Family traditions?

There’s a family get together this weekend – it’s in Yorkshire. I’m travelling up there to be with family, my parents are travelling down from Scotland. It’s a surprise party for an aunt and uncle. My Mum is doing most of the catering, because that’s what she does.

My only role is to bake Parkin. Yorkshire Parkin. I used a recipe today that had been recommended online. I had to make enough for 30 people. So, that meant trebling the recipe. Halfway through baking it, Mum asked if I was using the family recipe…oops. No, it’s not my Gran’s recipe, it’s another. I don’t have Gran’s recipe.

With the cakes (three of them) in the oven, the aroma starts to permeate around the house and it’s gorgeous. It also takes me right back to Bonfire Night when I was a child. Toffee apples, bonfire toffee and Parkin. All homemade. All yummy.  Seasonal treats. All steeped in tradition as they are made.

Mum is making toffee apples and bonfire toffee for the event, so I had a look at recipes for toffee. Comparing the online recipes to ‘our recipes’ was interesting. All the online recipes recommended the use of a sugar thermometer to check the toffee as it’s boiling (to get the right point for ‘crunchy or chewy’ toffee. I don’t remember my Gran or Mum having one of those. We used a jug of very cold water to test the toffee. You simply drop a teaspoon of the (still boiling, liquid) toffee into the cold water and then you test it. Simple.

I’m quite lucky that I come from a family steeped in tradition. Baking is relaxing. It’s part of what makes me, me. It’s tradition. Family tradition.

I’ve made my Christmas cakes (one rum, one brandy and one whisky). I’ve made Parkin for bonfire night. What’s next??

What to do next?

I’ve kind of lost my way with this blog. It has been about cooking and recipes, marketing, working in B2B tech, playing golf and my family. I haven’t blogged for a long time as I had a feeling this was becoming a rather shouty, rant about everything negative.

I read through some of the more ‘focussed’ posts recently and really enjoyed some of the memories that they brought back. So, now’s the time for me to think through what I want to use this blog for.

 

‘I’ve got your back, trust me’

Whether you’re working for a new company and have that nerve racking first day ahead of you, or you’re part of an established team awaiting the arrival of new colleagues – the road ahead can be a minefield. New personalities. Skills. Moods. Contribution. Fit.

How do you work out the dynamic between you? How do you establish working relationships that count?

Teams of people work eight or so hours a day, relationships build quickly and common ground is established. You might even start to build trust between you and those colleagues, giving you a deeper understanding and empathy within the team. But, trust must be earned, as must respect. They are not given lightly, nor are they something to play with.

But, how do you know if trust is mutual? How do you know if someone is genuine? At what point do you ‘relax’, get back to ‘normal’ and do the job at hand, without distraction? Do you simply ‘trust’ your instincts and feelings?

There are people in life who are simply not genuine. People who are centred on themselves. Who think of themselves, before others and about securing their position in business. These are the people who tell you to (face to face) ‘I’ve got your back’. The same people who think nothing of calling with their woes and worries; a review, an issue with the spouse or kids or even a team member. So, what do you do, and how do you handle it when your trust is betrayed? Confront them? Ignore them? Get on with your job regardless? But, what happens when their actions have a serious impact on you, both personally and professionally? Where do you turn when the person you thought you trusted has betrayed that trust?

Karma really is a beautiful thing. The only thing you have to do is wait.

Temptation is…

…wanting to blog and tell all, but realising that it might not be the best timing, or the best idea right now.

Years ago I sent my Mum a card which simply said ‘Must have courage, faith and chocolate fudge cake’. That’s my ‘mood message’ at the moment, though I’d rather have vodka than cake.

I can’t really sum up what’s going on either. It’s all a big temptation and an even bigger risk.

To blog or not to blog…

I wrote this a while ago…

 

All change…again

It’s been a turbulent year. I’ve decided that 2011 is turning into one of those years that we’ll need to either grab by the short and curlies or just forget. Which is it to be?

 

Work has dominated so far this year – predominantly the roller coaster ride that is my company. In October I got a new boss. It took the best part of six months to adjust to his up and down/hot & cold manner. He’s brash, he’s pushy, he’s demanding and more… But in the past few weeks I’ve come to understand just how much he’s fought for the team and to take away all of the road blocks that hamper the day to day running of the department.

 

It’s taken a lot of time for the team to get used to him and to start to buy into what he’s been trying to do, but they were getting there. It was starting to feel like we were achieving an awful lot in a short space of time.

 

And, we had a leader. Someone fighting for us at the highest level. In with the other big cheeses – fighting the politics and shouting about the things we need to get on with an achieve.

 

First, there was the ‘potential acquisition’ notification. Then, the CEO was let go. And, most recently my boss was let go. Ooooomph!

 

It was such a shock to us all. There were many unhappy people discussing how it would mean to them and what would happen next. Our ‘new CEO’ (our Chairman became the Exec Chairman) announced we would all report to sales management. Such a step in the wrong direction.

 

So, the roller coaster starts running even faster than it did before.

Next…?

Work is going from bad to worse at the moment. With questions over brand, CMS, ‘best-of-breed’ agencies and upheaval, it’s no surprise that morale has reached an all time low. We’ve had two resignations in the past week. Correction – I have had two resignations in the past week. Two of my longest serving (longest suffering) team members are stepping down from the role and from the company.

It’s clear they’ve both had enough of the constant change and upheaval and that both are looking for new challenges. It’s clear that everything is different already. But, what of the company? What will be done to rebuild? Anything? Everything? Nothing?

I shall miss my team – as it once was. These changes are as a result of decisions made back to February. Changes were set in motion at that point, and here we are. This week’s news is a direct result. My question (rhetorical): why am I still here? what is there for me? where does this mis-guided sense of loyalty come from? what’s next? will I ever find the elusive ‘work/life balance’? and, losing my team members…what’s next?

Answers on a postcard, please.

In times of stress

It’s tough going at the moment. There’s a lot of stress for me. My other half is stressed too. I just found out that my mum has a back injury. It’s not good at the moment.

I’ve lived in this house for 5 years (nearly) and in the South for 17 years, yet in times of stress I want my home. My Glen. The Glen. (You’ll only get that reference if you’re from the area).

I want to go for a walk after dinner to the waterfall and drink malt whisky from my hip flask – while sitting on a rock in the middle of the river.

I want to listen to the noise of the Glen. The River. The sheep. The cows. The burn. The fox cries. The silence and then, the banter. There’s always banter in the Glen.

OK, so I’m homesick. I’ve been having a glass or two of wine and I’ve been watching Monarch. They’ve been to the cemetery on the hill. We’ve got one of those. I remember my first hike up there (Kindrogan Hill) to the cemetery. I must have been 13 years old. It was a wild walk. Deepest, dark pine forest – the light struggling through the needles to reach you. The smell of the pine. The worn dirt track, rough underfoot. Warm from the hike, I relished the cool air of the sheltered path to the cemetery where the local ‘laird(s)’ and his family are buried.

Last year, I took my step sons to the very same cemetery (with my Mum along for the walk). It was a trek for them, but they quite liked the history lesson, thanks to Mum. We saw deer, listened to the wildlife and watched a Buzzard do its stuff. But, for me, the sight I found was heartbreaking. The walls of the cemetery overgrown, and the graves not easily distinguishable from the weeds. There are no trees any more. There’s no path. There are no fresh flowers. The forest reached its ‘peak’ and so became a deforestation project for the ‘Forestry Commission’. The resulting landscape is just sad. Bare. The cemetery has lost its mystery. It’s neglected. It’s unloved. It’s forgotten.

I do, of course, have happy memories of the trip with J & B. We picked wild raspberries all the way home. The boys don’t like rasps when I buy them at home in Surrey. But, Scottish rasps? Any time, any place, anywhere… That’s how it should be, right??

We need happy times and happy memories to keep us going in times of stress. The Glen is one of mine.

Haste ye back…

Here we go again

Every year, around about this time, I get a little bit distracted. Not because there’s anything going on with my family, but because it’s close to the birthday of a special girl. I had a dream about her last night. I haven’t seen her for five years – almost to the day. And in one month she’ll be 12 years old.

As her ex-step-mother, I have no right to see her, or any access to be able to see her and I miss her terribly. (I have blogged about her before). I often wonder how she’s doing. I wonder how she’s growing up? Whether she’s enjoying school. Whether she’s a bright spark, a sporty miss or whether she’s just not enjoying it at all. Has she got a boyfriend? But, most of all I wonder whether she’s happy.

Unfortunately, I’ll think about her now every day until after her birthday. A little bit of me wondering if/whether/should I send her a card and if I do will it actually reach her. I know where she lives, but her mother always resented my presence in K’s life. I have my doubts whether the previous cards (birthday and christmas) ever got there.

K has a brother too. I miss him, but my relationship with him wasn’t the same. There wasn’t the same connection between us, as he’d been older when Daddy introduced his new girlfriend. K had been a baby. He was six. He was conflicted and torn between his loyalty to his Mother and the fact that he thought I was cool. Wherever he is, I hope he is happy too.

So, to all you step-parents out there – past and present – I’m sending you hugs. It’s not easy. And it’s hard if you create a bond which you lose. We all know that the rewards are high for step-parents when things are good, but very few blogs I read talk about this side of it.

Restructuring…again

A couple of weeks ago my company issued its IMS. In the statement we missed our EBITDA contribution by a few percent. In the same announcement we also announced a restructuring charge of between $14-18m. It sent shivers down the spines of all colleagues that have lived through such ‘restructures’ in the past.

On Friday it began.

Mid afternoon the whispers began in the office. The Skype messages went back and forth between colleagues worried for each other. And the rumours about office closures, and numbers of lay-offs spread like wild fire.

Today, I took a phone call asking whether the restructure had happened in our office, that it was rumoured to be happening today.

Unfortunately, it didn’t. I say unfortunately, not because I’m being flippant, but because I’m already mopping up the tears of my team members who are worried, no, distraught at the impending changes and over losing their jobs. I’m in no different position. I face being put ‘at risk’, just like all of them. None of us know. None of us have any clues. It’s the not knowing that is upsetting people. People add one and one and make three.

The atmosphere sucks. It’s oppressive in the office. It’s difficult to concentrate. It’s like waiting for the guillotine to fall.

Yuck.

So, here I sit, not looking forward to tomorrow. But, I’ll get up in the morning. I’ll put my face on and I’ll drive the 40 miles to the office. You never know, I might be home again soon. Then again, maybe it’ll be tomorrow evening before I’m back.

The UK is Snowbound?

The past week has been dominated by headlines of “UK snowbound” and “UK grinds to a halt” etc. There’s been widespread snow and falling temperatures over the past week in the UK. My parents have snow drifts up to 3m in height. I have three inches of snow outside the front door. My parents have been making a daily 80-mile round trip to see friends. I’ve been to work three times. The difference? Being used to the weather. And, being correctly equipped.

My first memory of living in the remote Glen (Glen Brerachan), I was 13 years old. Resentful. Wilful. Highly spirited. Disgusted that my parents would make me live in such a remote location. And then Winter hit us. We had white outs – I’d never heard of them before. We had snow drifts so deep that you could build ‘snow holes’ in them and hide. It was warmer inside the snowdrift than out. People abandoned their cars and walked to the nearest house, where they were welcomed as old friends (whether or not they were total strangers) and the entire community pulled together to make sure that old, young and needy were taken care of.

That year, I had three and a half weeks off school. The main road was closed for weeks. We had to wait for the local authority to bring a snow cutter into the Glen to cut through the massive three plus metre snow drifts. Even when the snow cutter arrived, we had longer to wait as there were cars abandoned inside snow drifts. Meanwhile, the community rallied around each other. The shepherd, Chic, loaded up his wife, collected lists of groceries from various households and drove in his Zeter (Russian brand of tractor) 20 miles to the nearest town. I learned to ski. It was the only way for me to get to the school bus.

I remember walking with my mum to the nearest village – 4 miles away – through the frozen snowdrifts to pick up essentials. It was a total winter wonderland.

Over the past 10 -15 years, the Winters haven’t really been that bad. They’ve eased somewhat and we ‘Glenners’ have defined this as ‘global warming’ – until now. To have heavy snow, as it’s been this week, as heavy as it is, is completely different. Unheard of. It would be OK in January. February even. But November? No way.

Today, in my Glen it was -22 degrees. My parents have  snow drifts that are three metres high and one of their cars is buried. They have to run the heating 24 x 7 just to maintain a bit of warmth in the house.

I worry about them constantly.

And I feel guilty when I complain that I’m cold. I’ve been in the South too long. I’ve gone soft. It’s 21 degrees in my lounge. I know my parents are about to go to bed and I know that their bedroom is a mere 6 degrees.

My parents have heating, thankfully. I will make sure that they’ll always have heating, but other, older people, don’t have a ‘me-type’ to help out and it’s not cheap to stay warm. What do they do?