”

“Uh… Chené, Household Germs,” I felt tempted to reply. My husband shot me a sharp look, so I mumbled: “Home Executive” instead.

After knocking back a few glasses of Pimms, I was chatting to “Genetics” and “Immunology” like old friends. I didn’t understand anything, but nodded encouragingly and counted my blessings I wasn’t sitting next to “Sexually Transmitted Diseases.”
Tip: Ask fellow guests why they love their jobs, zone out and enjoy your Pimms.

The food

While Laura Robson warmed up for her match against Mariana Duque-Marino, we warmed up our palettes with a choice of Parma ham or salmon starters, followed by an impressive cold buffet and a selection of three desserts, washed down with a fruity Sauvignon Blanc. We stumbled across to Centre Court clutching huge plastic cups of champagne with straws to keep us fueled during the match – watching tennis is hard work.

wimbledon food

We returned to the marquee several times throughout the day for top-ups and by the time Murray took on Tommy Robredo, my husband had to restrain me from storming onto court and punching the line judge every time he called a fault in Robredo’s favour.
Tip: Don’t wear anything that is too tight around the waist and take a bottle of water along to pace your drinking.

And… the Tennis

Even if your tennis never got past the rusty racket stage, the thrill of being up close and personal to the world’s top players and the awesome power with which they hit the ball will keep you glued to the edge of your seat.

Your emotions fling wildly up and down with every nail-biting shot, leaving you exhilarated and exhausted.  You’re there with them – at some point I was grunting louder than Sharapova every time Robson served.
Feeling the audience’s rising excitement as Murray scores his way ever closer to victory until he finally smashes his opponent to roaring applause, makes you want to burst with pride.

chene and husband glamming it on Centre Court, Wimbledon

Chené and husband glamming it on Centre Court, Wimbledon

Our day out at Wimbledon was amazing and I’ve already started scheming how to get my hands on corporate tickets to the finals on Centre Court next year!  Any tips or sponsors– let me know.

Have you been to Wimbledon 2013? What were your first impressions?

 

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What to wear to Wimbledon if you don’t look like Sharapova

Woman in dress for Wimbledon

Dressed to kill: Me in my Wimbledon outfit

Every now and then my husband does something that blows me away. It doesn’t happen often and it usually is a pure stroke of luck that required no planning or effort on his part, but I take what I can get.

He chose his moment carefully, waiting for me to be particularly annoyed with him for turning a blind eye to the overflowing rubbish bin spewing deadly fumes around the kitchen and feeding our children their own bodyweight in junk food.

Tickets to Wimbledon

“By the way, I’ve got tickets to Wimbledon.” Deadpan delivery. No emotion, no excitement – Germans don’t do excitement in my experience – as if this was as much part of our daily routine as the school run. (He won the tickets in a work lottery, but he only revealed this much later after I’d sufficiently swooned at his feet)

“Wimbledon! WOW!” I was beside myself. Jumping up and down and screaming  “Oh YEAH!” so loudly the grumpy old lady next door slammed her window shut.

And as it turns out, not only are we going to Wimbledon, we are going ‘corporate’ on Centre Court and we will be picked up by a chauffeur from home! This is seriously unlike us – we don’t do style. Our idea of style is shouting abuse at each other while repacking suitcases in full public view in airport halls because my curling tongs had caused the suitcase to tip the scales over the limit.

Panic attack

Once the excitement subsided, I had my first little panic attack – “OMG! What am I going to wear?”I knew straightaway that nothing in my wardrobe would live up to this occasion. What do you wear to Wimbledon if you don’t quite look like Maria Sharapova and your budget can just about stretch to the odd supermarket T-shirt sneaked in during the grocery shop?

I was actually getting myself into quite a state about this, when I happened to stumble across a free personal styling session by the lovely Kate Battrick @TwistedSkirt, a personal stylist employed by TK MAXX for the day at a conference I went to.On the impulse I thought I’d mention to her that I’m going to Wimbledon and had no idea what to wear.

Kate‘s face lit up as if she’d been waiting for exactly this challenge all day: How to turn a mousy, frumpy mum-of-three into a Centre Court sensation. She took one look at me and dismissed my toga-like top, especially chosen by me to hide the after-effects of two large glasses of Chardonnay every night.

Hourglass figure 

“This is exactly the wrong outfit for your ‘hourglass’ figure,” she said.

I almost kissed her.  No one had ever mentioned the word hourglass in relation to my figure and I was expecting the more familiar – heavy bottomed pear shape – so, I was willing to hear her out.

“You need to accentuate your waist,” she said, pointing to a rather garish, tight floral dress with an open back – the kind much more suited to the Sharapovas of this world.

I was beginning to worry about the lighting in the room, because if she thought I had a waist, never mind one that had to be accentuated, her eyesight must be worse than mine and I’d had a retinal detachment in one eye.

Dressing on a budget

Two women talking

Personal stylist Kate Battrick in action

To cut a long story short, she made me try on the dress – it was a size 10 (US-sizes) of course – I’ve been nowhere near a size ten since having my first child.

But believe it or not, the dress fit me and looked amazing (everything is relative of course, as my husband would say). It created a waist and the floral print made me look fashionable and dare I say- younger than my tender 43 years.

I knew I had to have the dress. My mind was working overtime trying to figure out how I would be able to afford the dress and whether I could wear it with flip-flops as I certainly had no matching footwear and would not be able to fork out on a pair of shoes too.

That was when she announced the price:  £20!

My jaw dropped to the floor. Not only would I never have tried this dress had it not been for the stylist, but I would not have dreamed that I could actually afford it without cancelling our summer holiday. Next, Kate advised me to buy a pair of almond court shoes for £49 from M&S and combine the dress with a white linen jacket, which luckily, I already owned.

My husband usually doesn’t get involved in what I wear, apart from telling me I didn’t need it – So, I was chuffed when he LOVED the dress – and that was BEFORE I told him the price.

So, I’m off to Wimbledon with my head held high. My shoes might just cut off all circulation to my little toes by the end of the day, but my flip-flops are in the bag, just in case.  No idea who I’m going to be watching, but if you’re watching telly – I’ll be the woman in the bright floral dress waving madly every time the camera points in my direction. I might even stand up and do a little twirl to show off the back of the dress.

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Do you still know how to flirt?

Vintage photograph of couple flirting

Flirting for mummies – I’m a bit out of my depth
Credit: Shook Photos – Flickr

A deep, throaty voice 

I was standing at the supermarket checkout poised to pay for a few hurriedly grabbed items that by some miracle would have to turn into tea in the 45 minutes between my son’s athletics and my daughter’s piano lesson.

His voice was deep and throaty: “Madam, would you like my club card points?”

I looked up to find the owner of the voice – a handsome 30-something man in a smart navy suit and aquamarine shirt with eyes to match – looking at me expectantly.  I swallowed hard. I was out of my depth…

Out of my comfort zone 

It’d been a while since I’d been addressed by a man of any age who wasn’t related to me or trying to sell me something. It also had genuinely never occurred to me that there might be people on this planet who didn’t find accumulating club card points as deeply thrilling as I did.

“Uh… OK. I mean yes, please. I’d love that!” I mumbled.

I handed over my keys blindly to the stranger, our fingers touching briefly, and he gave it to the cashier who swiped the key fob without question, oblivious to the fact that I was socially way out of my comfort zone.

Had I been chatted up?

Blue eyes flashed a smile and he was gone, leaving me to gather my shopping bags, children and galloping thoughts.

I’m aware that most people – apart from other 40-something mums – will find this tragic, but this little episode stirred something in me, which probably should have been left unstirred.

Had I just been chatted up? Why hadn’t the lovely young man offered his points to the builder at the counter on his other side? Why did he choose me?

My inner voice awoke from her slumber: “Or is it because your strained face and tired clothes suggested that you really needed the points. You were his good deed of the day.”

The truth was it’d been a while since I’d been chatted up. It was a good seven years ago when a quite inebriated man who claimed to have Italian mafia connections, instructed the barman at the village pub to send over a drink. The barman had to repeat it three times before I believed him.

And when an ex-colleague told me over the phone that I was much more beautiful in real life than the photograph on my website, I giggled nervously, even though I knew he was simply trying to tell me subtly that it was not cool to use a photograph of your 20-year-old self when you’re nearly double that age. My inner voice almost wet herself laughing.

Affairs: no, attention: yes

It’s not that I’m hankering after an affair or even a free drink (though I might be persuaded on the second one), but a bit of male attention – other than: “What’s for tea?” wouldn’t go amiss.

My encounter had just brought it home to me again that men – other than my husband and sons- had completely disappeared off my radar like a plane falling from the sky.

My wildest fantasies about men– other than the ones involving my husband (and they deserve their own blog post…ha ha) – can be summarised as:  “I really hope those strong hands and muscular arms will be able to fix the washing machine.”

When was the last time I stole a second glance at a passing pair of solid shoulders or solicited a wolf-whistle from even the roughest workman on the street?

Once you’re on the wrong side of 40 and especially if have that weary-eyed mum-of-three look in your eyes and telltale layers around your waist, you’re blanked by the majority of English men over the age of four.

(This is different in Europe, in my experience, where a full-bodied woman past her sell-by date can still raise an appreciative glance. They like their wine older too.)

But perhaps I’d underestimated English men all along. I’d been thinking of things I should have said to Blue Eyes: “What is your club card total?” or “You can swipe my club card again any time. ”  – I’m still working on it.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking of taking some initiative and might just offer to share my points with some poor unsuspecting man on my next shopping trip.

When was the last time someone of the opposite sex tried to chat you up – or even just noticed you? How did you react?

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Is having fun on your to-do list?

Image of magnetic letters spelling having fun on a fridge

Has having fun disappeared off your to-do list?

My friend recently quit her stressful full-time job to stay at home. She’d been fantasising about this every day for the last 10 years.

Finally allowing herself the time to piece together the missing chunks of her children’s lives, at last having the freedom to arrange every minute of the day to fit her own agenda. She couldn’t wait to indulge her passion for cooking exotic recipes, join a running group and catch up with friends who’d been lurking at the bottom of her to-do list for years

Two weeks later and she’s as miserable and stressed as when she was working.”I can’t seem to enjoy it,” she says. “I think I need to go back to work.”

Every minute must count 

Another friend, about to take some well-deserved time off after years of spreading herself thinly on all fronts for years, has drawn up a list of planned activities that will make any senior company executive break out in a cold sweat:

Refurbish the house, landscape the garden, do a painting course, volunteer for a charity, Pilates sessions every day. The list is endless and is rattled off to everyone she encounters – daring anyone to doubt that every minute of every day at home will be spent productively.

On trend 

As with every other negative parenting phenomenon, I am bang on trend. My decision to realign my life with the things I care about and enjoy – my family and my writing, is a secret rebellion against an army of inner voices telling me that without a regular pay cheque, my self-esteem will be punched full of holes by every working mum I meet.

Even if we can afford it financially, and I’m very conscious that not everyone can, mums of my generation seem to be terrified of losing their grip – even just for a moment – on the slippery corporate ladder for fear that one misstep will send them sliding down into the doldrums of depression where their minds will rot away never to spark again.

Empty diary panic

Why does an empty page in the diary fill us with panic? Why do we feel the need to justify – even to strangers – a perfectly reasonable decision to take time out from the relentless and often unsatisfactory grind of being a working mum?

We are almost ashamed of the desire to spend precious hours with our children or just have a bit of time to ourselves, doing things that might not earn money, but could pay off handsomely in brownie points with our children and in self-fulfilment.

So where is this going?

Take my writing for example – I finally got myself as far as signing up for the creative writing course I always wanted to do – (my inner voice is still not talking to me) and I love it! But the niggling voice is there every time I leave the class – So, are you actually going to publish a book? This is all good and well, but where are you going with this? Are you going to make money (highly unlikely) or get famous (even more unlikely)?

I’ve never been driven by money – a new handbag or pair of shoes turn me on as much as the next woman – however, can I live without them – absolutely.

The real problem, I suspect, is that my sense of self is so entangled with my to-do list, that the thought of having a day without a plan or an activity without a concrete outcome – is like stepping off a cliff.

On the rare occasion that I manage to shake off those fears and anxieties, take deep yoga breaths, eat lots of chocolate and focus on enjoying what I’m doing in that moment – sitting on the carpet playing with my son or getting lost in my writing in a coffee shop – I feel like I am the person and mother I was meant to be.

And if I can build more of those moments into my life – who knows where that will lead?(See there I go again – why does it have to lead somewhere? It’s fun, I enjoy it – it’s good for my children and me. Is that not good enough?)

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Am I having a midlife crisis? Am I on my own out here? Anyone?

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Some good press for bad mums, finally!

A photograph of a woman drinking a glass of wine

Me and my Chardonnay – inseparable

For the first time in many years – since I had children, actually – I felt quite good about myself this week.  It lasted about as long as an English sunny spell, but I definitely felt a little spike of optimism in the dark and dusty pit that is my psyche.

Soul mates 

After years of skulking around shamefully on school runs and sobbing into my Chardonnay, I’ve finally found my soul mates – fellow bad mums who, though they love their children, find parenting to be wildly overrated.

In the US a flurry of new parenting books has hit kindles and bookshelves like a viral infection sweeping through a nursery.  The authors are mums who “curse a lot, drink to excess, reveal scary truths and draw twisted little stick figures of their kids pooping and whining relentlessly.”

Fifty shades of parenting

These ‘scary, dark and funny’ mums seem to have hit upon the fifty shades of parenting – their expletive-infused, boozing, warts-and-all anecdotes of what it’s really like to be a mum – are hitting a nerve!

I’ll drink to that!

Share the grief

Finally, it may be time to ditch the anti-depressants and share the grief openly in stead about the seemingly never-ending daily grind of raising ungrateful little brats.

Maybe that will finally shatter the perfect mum with perfect children, perfect husband, perfect pets and catalogue homes illusion we all partake in at coffee mornings and school gates.

Perhaps it will be safe soon to own up to nasty rows flavoured with unwholesome language with our other halves about where the money will come from and whose turn it is to unpack the dishwasher – sometimes even in front of our kids.

Not-so-proud’ mummy moments

What a relief it would be to see a fellow mum post a ‘not-so-proud’ mummy moment on Facebook in stead of yet another carefully censored postcard glimpse of a perfect family leading a candy floss life.

Maybe we’ll soon be able to have real discussions about the mind-numbing boredom of building Lego spaceships or reading stories about dinosaurs, when all you want to do is check your email, play Candycrush or read a book about bad mums.

Shouting very loudly

Could we dare to come clean about shouting very loudly at our children in stead of gently guiding them to the right behaviour in soothing tones  – in line with parenting guidelines from childless experts?

Would you admit to fantasizing about life before children – all the time – not dreams about steamy sex (though that would be nice) but going to the toilet with the door closed, having a lie-in and spending money on yourself in stead of on football boots or swimming lessons?

I wouldn’t want to push it – but perhaps we could even admit to a less than perfect pelvic floor and how easy it is to lose yourself in the pursuit of being everything to everyone else.

Health warning

At some point I considered putting a health warning for doe-eyed first-time mums on my blog like the ones on cigarette packs for fear of shattering their dreams with my honest accounts of parenting.

But now that I know I’m not alone, I won’t. I only wish that my own library of early parenting guides had included a few titles from scary, dark, bad mums.

It would have comforted me so much to know that I was not alone in my moments of weakness when I couldn’t find anything to love among the tiring tantrums and endless whining.

It would have made me realise that I didn’t have to be perfect – and that guilt, bitterness, jealousy, frustration, cursing, shouting and drinking too much wine are as much part of being a mum as happy snappy moments of love and fulfilment.

PS. If you enjoy my writing, please spare me a few pence… no, seriously please VOTE  for me as  I’m a semi-finalist in the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards in the Writer and Commentary categories, If you like what you read, I’d be so very happy if you voted for me.

Click on the badges below and tick the box next to Whyishersostroppy under WRITER and COMMENTARY to vote. It’s ever so easy. Thanks.

NOMINATE ME BiB 2013 WRITER

NOMINATE ME BiB 2013 COMMENTARY

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So motherhood didn’t turn out the way I expected

Image

So motherhood didn’t turn out exactly the way I expected.

It has all but ruined my career, erased my social standing, shrunk my social life and nearly wiped out my self-confidence and my pelvic floor.

My carefree, wild spirit is hopelessly lost within the discipline and military order needed to make a busy household run smoothly.

Daydreams and ambitions have been replaced by worries about the ever-shrinking pot of money that has to stretch ever further for never ending piano lessons, school trips, dance outfits and party gifts.

Guilt has become my constant companion…   taunting me, paralyzing me every step of my busy, frantic day.  Guilt about working, guilt about not working, guilt about not being involved enough in my children’s lives, guilt about being too involved. Guilt about reading, guilt about not reading enough. Guilt about drinking, guilt about not drinking enough. Guilt about everything I do (or don’t do).

Cooking, once a favourite past time, an opportunity to explore exotic ingredients from around the world while listening to French Café music, has turned into an every day headache of serious hangover proportions.

Come dine with us… Chez Koscielny – Here’s the challenge:

Three children, who between them like only five ingredients, but they don’t all like the same ingredient – so we’re down to about three ingredients.

Throw this in the pot and come up with something that doesn’t look like the dog’s dinner, tastes better than a MacDonalds Happy Meal, and includes your five-a-day.

Oh yes, you have about 10 minutes to produce this before they attack the cereal box or cookie jar like a pack of hungry wolves, completely spoiling their appetite and rotting their milk teeth.

And then produce a scrumptious meal for your husband and yourself, unless you want to eat the cold leftovers of the three-ingredient meal described above. Actually, not bad washed down with a few glasses of Chardonnay.

Sex – the kind that would have turned Mr Grey a few shades redder in the face, has been replaced by very sporadic efforts with about the same level of energy and spontaneity as an afternoon tea dance for geriatrics.

Yet, from the moment I squinted myopically at the first little wrinkly face and held the squirming little body in my arms – nearly 11 years ago, I was completely hooked.

On Facebook childless school friends show off their still shiny hair, line-free skin and pert bodies. They sip cocktails in expensive bars and go on mid-week short trips to exotic destinations, where I’m sure they have show-stopping sex.

But I wouldn’t swop lives with them. Not for anything in the world.

Motherhood didn’t turn out the way I expected, but it has given my world a depth of emotion it didn’t have before. It made me understand love.

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So motherhood didn’t turn out the way I expected

Image

So motherhood didn’t turn out exactly the way I expected.

It has all but ruined my career, erased my social standing, shrunk my social life and nearly wiped out my self-confidence and my pelvic floor.

My carefree, wild spirit is hopelessly lost within the discipline and military order needed to make a busy household run smoothly.

Daydreams and ambitions have been replaced by worries about the ever-shrinking pot of money that has to stretch ever further for never ending piano lessons, school trips, dance outfits and party gifts.

Guilt has become my constant companion…   taunting me, paralyzing me every step of my busy, frantic day.  Guilt about working, guilt about not working, guilt about not being involved enough in my children’s lives, guilt about being too involved. Guilt about reading, guilt about not reading enough. Guilt about drinking, guilt about not drinking enough. Guilt about everything I do (or don’t do).

Cooking, once a favourite past time, an opportunity to explore exotic ingredients from around the world while listening to French Café music, has turned into an every day headache of serious hangover proportions.

Come dine with us… Chez Koscielny – Here’s the challenge:

Three children, who between them like only five ingredients, but they don’t all like the same ingredient – so we’re down to about three ingredients.

Throw this in the pot and come up with something that doesn’t look like the dog’s dinner, tastes better than a MacDonalds Happy Meal, and includes your five-a-day.

Oh yes, you have about 10 minutes to produce this before they attack the cereal box or cookie jar like a pack of hungry wolves, completely spoiling their appetite and rotting their milk teeth.

And then produce a scrumptious meal for your husband and yourself, unless you want to eat the cold leftovers of the three-ingredient meal described above. Actually, not bad washed down with a few glasses of Chardonnay.

Sex – the kind that would have turned Mr Grey a few shades redder in the face, has been replaced by very sporadic efforts with about the same level of energy and spontaneity as an afternoon tea dance for geriatrics.

Yet, from the moment I squinted myopically at the first little wrinkly face and held the squirming little body in my arms – nearly 11 years ago, I was completely hooked.

On Facebook childless school friends show off their still shiny hair, line-free skin and pert bodies. They sip cocktails in expensive bars and go on mid-week short trips to exotic destinations, where I’m sure they have show-stopping sex.

But I wouldn’t swop lives with them. Not for anything in the world.

Motherhood didn’t turn out the way I expected, but it has given my world a depth of emotion it didn’t have before. It made me understand love.

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Productively tweezing hair working from home

coffeeandcinnamonroll

I’m writing this while ‘working from home’ because something really got up my nose and I can’t share it with anyone around the water cooler because there is no water cooler and my only colleague is the imaginary friend I invented when I started telecommuting. (Professional speak for working from home)

I’ve had three coffees, a homemade smoothie and a second breakfast, stacked the dishwasher, blow dried my hair and re-organised the toy box – so it’s almost 11am, but I just had to get this off my chest first.

Just exactly who does this Marissa Mayer woman thinks she is? Never heard of her until this week – so just Googled her to try to understand what possessed the 37-year old new Yahoo boss and mum of one to ban home working in a company that must surely have as one of its primary business objectives to drive more people online.

Telecommuting is only possible because of the internet, an industry which will allow the lovely Marissa to take home a cool basic salary of £77million over the next five years. (This is not counting shares and bonuses of as much as £45 million per year.)

For that sort of money I could probably be persuaded to commute into the office naked on a unicycle every day, but that’s not the point.

(You’ll excuse me if I just go and tweeze a stray hair from my left eyebrow at this point. It’s really disturbing me and so hard to concentrate when you’re not surrounded by hard working colleagues.)

What outrages me is the suggestion that speed and quality are sometimes sacrificed when working from home.

If anything, the quality of my work really benefits from the daytime television and Internet surfing I manage to squeeze into my hectic day.  Speed is also not sacrificed, because I can now paint my toenails, wipe my toddler’s bottom and cook tea, while taking part in an important teleconference.

According to this poster girl for working women, home-workers are also starved of the creativity of working with others, which affects their work… affects their work…affects their work, have I mentioned it affects their work.

(Sorry, must be the lack of stimulation from colleagues)

Which reminds me, the last time I was in an office, I worked in a very small room with two men, one more boring and up his own behind than the other (they often are, aren’t they?). One was obsessed with Formula one racing and the other one was the world expert on everything including child birth and I quickly learned to avert my gaze and avoid all conversation if I wanted to get some work done or didn’t want to be bored to tears.

As far as meetings go – I can probably count on one hand the meetings I went to in my many years of working full time in an office, where a) I learned something b) anything useful was decided or c) anyone was creatively stimulated by what anyone else was saying or doing.

And sure, if I was earning millions of pounds for every article I write (cherish the thought) and could persuade someone to build a fully staffed nursery for my own children next to my office, like the ever considerate Marissa has done before decreeing all other mums at Yahoo had to be separated from their children, I might swop my slippers for stilettos and my telecommute for a chauffeur-driven Ferrari ride into the office every morning.

Anyway, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I really have to dash to fetch my son from the nursery (which was not custom built for him) and bring him home for a spot of lunch. Perhaps I’ll work a bit more later…

Quite pleased with myself really – This has been one of my more productive mornings this week!

Do you work from home? Would you be more productive, creative, in an office?

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Productively tweezing hair working from home

coffeeandcinnamonroll

I’m writing this while ‘working from home’ because something really got up my nose and I can’t share it with anyone around the water cooler because there is no water cooler and my only colleague is the imaginary friend I invented when I started telecommuting. (Professional speak for working from home)

I’ve had three coffees, a homemade smoothie and a second breakfast, stacked the dishwasher, blow dried my hair and re-organised the toy box – so it’s almost 11am, but I just had to get this off my chest first.

Just exactly who does this Marissa Mayer woman thinks she is? Never heard of her until this week – so just Googled her to try to understand what possessed the 37-year old new Yahoo boss and mum of one to ban home working in a company that must surely have as one of its primary business objectives to drive more people online.

Telecommuting is only possible because of the internet, an industry which will allow the lovely Marissa to take home a cool basic salary of £77million over the next five years. (This is not counting shares and bonuses of as much as £45 million per year.)

For that sort of money I could probably be persuaded to commute into the office naked on a unicycle every day, but that’s not the point.

(You’ll excuse me if I just go and tweeze a stray hair from my left eyebrow at this point. It’s really disturbing me and so hard to concentrate when you’re not surrounded by hard working colleagues.)

What outrages me is the suggestion that speed and quality are sometimes sacrificed when working from home.

If anything, the quality of my work really benefits from the daytime television and Internet surfing I manage to squeeze into my hectic day.  Speed is also not sacrificed, because I can now paint my toenails, wipe my toddler’s bottom and cook tea, while taking part in an important teleconference.

According to this poster girl for working women, home-workers are also starved of the creativity of working with others, which affects their work… affects their work…affects their work, have I mentioned it affects their work.

(Sorry, must be the lack of stimulation from colleagues)

Which reminds me, the last time I was in an office, I worked in a very small room with two men, one more boring and up his own behind than the other (they often are, aren’t they?). One was obsessed with Formula one racing and the other one was the world expert on everything including child birth and I quickly learned to avert my gaze and avoid all conversation if I wanted to get some work done or didn’t want to be bored to tears.

As far as meetings go – I can probably count on one hand the meetings I went to in my many years of working full time in an office, where a) I learned something b) anything useful was decided or c) anyone was creatively stimulated by what anyone else was saying or doing.

And sure, if I was earning millions of pounds for every article I write (cherish the thought) and could persuade someone to build a fully staffed nursery for my own children next to my office, like the ever considerate Marissa has done before decreeing all other mums at Yahoo had to be separated from their children, I might swop my slippers for stilettos and my telecommute for a chauffeur-driven Ferrari ride into the office every morning.

Anyway, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I really have to dash to fetch my son from the nursery (which was not custom built for him) and bring him home for a spot of lunch. Perhaps I’ll work a bit more later…

Quite pleased with myself really – This has been one of my more productive mornings this week!

Do you work from home? Would you be more productive, creative, in an office?

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The podgy hand on my thigh

The allegations against former Lib Dem chief exec Lord Rennard have brought back some unpleasant, unwanted memories of a time when I was a vulnerable young woman hovering excitedly, uncertainly on the first rung of the career ladder.

He was an ugly old man (they usually are, aren’t they?), in his late 50s, with a huge pot belly, red, flaky skin and tiny snake-like eyes. He had an even uglier wife, (they usually do, don’t they?) enormous with a moon face and rotten smoker’s teeth.

I respected him a lot for his knowledge and was eternally grateful to him for giving me my first break in journalism. I wanted so much to please him.

It was after an office party one night.  He insisted on driving me to a pub where we would all meet up for a nightcap.

My subconscious flashed red alert signals, but I ignored them. He was my boss and my ticket to the only career that ever interested me.

Five minutes into the ride, a fat little hand with podgy sausage fingers and nearly transparent skin landed on my thigh. I froze.

He just kept talking as if nothing had happened. I moved away, his hand moved higher.

I did nothing…

By the time we got the pub, he was all over me – in front of all the staff members and his wife. Nobody said anything. He was literally pawing me like a big bear, laughing merrily all the time, while I sat motionless, tears stinging behind my eyes and bile rising in my throat.

The next day I went into the office, shaking uncontrollably. He pretended nothing had happened. I sat staring at my blank computer screen, unable to type a single word.  Every time I looked at him, I flushed, remembering his sickening sweet smell and sweaty hands on my legs. I knew I would never respect him again and I was devastated.

After a few days, I told my dad, an accomplished businessman, who instructed me to confront him.  It was the scariest thing I ever did.

I told him that if he’d ever touch me again, I would go straight to the police.

He exploded with rage, his face turning blood red and he shouted at the top of his voice so that everyone in the office could hear: “You think you’re God’s gift to men. I’ve never touched you and I would never want to touch you.”

It was terrifying, but even as he said it, I could feel the emotional distress of the days since the incident dissolving, the shift of power. I was in control. This would never happen again.

From that day on his behaviour towards me changed, as did his wife’s. They became businesslike, hostile, but very careful around me. He never touched me again.

Of course, I knew this would be the end of our working relationship, but there was no way I could have stayed there any way.

Eventually, after a few weeks, I found another job and left with a glowing reference. I bumped into him a few times after that – and every time he treated me professionally, with respect.

As pointed out by many women in the past few days, these type of incidents, which are sadly very common and typical of a certain generation of older men, are not about sex but about power.

The only way to deal with them is confrontation.

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