Monthly Archives: May 2019

Be brave at work and take a break

Phil: A couple of weeks ago, Candice wrote about being brave and how her taking a big leap eventually lead to the two of us writing books.

She wasn’t alone in taking a leap like this. Back in 2008, I discovered that I was to gain a new layer of management above me. Quite why this was was a bit of a mystery as the role seemed to be covered by someone higher up the food chain, but I applied for the job and as expected, failed to land it.

In the run-up, I had decided that if I didn’t get it, I wasn’t going to hang around. To be honest, I knew the guy running our department didn’t like me much and I wasn’t doing a very good job at handling this. There is a skill to managing your boss and it’s one I’m pretty hopeless at. My tongue is freer of bite marks than it should be!

Anyway, I decided that I would blow my savings on a “gap year”. We’ve mentioned in the past that I’m rubbish at taking holiday so I felt I was owed some big time and if I wasn’t at work, I felt I could take it. People said I was being brave taking a leap into the unknown, but I had a little confidence, although not as much as I claimed.

Sadly, 8 weeks after I left, the economy fell apart. I decided to bin the holiday idea and try to get back into work.

Now, unlike my friend, I don’t just walk into jobs. I hate the application process as much as I hated revising for exams – presumably why I have rubbish qualifications and once managed to apply for 60 jobs in a year and only get 3 interviews. I did manage to secure a couple of contracts looking after websites and it was at one of these that I met La Nolan. I remember starting and hearing about the mystical “Candice” for a week before she showed up after a holiday. Quite how we ended up chatting I don’t remember, but I’m very glad we did. So, our writing partnership is due to both of us being brave in our careers.

It’s Metal Health Awareness Week at the moment and the news is full of people telling others that they need to talk. With so much of our lives tied up with work, it’s here where the biggest problems can be found. I “escaped” a situation I felt was toxic. It wasn’t easy, and had my personal circumstances been different, might have been impossible. As it was it worked out OK.

Since then, I’ve had to jump again – although this time it was easier. Having a “manager” screaming and swearing at you because she’s been doing something she shouldn’t have been and you’ve risked exposing it makes the jump out of a part-time job a no-brainer. I can’t say there isn’t another leap in my future either.

Those suggesting ways people can help themselves in this situation will bang on about “mindfulness” – basically taking yourself out of your metal situation for a while to allow your brain to relax. This usually involves some chanting or meditation. I prefer to lose myself in my imagination.

Read a book that you enjoy – it doesn’t have to be good, just a page-turner.

Write a book. This doesn’t have to be good either, just somewhere for you to lose yourself devising a story. Both Candice and I have found this useful. Heck, we don’t even have to actually write, just the planning process where we bash ideas around is a joy and definitely a break from “proper” work.

Think of it as mentally freewheeling on a bicycle down a hill compared to puffing along up a hill. The wind is in your hair and you just enjoy the ride for a few precious minutes, recovering your energy for the next stuggle.

 

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One Enchanted Evening

Phil: It’s been mentioned on this blog more than once that celebrity authors wind me up.

I don’t mean authors who are famous for writing, but famous people who suddenly decide to put out a book. The publishers know that all it takes is said famous moniker in embossed letters across the cover and sales will be a dead cert. Even if the “name” doesn’t sell the book on its own, they will be an easy booking for chat shows and into Sunday supplements in the newspapers.

A deal is done, handsome advance paid and off they go.

If you think this is because I am jealous, you’d be dead right. It’s almost arguable that the only way to get a bestseller out nowadays is to be famous for something else and then develop a sideline in writing. Or get someone else to develop it for you.

So, how did I feel when I saw this book from Strictly Come Dancing prancer Anton du Beke hit my reading pile via my Mum and Sainsburys?

I mean come on, he’s the dancer with “personality”. The one normally lumbered with the joke contestant. He did a show about jumping through polystyrene walls.

All of which meant I came to the book willow expectations. To be honest, I was hoping for a “so bad it’s good” moment.

Annoyingly, it’s actually (grits teeth) not bad. Quite readable in fact.

OK, the plot revolves around the Grand Ballroom of the Buckingham hotel in London. The main character is the lead show dancer. You aren’t going to be surprised by this.

But, it’s 1936. The drums of war are starting to play. Oswald Mosely and the Mitford sisters are on the scene. Plenty of people quite like that nice Mr Hitler over in Germany, not least the King and Mrs Simpson. It was the era when Viscount Rothermere was happy to write his infamous piece with the headline “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” in both the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. There are riots in the East End where the police stand by as fascists try to force out the Jewish population.

The Buckingham is in the middle of this with many of the Nazi-fetishising upper classes meeting there.

It’s also a world of two halves – upstairs and downstairs. Dancer Raymond de Guise straddles both worlds. He comes from one, but has to fit into the other.

This is not the sort of topic you’d expect from the author. Yes, the glitz and dance stuff (he does bang on about this a bit) but the gritty bits? That was a surprise.

It’s a fat book but an involving read. Getting going through the first couple of chapters took effort but once you are, this is a page-turner. In the sense of a good, entertaining read.

The only problem – I’m sure Mr de Guise is supposed to be not unlike Mr du Beke. But the moment I read about his curly, black hair, every time he popped into my mind, all I could see was the man from the Go Compare advert and I’m sure that wasn’t supposed to happen!

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Dealing with Change

Change?

Candice: Phil and I have both been dealing with change recently.

We’ve had upheaval in our work environments which means we are trying to find out what the new norm is.   I’m commuting to a new role which means I have had to work out the new logistics of child drop off and pick up as well as how to get to work.  This even involves what shoes to wear as it is a 15-minute walk from the railway station to my office.

It’s been mental fun, as I work out where is the best place to park in the morning, what train pass I need, when to buy my pass, etc. down to how I am now going to fit in going to the gym my number of required times in the week as I don’t get home until past 6pm.  That time is fine in theory, but going straight to the gym means I miss seeing my daughter in the evening, something I don’t want to do every night.

I’m now a month in and still haven’t got it right.  Things like the fact you can’t get a parking space at my local station after 8am are causing an issue, as well as discovering that a snarl up in the town centre means an earlier train still just about gets me to school in time for pick up.  Sometimes I have to say the whole thing is melting my brain.

I’ll get there eventually, but this is the reason that people don’t change jobs, especially when they become parents, the logistics are too much to deal with.

My daughter is not a big fan of change either.  She’s not been happy about the fact I can no longer drop her off at class or pick her up early.  And this morning we’ve had tears as we’ve signed her up to tennis lessons this term, and she was adamant she doesn’t want to go.

What I do know is that she will be fine.  Every time we suggest something different she gets upset, and most of the time she comes back all smiles after a day at the holiday club or swimming lessons saying it was great.  It’s just getting over the fear of something new.  I understand as I feel the same.  I do like change, but I also know that I find it challenging, but putting myself through this widens my opportunities and makes me try new things.

Many years ago I sat an airport waiting to fly to America for the summer, to work in a summer camp, worried about what I had signed up for.  It was the best thing I ever did.  I left my job to do it and wasn’t even sure how I’d get on working with kids (I’m not a big fan) but I loved every minute and had experiences I still think about now.  And I walked straight back into a job when I came back.  This is has set me up for doing similar things over the years, I’ve been to Australia and New Zealand on my own, and loved every minute.

With change comes new opportunities and we have to embrace them.  If I hadn’t changed jobs eight years ago, I wouldn’t have met my writing partner.  If I’d hadn’t opened my mouth and started chatting to him I wouldn’t have been two books down and one more in the pipeline (though frustratingly not any further along at present, that’s another blog post).

Go on, give it a go.

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