Category Archives: Things I don’t understand

In which I have a new job

In fact, I’m four weeks in. It’s a new role within the same company, but for the first time in my entire career, my job has nothing to do with either content or digital. This job is a further big step on the trajectory away from publishing and towards who knows what?

So now I’m working in the team responsible for coming up with new products and propositions. There’s a commercial aspect that I’ve never had before, and since delivery of any new product depends on lining up the customer care and field ops support as well, there’s another whole different area of the business to get my head around. All this was part of the appeal. I work for a big company and there are vast swathes of it that I never got a look at in my old role.

Just to complicate matters slightly, the hiring manager left before I started, her boss leaves at the end of June and as far as any of us are aware, there aren’t any replacements lined up. Mine is a new role in the team. I have no direct reports but 10 people junior to me who need varying degrees of management. A new product launch is looking like it will be 3 weeks late – I swear this is coincidental.

In all this, I’d say my comfort zone is a short drive away. Right through interview, I still thought that my publishing career was the bedrock evidence of what I can do. But that’s no longer the case. I was hired on the basis of the last three years, not the however many before that. I feel as though I swapped firm foundations for a high wire. As I don’t actually know what my job is and there’s no one to tell me, I’m doing whatever the hell seems to need doing. Every day, I’m flying blind. I’ve put out a lot of fires over the last few weeks, I’ve U-turned on a couple of decisions when I got more knowledge and thanked people for telling me. I don’t know how I’m doing, so I come home some days thinking ‘I got this’ and others thinking ‘What the fuck happened today?’

In other words, it’s standard new job stuff. The fear, the learning curve, the anxiety, the successes, the gradual build back up to confidence, to that state when ‘I got this’ is normal. Currently I’m at a low to moderate anxiety level, which is not only not a bad thing (temporarily), it’s what I went looking for. It’ll either all work out, or I’ll crash and burn. So, ok then.

In which I discourse on fashion

Although this could be a short discourse, because from what I can tell at the moment, the current styles are almost universally horrendous.

Let us begin. This season is going big on what I call either Asylum Chic or Jane Eyre’s Lowood Wardrobe. If I wanted desperately to dress like an escapee from a lunatic asylum, then I’d be sorted. This doesn’t mean that the shops are bestrewn with fetching faux Victorian white lace numbers a la Wilkie Collins either.  It means more of a nod towards 80s American schlock horror movies.

The woman in the blue dress is running, running, still carrying the bloody knife, even though she’s not sure what she did with it, but someone sure got stabbed and she can’t stop crying. Jane Eyre has been told to wear the pink one to the 10th annual Lowood TB Survivor’s Reunion.

Still, once you’ve escaped from the madhouse, or extreme Christian austerity, then it’s time to start partying. Is anyone going to a fancy dress party? And if so, are you thinking of costuming yourself as a migraine? Then [trigger warning] look no further…

These are probably designer, because all the most horrible items of clothing turn out to be designer. The high street’s cheap and cheerful knock offs never quite achieve the same peaks of hideosity. Can you imagine being drunk and seeing those dresses? Or hungover? Dear lord, someone pass the Ibuprofen.

Still, even an ex-Lowood girl can’t party for ever, so the shops have you covered for those quiet nights in as well. You know. The ones when you like to stand in the corner, dressed as a lampshade.

The pink one’s gotta be cheesecloth, right? I don’t think other fabrics can achieve that salmonella pink vibrancy.  For me, though, the blue one is the winner here, effortlessly achieving that ‘lampshade in an asylum’ look and so nailing two key trending influences in one garment. I’m sold.

The Bird Tribunal, Agnes Ravatn

Sigh. So I haven’t even finished this and although it’s basically a pamphlet, it’s touch and go whether or not I will. It’s supposed to be tense and chilling, but my fundamental problem is that the heroine is such a pathetic dweeb I want to smack her one.

And this is, in fact, is my problem with an entire set of books that are ultimately predicated on the fact that the heroine is spineless. There seem to be all too many of them around at the moment. She says, now unable to think of a single title. But you know  the type of thing I mean. The wounded heroine who gets into difficult circumstances that were avoidable or could have been resolved if she’d only actually said something. Like a normal person would have done.

So, to The Bird Tribunal, in which Allis, who fucked up her life with some accidentally public extra-marital shagging, has run away to the middle of nowhere and taken a job as a gardener-cum-housekeeper for some mysterious, grumpy bloke called Bragge. His wife is away. Or is she? At first Bragge says she’ll be back in the autumn; then he disappears for four days and comes back saying she died and was buried. In between, he hangs around being mysterious, dictatorial and unpredictable, which apparently is all Allis wants in a man.

Based on nothing whatsoever, she goes to pieces while he’s away, over-reacting to noises and her own imagination and completely terrified. So terrified, in fact, that she goes out of the house and into the dark garden and to the dark shed, where she picks up a hammer so that she can protect herself when the imaginary enemies come to get her. Because god forbid she should switch a light on, put the radio on and make a cup of tea or anything.

I think there was supposed to be some sense of brooding menace. But there was just a sense of Allis being a bit of a tit.

The only mysteries so far are why she’s still there being emotionally abused by a virtual stranger, and why for the love of all the gods she can’t call him out on his bullshit. He’ll probably turn out to be a nutter who murdered his wife, or Allis will get the wrong end of the stick and accidentally murder him, or whatever. At this point, I’m hoping for a nice suicide pact and the introduction of better characters.

In which I don’t know what I look like

And I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I don’t know a woman who doesn’t suffer from body dysmorphia, and that tends to make things a bit confusing. Of course, there are plenty of mirrors around, but most shops are well up on the art of the most pleasing angle, so there’s no consistency there.  When the reflection in the Regent Street branch of Banana Republic was particularly unflattering, it meant I really couldn’t tell if it was them or me. Either way, I gave the clothes back and slipped away.

A glimpse in a store mirror on Saturday suggested I was verging on anorexia. I am really not. My mirror at home says shorter and squatter than that. I genuinely can’t tell if my bum looks big in this, because (a) what is normal for me? And (b) therefore, what is big? And (c) is that just big in my head or big from an objective perspective?

This morning, absolutely unable to tell whether I looked fine or positively bovine, I just thought ‘Fuck it’ and left for work anyway. Because I also thought, ‘What does it matter?’ I was dressed well enough to sneak within the office dress code, and that’s all that counts. No one at work is actually going to be judging me, and if they are, I won’t know about it. Which takes us back to ‘Fuck it’.

The objective fact is I’m a size 0 to a size 10, depending on which country or store I’m shopping in. That range is clearly pretty normal. I’d definitely be happier a few pounds lighter, because months of inactivity is having an effect, but all my clothes still fit so it’s not that big a deal. I’ve no ambition to look like a model, given that even models don’t look like models until they’ve been Photoshopped to the max.

So mostly, it’s just irritating. I like certainty. So it follows that I’d prefer to be able to look in a mirror and think ‘Oh yes, that is the size and shape of me that I recognise’ and therefore also ‘Those jeans work and those jeans REALLY don’t’. How can it be that instead, I can’t tell?

But then again, why do I need to be able to identify my own size and shape?  Regardless of whether I think I look fat or thin, the only difference is going to be in what I wear. I might misjudge one way or the other, but that makes no bloody difference to anything. So I think that, on further reflection, all roads lead to ‘Fuck it’.

In which my hair is my business

Thank you everso for asking.

For the two people who read this blog and don’t know me in person, I’ve had short hair for most of the time since my 20s, aka, the best part of 20 years.

I’ve heard ‘Oi, mate, your bird’s a bloke!’ from some charmer on the night bus. I didn’t punch him. I’ve heard a polite ‘Sir…’ before a guy at a reception desk clocked that I was female. My ex-husband and I got dodgy looks checking into a hotel one time, which baffled us until we realised that I looked like a teenage boy when I wore a baseball cap.

None of it’s a big deal, and mostly I just eye roll and move on. But the consistent question that really winds me up is ‘What does your boyfriend/husband/partner think?’, sometimes coupled with ‘Doesn’t he mind that you’ve got short hair?’

I’ve been hearing that for years. About 20 of them. From the 20th into the 21st century, apparently a defining characteristic of women is that they’ve got long hair; and secondly, their hairstyle is not just their choice. It should be validated by a male whose opinion is considered relevant on the matter. If Vidal Sassoon were still around and I knew him, I’d hope he appreciated that my haircuts are straight out of the Sassoon school. Everyone else can fuck off.

 

 

 

Five ways cats are like millennial employees*

*Some millennial employees. Not to tar an entire generation with the same brush. I personally know some great ones. On the other hand, did I mention my new job comes with NO DIRECT REPORTS? FTW.

  1. It’s all about them.
  2. They look blankly at you when you ask them to do something they don’t want to do; then they don’t do it. It’s as if they have no idea who’s in charge.
  3. They are capable of disappearing for long stretches of time with nothing to show for it. [? are millennials asleep on top of a dustbin]
  4. They think just showing up is enough to be deserving of attention and reward.
  5. They make you say to yourself several times a day ‘What is wrong with you?’

In which I’m not gonna lie, guys

Things look pretty bad. This is seemingly the year in which the previously unthinkable, the events and decisions and actions and values that should still be firmly unthinkable, have edged out into the light and become commonplace.

Where to start? Pick a card, any card, so let’s go with… My Twitter feed is full of people campaigning to save the NHS.

Because of the enormity of the shit that is going down, it’s almost, unbelievably, easy to overlook this one.

Save.

The NHS.

That would be the health service that looks after everyone, beginning to end, 24/7, tirelessly and selflessly, no questions asked and certainly not ‘And which credit card will you be using?’, while its staff get paid salaries that I for one would say it’s not possible to live on, I’ve got cats to support you know.

So yeah, a bedrock system of our state needs saving and for all the people trying, really, really hard, and the doctors who’ve been pushed to strike because of the government’s overweening unreasonableness, it probably won’t be. Unthinkable, right?

I guess I can’t dodge the buffoon in the corner, so. The world got a new portmanteau word this week. Instead of needing to type out a whole list to say that someone is a racist, lying, bigoted, tax-dodging, misogynistic, sexually assaultive, narcissistic, psychopathic fascist fantasist about to go on trial for raping a 13 year old girl, we can all just type ‘Trump’. See how much neater that is? But you know what concept that portmanteau word cannot encompass? Presidency. Trump will inherit the title, the percentage of Americans that is basically terrified of everyone not them saw to that.  But he’ll never be President.

And one more, for good measure. There’s the good ole’ Daily Fail, going about its day to day business of fostering hate (towards anyone, that’s the only way in which the tabloid and its readership is broad minded). In this instance, the focus was on four judges who had the temerity to do their job and make a judgement according to the law about how Article 50 could be triggered. I’m 6 weeks into Law 101 and even I know that’s legit, so you can bet the Daily Fail’s corporate lawyers do too. But what does the truth matter when you can use a story to pander to the illiberal views of a vicious minority?

It’s Remembrance Sunday today. I don’t know how we, collectively, have the fucking nerve to say ‘We remember’ those who died and what they fought for. If we remember, we sure as hell don’t care.