Sunday, 26 December 2010

Walking it off

A little walk along the canal in winter coloured weather....

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Friday, 24 December 2010

Tell them now...

Two years ago yesterday I took a day trip to Ireland, for a lunch date with my Aunt Liz. Only 12 years older than me, Liz was always like my oh-so glamorous older sister. Like all my aunts and Mammy, busy busy busy, with her business interests, her mad part-share of a race-horse and above all her family, she was one among many strong fabulous women in our huge family.

The date was tinged with sadness, we all knew that Liz would be leaving us, just a matter of when, but she was still in love with life enough to get dressed up and come out for a meal at her favourite restaurant, a not an inconsiderable quantity of wine, and an afternoon of chat and much discussion of food.

It was already twilight as we left the restaurant, and I finally got up the courage to hug her and tell her what I had come to tell her, that she was my role model, the one I aspired to be, that I loved her.

Liz fought on for nearly another full year, and I saw her twice more, but she was never again as well as she had been for that Christmas lunch date, and there was never another chance to talk to her again, and so it is that at this time of year I remember her, not as ill as she actually was but as her old self, sitting at the table talking about life and food and family.

This time of year is when we miss them most, the ones who won't be here, and that is why we mustn't wait till it's too late to tell the ones who are still here what they mean to us.

Tell them now...

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Saturday, 11 December 2010

Fashion for Geek Girls

I've always had problems dressing myself.

No, not in the sense of doing up buttons and laces, more in the sense of 'Oh this? I just threw it together Daaahling...' the last time I remember being truly happy with my outfit must have been when I sawed the legs off my flared jeans, put on a wind-cheater and ventured forth into the gloom of a July day in Dublin. I must have been all of what? Fourteen?

The thing is, I am a geek, a girl geek in a guy geek world, and finding the balance has always been challenge. I mean, I know I'm not a boy - I figured that out sometime before I sawed the legs of my jeans but in many other respects I find the concept of putting an outfit together just as baffling as a bloke

I spent 4 years as an engineering student at University College Dublin dressed in a green Duffle coat and boots. My classmates were astounded on the first occasion I appeared in a skirt - echoed by my work-mates years later when I appeared at the work Christmas 'Do' and one of them exclaimed 'Sh*t, you scrub up well!' thanks Lads ;-D

In the working world, I daily tried to figure out what the heck I should wear, and in true engineer 'fashion' came up with a formula - which boiled down to finding something I liked, going out, buying three of them, sometimes in different colours, and wearing them to, well, to death...

'Work Casual' was, quite simply a disaster for me. Up until then I could go out and buy a suit once in a while (sometimes, truthfully, second hand - cut down the choice), even if doing hands on IT support at the time meant I could be found, on occasion, underneath a desk, doing cabling in jacket, skirt, tights and (mid-height) heels. My verdict - 'if it needs to be ironed, it ain't casual'.

It started with 'dress down Friday', and then went full-time. What-a-nightmare - striking the right note between work and week-end, professional and slacker, having to express a little individuality :-O OK, so there were some rules - no jeans, no trainers (sneakers) and no T-shirts, but otherwise 'casual' Arrghhh - I reverted to type - finding something I liked, going out, buying three of...etc.

Don't get me wrong, I love nice clothes, I like to look nice, I adore Black Tie events, because then at least I know what I am aiming for. But on a day-to-day basis? Forget it. I look in awe at those who pull off looking 'together' i.e. Colour co-ordinated, accessorised, neat. Sometimes it 'happens' - by accident rather than design, and then I go out, buy three get the picture...;-)

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Thursday, 9 December 2010

I want the truth not something beautiful - lying is incompatible with childcare

Warning - language may offend..

It started with small things, implausible, minor things - denying any knowledge of something she had definitely done, strange things - 'catching her belly button piercing on railings', mimicking my back pain symptoms. Telling me stories that just didn't quite hold water.

Then it started to escalate, our new Au Pair Ruby* said she wanted to visit her aunt and I believed her, even said she could finish early for the week-end so she could get there at a reasonable hour. She got back late on the Sunday and told me they'd been to Chatsworth, weird, because it's closer to Manchester than her Aunt's.

The following week-end our lovely ex-Au Pair Ellen* was visiting from university and a Christmas Market outing and family dinner planned, including Ruby. Ellen and I were out having a coffee while the girls were at Stagecoach when we got a tearful phone call - Ruby's uncle had had a stroke and could she go? Alarm bells started to go off for me - too elaborate an explanation, for something that needed no permission. Poor Ellen swallowed it hook line and sinker.

Supposed to come back on Sunday, Ruby texted me to say all the trains were cancelled because of snow. I texted back telling her to go back to her aunt, she confirmed later that was there. Of course I checked - no, the trains weren't cancelled...Luckily I worked at home on Monday - she didn't get back until 4.30 so I had to pick the girls up. 'I was at the hospital all morning' she said. Stinking of cigarette smoke, she was wearing her hair extensions - strange, I thought, to remember your hair extensions when you're on a mercy mission...

I started to track her Facebook photos. Not my 'friend' she had befriended Ellen and that gave me access to her albums. I noticed she had recently posted a new profile photo, from Chatsworth and with it were comments from someone she had never mentioned, someone clearly not her Aunt, planning the trip at the week-end. And, Euwww, photos of her newly pierced belly button. Her twitter feed regularly said she was going back to bed - at 9am! 'because that's what I do..hehe'

Macca and I agreed we would ask her to leave at Christmas, when she went home to Canada. We said we would do it on Sunday. But then came Friday, Friday sealed her fate. She came bouncing into the kitchen as I cleaned up after dinner. 'That was my uncle, he's so much better, a bit groggy but better. You know, I think I'll go and visit him'. Fine, I said. While she 'packed' I texted Macca 'uncle made a miraculous recovery, going to Nottingham to visit him, she must think I'm a fucking moron'.

I met her in the hallway, looked her in the eye and asked her if she was lying. She denied it so, so completely - But I told her that in case she didn't come back, I wanted her keys. She gave then to me unquestioningly. texting me from the train she said 'I feel so bad That you've had any doubts about me and horrible that you can't trust me when you can 100%. I'm going to work really hard to prove you can'. She really did think I was a fucking moron..

On Sunday I called her Aunt, No she hadn't been there the previous 3 week-ends, she never turned up for the one week-end she had arranged and never gave an explanation. No, there is no uncle, Aunt is divorced.

I told her that we were sacking Ruby but we wanted to make sure she had somewhere to stay until Christmas. Aunt agreed, and contacted Ruby's mother who also called me. Both were mortified but told me I was doing the right thing, that I couldn't have someone who so routinely and blatantly lied to me looking after my kids.

Her mother said she felt so sad and at the time I did too... But then, dear reader, Ruby came back, and did not bat an eyelid to find her stuff packed up and waiting for her in the hall.

Nor did she show any emotion when we confronted her with the terrible state her bedroom and bathroom were in - she clearly spent all her time lying in bed eating sweets and dropping the wrappers on the floor, she had never taken out the rubbish, changed her bed linen or even rinsed her sink after spitting toothpaste in it. Of 10 drawers only one was occupied, everything else was ON THE FLOOR.

We told her she had to leave because she could not be relied on to tell the truth. She told us she understood, she told us she 'wouldn't take it personally' WTF? She was the one who lied...

The final straw came when she left. We made her give back the our Blackberry. Always remember your employer's tech belongs TO YOUR EMPLOYER. There it was, the entire sorry history of her deception,her texts to her friend saying she'd 'They've gone for coffee, I'll give them a few minutes before I call' 'I'll pretend cry and tell them someone is sick', the forwarding of her 'sorry' text to her friend and my terse response 'fine, we'll talk when you're back. Have a good week-end' (subtext - cos it will be your last one, bee-atch). The 'OMG, what have I done? Ah well,I won't let it ruin my week-end' (why not? You may have ruined your life - jobless and homeless 1,000s of miles from home - go figure) and the clincher 'I so want to get high'.

We so did the right thing.

*names changed

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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Blogger's Block

Oh dear I have been remiss on my blogging. Fact is, the more I have investigated this world and the more topics I note down as possible blogs, the more tongue tied I become. Some of those blogs out there are awesome :
@KRCraft blogs about Social Media and technology in the Enterprise as Thoughtelf, Mammywoo says it how it is as a mum with a small baby and being married to an 'Irish One' Misslexywoo@Queenofspain has kids at similar stages to mine and and a pretty irreverent take on life I still have a fear of being 'Dooced', so I guess I should put that good old disclaimer - the Views held in this blog are entirely my and do not reflect those of my employer - there!

And today I had a bit of an epiphany, waking early - completely freaked because I have quite a bit on my mind - and I opened up Twitter, as you do at 3am, and the alternative is wandering the house like a madwoman, or doing ironing, and started to engage as everyone says you should. Then suddenly it happened - first @KrCraft said hiya, because I've also been MIA on Twitter then @MargieClayman delivered a virtual slap in the face - she spelled it out - I'm not alone, she's been there, Everyone's been there.. I read and re-tweeted and unbelievably she responded, offering to help. Her encouraging words helped me see this:

I know a lot about three things - working in a huge organisation, high performance in sport and being a somewhat frazzled mum of two - and I am learning a bit about Social Media, it doesn't mean I am good at any of them but at least I can talk about them, in my own voice, and see if anyone listens....