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Out to lunch

February 26, 2013

Before it got too messy to photograph....

Before it got too messy to photograph….

I don’t have shares in the Duke of Kent, but perhaps I should as we were there again on Sunday. And once more we were meeting friends for Sunday lunch. Oh how innocent that sounds.
We were an advance party celebrating a birthday and started off with a few drinks in the bar, just to settle the stomach and awaken the tastebuds. My French chardonnays slipped down a treat. Hubby was on Pride and the drinking arm soon relaxed in to action.
We moved through to the dining room to eat, but changed tables as there was a cold draught (not of the Guinness variety) and we wanted to be comfortable. The pub had no problems seating us elsewhere and the willing, friendly service kept those drinks coming. We all had roasts bar one who had Lancashire hot pot and red cabbage, both served in miniature pans and looked like doll’s food.
There seemed no reluctance to eat up and non stop conversation ranging from tattoos – I don’t like them but they don’t put me off David Beckham, but I couldn’t persuade our friends that they might be acceptable in any circumstance. It is great to be able to disagree completely and have a fanstastic time. To Jeremy Clarkson – I couldn’t be persuaded he is ever acceptable under any circumstance – to families and holidays and children and jobs. And anything and everything. And stuff I can’t remember but was fun at the time. But the red wine flowed. And flowed.
And puddings came and went (mistake to have the jam roly poly – I’d forgotten my sister had had it before and thought it leaden. She was right. But the caramel ice cream was yum!)
And lunchtime moved in to evening and it was 9 oclock. What?? Where did that time go? No fear, let’s have a couple of cheeseboards to finish off the red wine. Oh, the red wine’s already finished. Better buy some more then. And so we did.
We rolled out at about 11 ish in to the fresh air.
We were replete. Full of food, wine, love and laughter.
That’s what I call a proper Sunday lunch. All nine hours of it.

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Richard Hawley at the Troxy

February 25, 2013

Holy fuck how far away is the East End of London?? I used to work in Whitechapel and Mile End and never realised quite how far west I have now come.  And of course “central London” is really the “West End” so on our side of the tracks. Anyway, I volunteered to drive (shock horror!) becuase actually am not that bothered about drinking lager out of plastic cups at gigs. Husband actually did the driving, but as I’d offered it counts in the ongoing battle. 🙂

We arrived at Tilbury (haha – it just felt that long a drive). No, the Troxy is a great venue way on down the Commercial Road.  1930s Art Deco cinema meets Mecca Bingo. Think a posh Brixton Academy with swirly (but surprisingly unsticky) carpets. We were seeing Richard Hawley. Again. We saw him on this tour in October and I’d not enjoyed it anywhere near as much as when we’d seen him before. So I was not exactly pumped for it.

The crowd were not as communicative as in Brixton, so there was only one episode where he called someone a cunt. And in fact he did much less talking than he had done in Brixton, which was a shame as I found him very funny. But on the plus side there seemed fewer of the long long guitar riffs that make men bob their heads like chickens as they get lost in them. And his voice is absolutely fantastic. Think Johnny Cash meets Andy Williams meets Frank Sinatra. But with a Sheffield accent. So rich. So clear. And the whole sound of the band is wonderful. Really worth seeing live. But if you get the option, go for a really small venue and when he’s playing his older stuff – they’re the ones that really do it for me.

Three and a half stars.

I am not normally a fan of audience participation – after all I’ve paid my money to be entertained not do the entertaining –  but in this case it was the best part of the play. It attempts to tell the story of the financial crisis using two ex hedge fund managers who now run a gameshow and we, the audience are the two competing teams.

Ten thousand pounds in one pound coins lies in a surprisingly small heap on the stage and we bet bucketloads of it on whether our team player will blow up a balloon bigger than their team player. Kind of stuff. And it is entertaining and the two hosts are good in their over the top roles. But somehow there is little real story to engage with through it. No real feeling of the personal losses rather than the corporate although they were mentioned. We knew one came from poverty and was ruthlessly logical and calculated the odds and the other an upper class gal who liked to play on instinct, we never really cared about them.

But perhaps we weren’t meant to. It wasn’t a play designed to show us the human side of hedge fund management, I think  it was showing us that believing in The Markets requires the same leap of faith as believing in God. Three stars.

Pollen Street Social

February 23, 2013

Our anniversary dinner is at this Jason Atherton restaurant, just off Regent Street.  Got there down this tiny little alleyway and was met by a lovely vibrant receptionist who wished me happy anniversary. Husband had already ordered the champagne and was scoffing the mixed nuts. The decor is fairly muted, simple with long lines and lovely lighting.
The clientele are all post-work. The vibe is more linkedin than facebook. Lots of talking, not so much head back laughing. No colour – everyone in black, white or shades of grey. Median age 35. No one concerned at the high prices.
The tables are very close together and it is impossible not to catch chunks of next door’s conversations. but I have two wonderful blue eyes to stare in to so am distracted. The starters are tricky for me – all fish except one that is deer so I opt for the vegetarian ‘Full English breakfast’. It is a puree of tomato and mushroom with tiny fried bread croutons and a beautiful egg.

I then go for the fillet steak with salsify and a smoked garlic mash. The steak is perfect but overpowered by the smokiness of the mash, and the salsify doesn’t have enough oomph to cut through. Bonemarrow is tasty tasty. Too full for puddings I opt for coffee and we still get given divine mini almond and rhubarb cakes and a plethora of macaroons and chocolates. I slightly regret not ordering pudding.
Our waiter was nice enough, but didn’t have that extra interaction that makes service great rather than good, and the whole place perhaps technically getting things right, but just not pressing my buttons fully and so I find myself giving it only 3 stars.

But my husband still gets full marks x

The paralysis of empowerment

February 22, 2013

Companies talk of ’empowering’ their employees to make decisions and my definition here was   “Empowerment : the futile delegation of meaningless decision making by a boss to try to make you feel more important.”  Which is certainly something I see.

But recently I have come to see another side of empowerment. When companies really believe they want to put the power back at the sharp end, closer to the customer.  They truly believe their own empowerment mantra and want their underlings to deliver it.

So what do they do?

They roll out a raft of new policies, processes, frameworks, decision trees, codes of conduct, ways of working for everyone to follow when they have to make that all important empowered decision.

What this means in practice is that people are deluged with training requirements and things that once seemed intuitive are taken to new depths of doublechecking and overthinking. People start to doubt their own ability to make any decision at all lest they be caught out contravening some “Guiding principle”. The mountains of meetings, presentations and documentation rolling out this empowerment are littered with “Red Flags” , “Ones to watch out for”, “Mistakes not to make”. Everything is about what you can’t do, not about what you can. This is not empowering for most people. It is paralysing.

Those empowered in this way eventually stop thinking for themselves altogether. They find a path that is acceptable in this brave new world and simply follow that. They know this route will not get them in to trouble, even if it doesn’t get them anywhere exciting,  innovative or rewarding.  The process of “empowerment by protocol” of individuals leads to a compliance with the line of least resistance by the majority.

It allows those with the inclination to say “You can’t do that” far too easily. They become the confident voices as they have the documentation to prove it – “It says here you can’t”. Whereas the creative lateral thinker doesn’t have access to a document from on high saying his or her approach is acceptable, because no one else has thought of it yet. And unfortunately,  in this increasingly risk-averse world, the Safety First approach often wins.  Leaving the company stagnating, making no challenging decisions, showing no leadership in creating a new environment or ways of working and bringing no disruptive forces to shake up the status quo.

Real empowerment comes not from being told you are empowered and this is how to do it, it comes from having knowledge and real understanding of what you want to do and the environment you operate in, and being supported to try to get there.

Oh, that sounds a bit like having experience doesn’t it? And that’s something that can’t simply be learnt from a decision-making manual or devolved from on high.
That’s something you actually have to do for yourself.

Our wedding

Our wedding

I can hardly believe it. Today husband and I have been married 25 years. Who’d’ve thought it? It sounds so long. It’s a duration our parents celebrate, not young hipsters like us.
Silver Wedding Anniversary has such an aged ring to it……
Obviously it was a February wedding. By neccessity. I was pregnant and this was exactly three weeks after my decree absolute for my divorce came through, giving us the minimum statutory requirement to read the banns. Well, post them at the Registry Office.
I wore the shittest dress. Brown and black. I was about 5 months pregnant and I think thought I’d be bigger than I was so got a mega maternity number. No bridesmaids but we had a witness each to sign the register. My parents crashed the car on the way so were fairly shaken up as I think Dad had knocked someone off a bicycle. I can’t remember the details, but Mum had made the cake and it had slid off the back seat in the ensuing melee.
So we started off in the wrong order, having very little time to ourselves as a couple before baby number one arrived. Then two. Then a bit of a gap and three. But now of course we are having that time on our own as the children grow up and leave home.

I could give you all that lovey dovey guff about communication being the most important aspect of keeping a relationship together; telling your partner how much you love them every day, giving and taking, complimenting each other, making one night a week a special ‘us time’…. but I don’t hang with all that shit.
So here are my

Top Ten Tips for Staying Married

  1. Marry the right person. I tried the wrong person once and it didn’t last 🙂
  2. Do things that make you happy. If you are not happy yourself, you can’t make anyone else happy because you are being a miserable cow.
  3. Don’t take it personally when I tell you to fuck off. I don’t mean it literally I just want to say it.
  4. Don’t expect perfection. From your spouse or yourself.
  5. Focus on the positive. It is easy to be dragged down by your spouse being an annoying cunt, But wait! Try to remember why you got married in the first place (oh yes, I was pregnant), ok then why you got together in the first place (oh yes, he is so clever and funny and thoughtful and…)
  6. Don’t be a fucking martyr . If you don’t like something, spit it out and sort it out.
  7. Don’t compromise. Compromise means no one is happy. There is no point both of you disagreeing with the final decision so one of you has to give in.
  8. Don’t entertain an argument when one (or both) of you is pissed or knackered. It will go on and on, be much worse than it needs to be and everyone will feel shit in the morning. Whoever is the most sober or tired just hike off to bed.
  9. Realise that your work persona and your home persona may be different. Screaming “I don’t get this kind of shit at work” or ” No one has these kind of problems with me except you!” doesn’t lay the blame fairly and squarely with your spouse. Your work colleagues are not fucking married to you and don’t necessarily get to see quite the same side of you.
  10. Keep friends outside the marriage. In both senses. They can be a fantastic safety net to let off steam, be supportive or simply an alternative to looking at your spouse’s miserable fucking face when times are tough 🙂 But don’t let them steer your thinking on how a marraige should work. Their marriages are not the same as yours.
  11. Have a lot of sex (only with each other though).
  12. Remember that the grass may be greener on the other side, but that’s because it’s Astroturf. Real grass does have holes, and moss and need mowing every week. But it’s your children’s backyard and no other patch of grass is.
  13. Stick it out. Even when the going gets tough.

The real reason we are together 25 years on is that neither of us walked. Even when we could have.

Happy Anniversary Darling! xxx

My Silver Weddding Anniversary card

My Silver Weddding Anniversary card

Make up your mind……….

February 18, 2013

I do not understand people who are not prepared to make a decision. To take responsibility. They often disguise it in terms of “stakeholder management” or “collaborative leadership”. I see it simply as ducking out. They won’t say what they think, they will always be asking for views, deferring the decision-making moment until everyone is ‘on the same page’ and they take it collectively. Or someone else makes it for them.
These people tend to be happier pointing out the faults in various suggestions rather than finding ways to support solutions. Drives me nuts.
It is obviously laudible to canvas opinion to a point. But then there comes a time to make a decision. Any decision. And go with it. Indecision is paralyising. At least a decision means progress. Even if it turns out to be in the wrong direction!

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