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The Drayton is our nearest pub. And now it is an hotel again. But don’t let that fool you. This is still a classic London boozer. One of those huge cavernous ones, with various rooms fulfilling various functions. And a great party room cum theatre (yes really) downstairs.

But the other Friday night we went to it as a pub, meeting friends and their friends for a drink and bite to eat. I have to declare an interest here. I love pubs. Always have. From the days of sitting outside in the car as a small child and being brought ginger beer and a packet of crisps, through the progression to being allowed in the back room aged 10 or so, on to the first visits as a paying customer for my lager and lime or vodka and lime starting at about 12 or 13. That’s life in the country for you. There was no ID-ing in those days apart from if the landlord knew you, so you had to choose pubs where the staff wouldn’t be put in an awkward position by knowing you were well underage. For me, my first proper pub drinks were in Clun, a neighbouring village where nobody knew me at all, but they had dances on a Friday night. I’d already been drinking at Llanfair at the Everest Hall dances where there was a bar that would serve you.

And of course there is no night bus or taxi to ferry you home from these far flung villages. Sometimes I would lie and say I had a lift organised to bring me home and take dangerous rides in cars with lads who were probably over the limit. Sometimes we would hitch hike or walk the seven miles home. Sometimes Dad would come and get us. He too would often be over the limit. I remember one night coming back from Llanfair (which was only about 4 miles away) and we must have pre-arranged it as there was no phone box in Llanfair that I remember and no mobile phones of course. About six of us squeezed in to the car, all fairly wrecked aged about 14, plus my sister and her friend. My father was tearing round these tiny lanes that he knew well. It was a perfectly clear night but he had the wipers on. My sister’s friend asked him why. “Jussht in case it rains,” he replied.

As soon as I was old enough I started working in bars, following my sister’s footsteps in to every job she left at home. Then up in London as a student, it was one of my favourite jobs (apart from the incident I blogged about here  http://wp.me/p2kjYh-c5 ) and I have continued to love them. They are egalitarian, unassuming, easy and engender community. Obviously some I like more than others, but the classic boozer like the Drayton works for me.

So we turned up after work on Friday and started drinking. There were no tables left big enough for the the nine of us so some of us sat at a high table whilst some stood. We chatted and drank. And drank and chatted. The place was busy busy, but not so that you couldn’t move or get to the bar. And we had food which was hit and miss – bangers and mash, ham egg and chips, fish and chips all OK standard pub fare. Pork belly rubbery , nachos enormous and overgenerous toppings.

But what did for us the most was the fact boozers don’t shut at 11 pm any more. So we kept on drinking until we were thrown out at twenty past one. A quiet drink with friends had inadvertently become a major session. Gotta love it.

It’s a call dreaded by virtually every doctor I know. You don’t have any equipment, drugs,or  facilities and you are expected to work miracles. And risk being sued. But it has happened to me a number of times – and also I have come upon the scene of an accident or  sudden illness that I  can’t simply ignore.

One of the first times it happened to me I was a junior doctor returning to North Yorkshire on a Sunday evening after a very heavy weekend of partying. I was feeling rough. Very rough and decided to sit in the buffet car and nurse myself back to health with cans of lager and a packet of Rothman’s. Last night’s make up was still clinging on to my face, with the kohl eyeliner now panda-esque in its smudged state. It was the early Eighties and there was an all-female group at the time called the Belle Stars. They wore black hats which I was copying and had one not unlike a traditional Welsh hat but it also had two large scarf-like bits that you could tie around your neck. Like a  big bonnet really.

I was sharing a table sitting opposite a couple. I wasn’t talking to them or making eye contact. Just nursing my beer with my eyes closed and chain smoking. Those were the days when you could smoke on trains – another good reason to be in the buffet car.

And then the call came through. “Is there a doctor on the train?” I didn’t flicker. Didn’t respond. For God’s sake this was a huge Inter City Express. There were hundreds of passengers. There must be another doctor amongst them. I was in no fit state to see anyone.  The call was repeated. I still didn’t move. “Please, this is an emergency. Can a doctor make their way to the guard’s van towards the rear of the train”. Everyone started talking about what could have happened. The tannoy voice got more desperate. “Please, this is an emergency. Can any doctor make themselves known to a member of staff.”

I realised I was going to have to do something. I stood up. Put my beer down, stubbed out my cigarette and asked the couple opposite to look after my case for me . The sharp intake of incredulous breath was not only audible but palpable. “You’re a DOCTOR?” the woman opposite screeched. I nodded. Unable to articulate. All eyes in the buffet car were on me. As I started walking unsteadily towards the Guard’s van I heard a fellow buffet-car wag say “I don’t fancy his chances much” and the whole place erupted in to laughter. I hadn’t even got the wit or strength to tell them I didn’t either, but plodded on.

What surprised me at the time was when I rolled up to the Guard’s van and found the patient (a woman who thought she was having a heart attack) she didn’t have an issue with how I looked, how I smelt of beer and fags, how she had no real way of knowing if I was a real doctor,  she was just grateful to have someone to take her seriously and get the train to stop to have her transported to A and E.

I returned to the buffet car after the train had made its unscheduled stop and offloaded her and got a round of applause and free beers all the way back to Northallerton. Four cans of Carlsberg –  that’s what I call a perk of the trade.

One of the things I like about having a celebration to mark an occasion is the opportunity for people to say something. To publically appreciate the person or persons who are being feted. Too often it is left until funeral eulogies to tell someone what an impact they have had and how much you appreciate them. In Wales it is the norm for random people to stand up and speak at weddings , not just the bride’s father and best man, and similarly at funerals there are often numerous bon mots and toasts to the dear departed. And I would like more of that in life. So here is the Ode I wrote for my husband, it was not the main event – that was left to our son. This was just giving the audinece the background to the man before them 🙂

Ode on the Occasion of Richard’s 50th

And so the time has come at last
For me to talk of Richard's life
First his thirty fairly wasted years
Until he met his wife

So Richard Francis Clarke was born
And much to Mum's dismay
He arrived way past his given date
Of great St Patrick's Day

For years he hardly spoke at all,
Needing therapy to speak
But now there are the times indeed
We've wished his tongue more weak

His mother she was bright as pie
A whizz at mental maths
At 14 straight in service
And no exams to pass

His father, who I hardly met,
Was a jockey and worked quarries
Teaching Laurence Olivier how to ride
Then driving Rich in lorries

An altar boy, an athlete
A cricketer as well,
Academeic and a rugby star
He always did excel.

So off to Bradford where he met,
Some friends who'd change his life
A girl he lived with for ten years
And a man who found his wife

And Bradford was a riot.
As president, Biol Soc,
And organising lots of bands
Drugs, sex, n, roll, n rock

And so to research scientist
He continued student years
Writing crosswords, quizzes, horoscopes
And knocking back the beers

His easy Hampstead life was based
Mostly in The Flask,
Would Richard like to go for lunch?
You didn't have to ask

Meantime of course he had met me
His best mate's girl stroke wife
And as a foursome we did have
A full-on party life

Without going in to details, 
The pairings tore apart
We split from our respective halves
And you stole away my heart

Amidst all of this kerfuffle,
You came to live with me
You lodger in my London house - 
Miss Jones to my Rigby

You change careers and start to train
Just as we move to Ealing
We're married, broke and pregnant
Oh what a lovely feeling!

And then he starts to meet you all
Who are all gifts beyond compare
As life without true friendship
Would surely be despair

He is always keen to socialise
He is loyal, he is sage
He's a real attention-seeker
Who doesn't act his age

Today's a celebration
To say we love you and well done
And so to make the toast I pass
You over to our son...

Management behaviours I like

November 22, 2012

My blog is full of rants. Things that annoy me, things I think are pointless and perhaps that’s partly because it is easy to critcise but also part of the reason I do this blog is to get stuff off my chest. But today someone suggested on my “crap managers” post that actually I try to write about managers I like. So I will.  And I have seen lots and lots of good managers along the way. For me it’s a bit like always remembering the great teacher that inspired you – great managers are the same.

So herewith I give you

My Top Ten Manager Behaviours I like

  1. Confidence. Not arrogance, but the display of a confident leader inspires me. Doesn’t have to be big bold and brassy, can be quiet and self assured. But it needs to be there
  2. Vision. I like the manager to know where he or she is trying to get to – whatever obstacles get put in the way.
  3. Clarity of thought. relates to 2 above –  they need to be able to express clearly what they want and not change their mind every two seconds.
  4. Visibility. Invisible managers – be it off site, at meetings or locked away in their offices are basically abdicating their responsibility. Those who are around, on the office floor, talking to their reports get a real feel of what the issues are, how things are going, how people are feeling and allows people to access them in an informal way. It’s not as  big a deal to make a suggestion when you are used to seeing your boss on a daily basis.
  5. Listening and actively seeking reports’ views. Listening to people who volunteer suggestions and ideas is great, but the managers I  really admire are the ones who also manage to get the quiet, reserved, introverts to tell them how they see how the business could improve.
  6. Being concerned about their reports. Not in a maternal wipe your nose kind of way, but to know what is going on in their lives and how that may impact them.
  7. Understanding the difference between being respected and being liked by their reports. I like managers who are not after winning the popularity contest at all costs, but do want to do a great job and be recognised for that. Thus they focus on the results and getting the best out of everybody rather than trying to make sure everyone likes them.
  8. Responsiveness. Managers who are good at giving both positive and negative feedback (in a timely manner)  help clarify exactly what is required and I think makes everyone more comfortable that they know what they are meant to be doing.
  9. Knowing their reports. Taking time to understand what works for some does not work for all and that’s OK. And therefore being able to manage different people differently. And similarly knowing what each of their reports is actually doing –  who is working hard, who is inefficient, who has a tendency to be lazy, who never volunteers….
  10. Developing their reports. Managers who want all their reports to excel are inspiring. Helping them to develop their potential even though they know it means they will move on.
  11. Being  prepared to do the difficult stuff – telling someone they aren’t pulling their weight can never be easy but it has to be done as otherwise people feel others are getting away with doing poor work which can be very demotivating.
  12. Being prepared to roll their sleeves up and muck in when neccessary.
  13. Not micro managing –  being prepared to trust and support their reports to deliver without continual interference.
  14. Giving credit where credit is due.  This is not always as obvious as it sounds as quite often a middle manager will have presented something as their own work whereas in fact it may have had large input from others. The truly great manager will see through that and be able to recognise the real contributors.
  15. Team building. Great managers work out how best to build their teams and take the time to recognise efforts/achievements in a way that resonates with their team. (A day’s paintballing is not everyone’s idea of morale boosting)
  16. Managers who take no shit. Those who defend their team or department from unfair external criticism
  17. Managers who take the hit. Those who do not immediately point the finger at the underling who got the figures wrong and is able to stand up and say ‘Sorry, I got this one wrong.’

Crap managers

November 19, 2012

Being a freelancer affords me the luxury of being my own boss and spending time in lots of different workplaces with lots of different people. I don’t have bosses, they are my clients. It is not a master-servant relationship, but one of equals (even if they don’t think so!). And it allows me a perfect view of lots and lots of different workplace behaviours.

And sometimes one sees what one imagines is a great person to work for –  or at least I would find them great. No doubt my perfect manager is not neccessarily the same as yours. But the truly perfect would be able to manage both of us well.

Luckily for me and everyone else, I don’t have to manage anyone – which is just as well as I like very light-touch management. I had one client to whom I had been consulting for years. Literally. On and off, different projects, different teams, different issues. All going swimmingly based on my appearing one day a week and clearing a desk full of work.

And then a new manager was appointed and wanted me to spend at least one of my eight hours every week talking to her about how much work I was getting, was there too much, how was I feeling about it, would I like more communication……………. One hour as a one-off perhaps, but every week? One hour where I couldn’t actually do the job they were paying me for so it would pile up and I would be unable to complete it in the remaining seven hours so then people would be pissed off (not surprisingly) and so then the manager suggested I expand the time I spend with them to take in another day as there was obviously too much work…..   Which there hadn’t been until she took an hour off me every week.  Obviously for me that’s very nice – another day’s work thank you very much, but it’s so wasteful, so inefficient it drives me bonkers and I don’t want to be party to it. Plus (and probably more improtantly for me)  I couldn’t bear ‘reporting’ to her.

So I give you my

Top Ten Manager Behaviours That Annoy the Hell out of me

  1. People who simply talk in corporate speak jargon-shite so that no one actually understands what they are trying to say. Including themselves.
  2. Managers who are too busy to manage. They spend all their time getting their very important job done and leave no time in their diaries to actually manage the people they are paid to guide.
  3. Managers who don’t really know what they want. They often know what they don’t want when they see it (see 4)
  4. Managers who only ever crticise. Managers who never give direction on how they want a piece of work done all too often criticise the resulting output as it wasn’t what they had in mind. How the hell was the underling supposed to know what was in the mind of someone who doesn’t explain what they want? Is mind reading a core-competency now?
  5. Managers who never praise. I don’t buy this “I expect people to do the job they are paid for so why on earth should they get praised for it?” as everyone, no matter how confident, experienced, self assured or senior, needs praise. And even if they don’t, it’s still nice to hear.  And improves morale
  6. Managers who micro manage. They get so involved in the job they have allegedly delegated that it would be quicker and less painful for them to do it themselves. What is the point of delegating if you are not going to trust the person to get on and do the job? How are they ever going to learn how to do stuff if they don’t have a go, get it wrong, correct it and learn from there?
  7. Managers who set unrealistic deadlines and are on your case from the moment they set them. Get off my fucking case and give me space to actually do the job!
  8. Managers who pass other people’s work off as their own, or take the best ideas and present them. What the fuck is wrong with them? Can they not see it makes them look weak, insecure and petty? That if they gave credit to the apporpriate team member then in fact this would reflect well on them for managing a team that comes up with great ideas and being big enough NOT to try to hog the limelight?
  9. Managers who don’t deal with a lazyarse colleague. No one likes passengers in their team and if everyone is working their butts off, the last thing you want is to know that someone else is getting the same pay for doing fuck all and no one is doing anything about it.
  10. Managers who enjoy humiliating others. I’m not sure if they think this will make everyone respoect them or simply engender a culture of fear, or maybe they think it is funny. But whatever it is I see it as inappropriate and a form of bullying.
  11. Managers who never admit they are wrong.
  12. Managers who have obvious favourites. Teams are comprised of very different people, but often managers only appear to really like those who are replicas of how they see themselves. They give them the high profile jobs and the chances to be seen within the business, No chance for geek nerd-fests to shine…………
  13. Managers who fall for the pathetic ‘I’m so busys busy busy’ crap put out by those who have enough time to whine whilst those who are ploughing through shedloads of work just suck it up and get on with it.
  14. Managers who constantly move the goalposts or change their minds (see poinst 3 and 4)
  15. Managers who do not support and defend their team when criticised by others. You built the fucking team, you allegedly set the ground rules (and if you didn’t, what the hell were you doing), you should have been managing the work so you are responsible. Don’t take the improved pay and prestige if you can’t take the responsibility for what your team deliver. If they are not up to scratch the buck rests with you.

I’ve been working hard recently – all good stuff and self-inflicted so am not looking for sympathy –  but it meant I was completely knackered before I went out the other night. I’d been working at home and should have had plenty of time to change and glam up but I was sucked in to a wormhole that is writing a powerpoint presentation and suddenly I need to call a cab and get the hell out of there! Slapped on the lippy and eyeliner, squirted the Pomegranite Noir, popped on some jewellery and I was off. A huge fuck-off minibus came to take me. Our local cab firm know us so I have a bit of banter with the driver and he drops me off.

And the evening begins before I am even inside the door as two of our party are parked outside with a glass of red and a ciggie on the go. Two glamorous women who make me wish I had made more of an effort  – thier coiffed and shiny hair, their high heels and their painted nails. (Actually I was OK about the last one – my shellacs were still pristine shiny). We move in and are seated at a lovely round table where the six of us are able to have one conversation altogether. It can be so disappointing sometimes when tables are so huge you can’t all share the same joke at the same time. Champagne arrived and kept coming, then the still wine just didn’t stop. Not to mention the complementary water Cote do love themselves for. Pate and steak frites barely touched the sides but this evening was mostly about the chatting rather than the chewing. Conversations ranged from Skyfall to schooldays, children to jewellery  and a fair time on the disappearance of pubic hair.

A divergence of views around the table on the acceptability, attractiveness and appropriateness of having a fluff-free fanny. Was it slightly perverted and paedophilic of men to like it? Was it just female choice? Was it fashion? Was it religion? I know from those still in the trade of seeing fannies on a daily basis for the NHS that it is far more common nowadays to have a bald bush. Why? Probably not just ethnic diversity, but following the trend of the porn stars who have had Barbie-like bits for thirty years. Presumably for a better close-up. Plus there’s proababy subliminal messaging in the Gillette adverts – the best a man can get………….

We were last to leave – the staff sitting patiently at a table waiting for us – and most of us made our way home. But apparently two popped in to the wine bar next door for another hour till throwing out time at 2. Respect ladies! I was face down in a coma in my bed by then!

Our bid to support local businesses rather than always opt for up town or Chiswick took us to the North Star last night. A dive of a pub when we moved to Ealing, but now a thriving busy boozer with good pub grub. I had the sense to ring and book a table in advance and just as well I did as even on this Tuesday in November all tables were occupied. And it’s a big old pub. Right in the centre of Ealing Broadway. Fairy lights ago-go with old style pub tables and chairs; nothing fancy, just solid.

I ordered the drinks at the bar, opting for wine for myself. ‘How many glasses?’ he said as he passed me the bottle . I felt unable to tell him the truth so asked for two. 🙂

We were marking the moving out of home of our son. Obviously he’s done it before (as a student), but this time it’s as a working man so should be final. All things being equal. He’s found a great house in Acton – lots of space and good sized rooms and last night we ferried over some more furniture and clothes and then went for the meal.

Tasty deep fried black pudding as a sharing starter, plus squid, chicken tempura and pulled pork sliders. All good that I tried. My main course  burger was actually excellent. French fries the standard stringy jobs whereas hubby had big ones with his fish n chips and he said they were great. Daughter’s fishcakes good, but the potato wedges disappointing. Salted caramel tart was more cheesecake than tart and did not have clotted cream as promised, but the brownie and crumble looked good and portions generous.

All in all a good pub experience,  food more hits than misses and I wouldn’t be unhappy if someone suggested we go back.

PS I may have drunk even more than I realised. We walked up to the taxi rank and hopped in a black cab. I was the last to get in and shut the door behind me. On my coat. And then was unable to actually sit in the seat or move as the cabbie had locked the doors and set off. Had to remove my coat to sit down. Awkward.

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