Archive for April, 2013

Dizzy heights

April 30, 2013

I’ve been too scared to write about this ’til now, for fear of jinxing my chances.

Today I pitched a small business idea to a panel of top business executives. An elevator pitch it was (a long elevator mind you) – a 3 minute whistle-stop tour of my idea. The aim? To hopefully convince the corporate whizzes that I should be included on a business support / mentoring programme. I really want to be part of it. I want some professional guidance and to be able to think ideas through with other people. I’m not very good by myself.

So since hearing that I was shortlisted last week, I’ve practised and practised; refined my words, paced up and down, tested my outfit, sorted my props, changed my outfit, done my sums, redone my sums, honed my words, dreamt my words, slept my words and eaten my words. It’s true to say that I’ve done quite a lot of prep for this.

And the GOOD thing, the really good thing, is that compared to the other occasions in my life when I’ve faced presentations or scary meetings, I’ve mostly been fairly relaxed. I’ve even had glimpses of a notion that actually maybe it just might be okay.

THIS is a major breakthrough! We do terrible things to ourselves, don’t we? And one of the terrible things I’ve done to myself, over many years is to make situations like this almost impossible to survive, not literally but effectively. So this new possibility, not just of survival but maybe even of thriving, has been A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and uplifting.

So this morning I took myself and my carefully honed elevator pitch to Canary Wharf. And just as I thought I was on top of it all I realised exactly where I had to go…

Yes THAT one!

Yes THAT one!

In the actual Canary Wharf building; number 1 Canada Square, with the famous pointy top! Sorry I missed the point(y top) from where I was stood, and was too distracted to go looking for better shots, but you get the idea. Here was I with my little idea, pitching it into the middle of London’s financial hub. Intimidated. Me? Yes.

All my calm and resolve whooshed away like a leaf on the breeze. So I texted Danny a little ‘Eek!’ And quick as a flash he texted straight back:

“Enjoy your moment”.

And then, thanks to those little words of woven gold I remembered the other possibility; the GOOD possibility of survival, of not making a fool of myself, of maybe even coming out feeling good and well.

So, restored and ready thanks to Danny I went to the tower, rode the lift – would’ve been good to have done the pitch in the elevator – and then delivered my 3 minute masterpiece. Just like that.

It went so fast that I can’t remember most of it. I think I said most things as I planned, but I’m not sure. There are whole paragraphs of eloquence that may or may not have made it across the room. For all I know they may still be hanging there.

Crazy really, that all that preparation culminated in just 3 minutes of showtime. But it was worth it, worth the planning. If there’s one thing I know about myself it’s that I function better if I’m prepared. I don’t fly by the seat of my pants easily; I prefer a pre-arranged plane seat, thank you very much.

So I came away relieved and faintly happy. Yes happy. I think I really DID enjoy my moment. I even made the panel laugh at one point. And not because I embarrassed myself.

So, flushed with success, and relief, I went for a coffee. In Rome.

canary-wharf-coffee

Well it felt like Rome. Hard to believe I was in the middle of London, although in most directions there were an awful lot of suits to remind me of my locality. Anyway I enjoyed the moment. Savoured it.

Maybe I can look forward to THIS in my new life. Coffee on sunny terrazzas and warm glow-y feelings. Aaaaaah…

Long may it last. And may you have that same feeling as well. We all deserve it.

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We’re on!

April 26, 2013

Tomorrow we three E3 girls are going to swim 159 lengths of our local pool, or 5km, in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Elsa and Alice want us to swim equal thirds, so that’s 53 long lengths each. Blimey.

girls in their googles

Go on girls!

If they do it it’ll be an amazing achievement for them and if they don’t it’ll still be an amazing achievement for them and it’ll be an amazing achievement for me too, ‘cos I’ll have to make up the difference!

Either way we’re looking forward to it and we need all the support we can get.

So while we limber up here in E3, all you need to do is press a few buttons and splash a little cash.

If you haven’t already and you feel so inclined, please…

Sponsor us!!!!!

If, on the other hand you don’t feel so inclined, then…

Sponsor us anyway!!!!!!

And of course thank you, thank you to everyone who already has dug deep X

Postscript… The postman just came. He rang twice. He always does. He delivered us a card. A lovely watery good luck card.

good-luck-card-2

Awww, shucks…

Thank you Grandima and Grandipa. We shall sweeem like feeeesh X

Post, post, script…

us 3 girls with medals

Hooray!

We did it! The pool turned out to be 33cm longer than advertised, so we did a straight 50 lengths each. Home and dry. A fab achievement all round. Home afterwards to celebrate with fine fish and chips from the Britannia Fish Bar on Grove Road, E3. The BEST fish and chips in East London by the way. And now a movie: The Cat Returns by Miyasaki

A good day. And a good day to you too!

Much ado about nothing…

April 21, 2013

You know when you have a lovely day planned and then it all goes horribly wrong? Welcome to our Saturday. We visited our friends Rachel & John in the Cotswolds and went with them and their wee boy Ollie, to Stratford-upon-Avon to join in the celebrations for Shakespeare’s 449th birthday. So far so lovely.

RSC theatre exterior

The sun is out. What could possibly go wrong?

But then. Well then Danny and Elsa decided to have a bit of a row; a lot of a row actually. One of those typical father-daughter encounters; “I’m your father…”, “But it’s not fair…” “Don’t speak to me like that…” “You never listen to me…”  etc, etc… It spiralled and spiralled and got very unpleasant until they actually started scrapping. I thought they were joking to begin with – hence the photo, but then I realised it wasn’t funny.

Elsa and Dan hairpulling

Awful. What do you do when your supposedly mature husband starts fighting with your first born? No one wanted to step in, least of all me, but I had to do something, FAST, before someone got properly hurt.

Oh I can’t keep this up! Actually we joined a fantastic workshop at the RSC theatre to learn stage fighting: how to pull hair, slap, punch and strangle one another with dramatic effect but no injury whatsoever. Great fun and a neat way to release some pent up emotion. We learned an impressive array of techniques and I also realised I was doing something that I wouldn’t have contemplated a year ago. Woo hoo.

I can’t possibly tell you all the secrets from the class – I’d have to kill you afterwards (which I can now do in a variety of ways of course – you choose). But suffice to say you need bunny ears to strangle someone properly, sometimes you need to hand over the nap and it’s not essential for your victim to have any hair in order for you to pull them by it.

RSC fight collage

After the class we shared our new skills with the rest of the gang, who’d been off listening to enthralling Greek myths and soon we were all attacking one another with gay abandon.

I am  a little worried about the kids going to school next week and showing off their newly learned fighting skills around un-suspecting teachers who might wade in before they realise the full story. Especially Ollie. He’s only 6.

kids on trampoline

trampoline + sunshine + friends = heaven

A weekend away is such a wonderful thing. So nice to get away from the inner-machinations of my own head and focus on some important stuff like good friends, family and simple pleasures. And of course I always like a celebration.

Stratford-band

Oompa, oompa! Happy Birthday Will!

And who’d have thought we’d come back to London’s East End after a weekend in the genteel English countryside with impressive fighting skills.

Creativity and confidence

April 17, 2013

This evening I went to a private view of a painting exhibition by French-London artist Lorraine Fossi. Lorraine studied architecture in Paris, but has since become an accomplished painter.

Breaking waves painting

Lorraine Fossi – Breaking Waves, oil on canvas

Lorraine’s show is inspired by The Royal Iris; one of the original Mersey ferries and host to the Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers in her heyday. She now languishes on the Thames at Woolwich, slowly decaying and with an uncertain future; but here brought back to life on Lorraine’s canvases.

Royal Iris boat

Royal Iris at Woolwich 2013

This evening it was amazing to see all Lorraine’s hard work and her talent writ large on the walls. I guess this is what anyone who sees themselves as creative wants; first they want to be able to express their creativity and secondly they want it to be recognised and enjoyed. Lorraine certainly seems to be a woman who has found her path.

Lorraine's show

In my new freelance life I’ve just done some PR for Lorraine’s exhibition and it’s been great to be around her creativity and exuberance. I’m not as talented as Lorraine, nor as confident – I conversed more with the paintings than the guests this evening, but I’m still hoping I can find my own creative way in this new chapter of life.

Lorraine Fossi painting

It’s not that easy though is it. What if the big idea doesn’t present itself? What if this notion of combining natural talents with daily work is an unrealistic myth and a path to unhappiness when it (probably) remains unrealised? Perhaps it’s as nonsensical as the notion of ‘work-life balance’. And while we’re at it, what is creativity anyway?

Exterior art gallery

Is this modern pursuit of happiness just a nice middle class, pre-occupation that we indulge in because we can? I’ve spent a considerable amount of time naval-gazing and considering my new ‘creative future’. Lucky me. Maybe it’s time to get real. Maybe it’s time to recognise that happiness (if it exists) actually lies closer to home. Perhaps I should express my ‘creativity’ through hobbies and voluntary work while reserving the day job for, well, for work really; largely as a means to an end. And be content with that.

In a serendipitous way I found a copy of ‘Affluenza’ by psychologist Oliver James in a charity shop today. I think it explores this same notion, probably far more eloquently than I. In between contemplating these two entirely different versions of my own future, I’m looking forward to reading it and will report back.

In the meantime I do know that when I got back from this socially ‘challenging’ (for me) evening I was restored as soon as I walked in the door…

girls-reading

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

April 10, 2013
burnt out cab

Stay Cool. Stay Clean.

I don’t mean to moan, but I’m going to – can you tell?!  

This week, on at least four occasions and for various reasons, I’ve hoped for an apology from someone and simply not got it. The circumstances and the people have varied – from shopkeepers to friends, but each person has failed to ‘do the right thing’, as I see it.

Rather than apologising, each of these people seems to believe that it is perfectly acceptable to dodge responsibility, lie even and then move swiftly on without acknowledging the impact of their action.

Each time it has left me baffled and after the third time I was left wondering whether I’ve missed one of life’s important little lessons. You know those unwritten rules that equip us to navigate life. Well maybe I was off ill for this one.

To my mind ‘sorry’ is such a powerful word which, when used properly, is very healing. I don’t think it’s a sign of weakness to say sorry, quite the opposite in fact. Of course there are occasions where the proponent simply doesn’t realise they’ve done anything wrong. And there are other times when saying sorry is too hard. But four times in three days? I think not!

So when did it become the norm to side step responsibility and cheerfully move on without acknowledgement? Is it a reflection of modern society? Or is it part of the human condition and I’m really naive to expect something different?

When these small but important points of confusion about life’s rules crop up, they push me off balance. Ideally of course I should forgive and forget, but sometimes (read ‘now’) it’s not so easy. Instead the confusion sits there like a smelly little monster on my shoulder. And then it all feels just a bit too hard.

So tell me, do other people feel like this? Do we all get confused and thrown off course? Or is it just me? Questions, questions – certainly life poses more questions that it answers. But I won’t apologise for asking!

Deep breath.

By way of a postscript, maybe even a fairytale ending who knows; one of these ‘non-sorryness’ incidents as I like to eloquently call them, resulted in my ascent up the chain of command in a very large and well-respected organisation, until I reached the top. While there I had the good fortune to literally bump into one of the head honchos, so I collared him and gave him some very clear; angry but measured messages about the failings of the organisation that he had responsibility for. Guess what he said.

I'm sorry text

I nearly fell over. I shall wait to see whether it results in any action. Maybe I’m being naive again. But at least there’s hope. And maybe I can get my balance back.

It all adds up, hopefully…

April 5, 2013

First things first, WHAT is going on with the weather?  Like everyone else I’ve had ENOUGH. I’m taking it personally now and I’m not happy. Nor is Alice…

retro bad weather

These retro weather fridge magnets came with a few suns but I don’t even know where they are. Gathering dust under the fridge I expect, useless as they are.

Michael Fish is not the only one sporting a black cloud around here. Currently there is a LOT of maths happening in this house. Too much methinks.

Elsa revealed yesterday (a week into the holiday – ho hum) that she’s been given a 10 page maths booklet to complete. 2 week holiday, 5 working days in each week, 10 pages to complete. You do the maths, oh no wait; we’re doing the maths. So it’s a double page of tricky maths every weekday over the holidays. Weekends off. Thank you Mr. Teacher.

However as we’ve only just started this homework, thank you Ms. Elsa, we have a considerable amount to achieve in not much time. We even had our lunch amid the paperwork today.

homework table

Help!

I say ‘we’, but of course it’s Elsa’s homework. However I am fearful of leaving her to this scary booklet; maths is already a subject that she sometimes feels unconfident about. It’s a common dilemma I/we/most parents have – whether and when to step in and help. Unlike maths, parenting questions rarely have a simple answer. And often, whatever course of action we take feels wrong. Or is that just me? I think not. Perpetual guilt it’s called. And it’s one of the joys of parenting.

As a counterpoint to the muddle that is parenting, I actually quite like maths usually. I like the certainty of it. The maths problems I can get my head round have either a right or wrong answer and I find comfort in that. For my new freelance-self I find myself doing bookkeeping for some friends businesses and although I’ve now got to get my head around software packages, I’m quite enjoying dusting off the principles of debit and credit, T accounts and trial balances. Scary but true. Hence I found myself looking up accountancy tutorials at 7.30 this morning. Oh joy!

The interweb is such an amazing resource – tutorials on EVERYTHING you could wish for. Mind you I’ve yet to find an entertaining accountancy tutorial. But the answers are all out there, it’s knowing how to ask the right questions that matters now.

However these tutorials, in combination with helping Elsa with her maths homework means I think I may have hit sums overload. I have numbers swimming in front of my eyes and they’re not making sense.

As it’s Friday I think it may be time to abandon ship, cut a pizza into fractions – equal quarters of course and relax.

cat on homework

Luckily it’s not the final homework she’s sitting on.

Have a great weekend World.

Happy Easter

April 1, 2013

Row of Easter chicks

 

Like loads of families we’re relishing four days off in a row. Four days to relax a bit and eat a lot, in this house anyway…

We decided to make some Easter biscuits. Fishing around in my shoebox of biscuit cutters I discovered I’ve accumulated seven bunny cutters. Seven! I think I’ve probably bought a new one each year, each year thinking to myself “It’d be nice to make some Easter biscuits”; but failing to do so because of, well I don’t know what, but something, always something.

Row of bunny biscuit cutters

Each cutter is a best laid plan gone by the wayside

So anyway THIS year it’s going to happen and inspired by a biscuit book we were given at Christmas (thanks Oli and Vics!) I started off with the idea of making perfect-o gorgeous-o creations that would be worthy of sale in Selfridges or Harrods.

Of course right when I first opened the pages of that book I should’ve known that we would end up doing something totally different.

The joy of cooking with children is that if its going to truly be a family activity then you have to let go – the pursuit of perfection, finessed techniques, presentation; all these disappear in favour of making sure that the finished article is edible, that everyone involved still has all their fingers and that you have managed to keep your cool throughout the process. You also need to let go of any usual concept of time. It all takes an inordinate amount of time.

But it’s so worth it. The act of making the biscuits in itself a joy – the kids delight in the qualities of the ingredients and the concentrated effort when weighing, measuring, spooning, stirring and rolling means that this is so much more than a biscuit-making session. It is a maths lesson, a science class and a masterclass in texture, design, taste and touch. No wonder it takes so long!

Making biscuits collage 1

‘Wow, the syrup’s like liquid gold!’, ‘Do you like how I’m cutting the butter’, ‘I need my goggles to zest lemons’, ‘Uurrghh! I stuck my fingers in the egg!’…

I should mention that as well as inspiration, the aforementioned book; The Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits provided a few gems of culinary usefulness. For example: roll the dough between two sheets of baking parchment rather than use flour, which will dry out the mixture and secondly: use two lengths of dowel (or wooden spoons, they suggest) to roll the mixture to an even thickness before cutting.

rolling and cutting collage

Et voila! And it’s only 3 o’clock.

We ALL got involved with the icing. But you see that little sentence, yes that one there that I just wrote. Seven innocent little words. Well it hides about 3 hours work! To get all the icing ingredients weighed and mixed. To find and choose the colours, to divide all the icing into little bowls and tint carefully – not too much now! Try not to spill it. Oh. You have. All down the cupboard door. And yourself. And me. Sigh. Find enough squeezy bottles and piping bags to contain all variations; dark, light, pouring and piping. We even had to make some piping bags.

So after all that, some three hours later, we iced. We iced for all it was worth. And we had fun. And the results? Well the results speak for themselves. We will not be selling them in Harrods, they are too good for that. We each put a little piece of ourselves into these fellas (creativity I mean, not fingernails) and we’re very proud. What d’you reckon?

collage iced biscuits


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