8th May 2015
There are three things you should never discuss at work: your sex life, your bowel movements and politics. I knew the first two, obviously. I've now learnt the third.
With this being my first election I've actually been eligible to vote in, I've recognised that my bright-eyed bushy-tailed curiosity into how everyone is planning to vote has fallen on a less than appreciative audience. I was asking like such a little keen bean mainly because I don't have a clue which way to go - I don't feel remotely mature enough for this kind of decision making! I wanted to sample some opinions, see what everyone else thought was important and impressive. the blank stares and silent outrage of my colleagues has put a prompt stop to my investigation though. No one reveals their political colours at work.
I should have taken a leaf out of Priscilla's book - she's been far more interested in canvassing the delights of our new baby Princess, than the policies of any political party. She's insisted on coronation chicken sandwich fillings all week, the Royalist's lunchtime stalwart eaten 'in baby Charlotte's honour'. And she can't complete a conversation without mentioning the little Princess at least once. Charlie and I have turned it into a bit of a game, divying out points for the most unrelated segways into her new favourite topic - we were both in awe when she transitioned from updating her email signature into pondering on whether Kate and Wills would have any more children, in under 2 minutes. When I pointed out in passing, however, that little Charlotte shares her name with a type of potato, it went down like a lead balloon.
We didn't realise the extent of Pricilla's dedication though, until Fran and I were working our way through the BBC news reels online while doing our make up yesterday morning. I had noticed Pricilla's hair had not been quite so 'set' this week, and had wondered what on earth she was doing with a glut of Union Jack flags in her handbag, but I never suspected this... There was a clip on the website about the 'superfans' who camped outside the hospital for the days leading up to the birth and guess who's little face popped up for a split second in one of the shots! She was dressed in a Geri Halliwell cast off in the background behind one of the interviewees, looking absolutely smitten with herself and waving her flags around with signature gusto. Instantly screen-shotted to Charlie for maximum points. If I'm completely honest I've had a lot to thank Pricilla for this week - it's been absolutely lovely to have an excuse for a cheeky, under-the-radar flirt with Charlie again...
It's really not in my nature to write in for advice - actually it's not in my nature to seek any advice of any kind as I cannot abide other people's opinions. Ever (Why would I need advice when I have such a bottomless supply of arrogant presumptions to rely on?).
But I find myself experiencing a strange new sensation - I think it may be remorse. It's making me feel uncomfortable, like I’ve eaten some bad falafel ; I'm brimming with all this awkward extra energy and I don't know where to direct it, and it's just damn embarrassing really. I mean it's not very macho is it; a grown man, striding around the place, unable to look his PA in the eye, side-stepping any 1-1 conversation with her in case the big fat elephant in the room, the unsaid apology, rears its ugly head and forces me to admit weakness.
My PA is a bit of a rabbit caught in headlights, granted she is a recent grad with little life experience, but she tries bloody hard. That's one thing I do know about her - she's a born people pleaser and she goes out of her way to keep myself and the other chaps as happy as possible. I wish I had some way to show my appreciation without looking like I'm trying to show my appreciation...
So what I need help with is how do you say sorry without admitting too much weakness? How do you apologise and still stay on top?
Reply from me to Sam: You will be a Man if you just apologise!
Arrrghh! SUCH a therapeutic exercise! I mean, perhaps that’s what’s going on… perhaps he’s wrestling with his ego trying to work out how to apologise? Ha but I like to fantasize. Its Friday now and rather than looking me in the eye when he's talking to me he's addressing an invisible dwarf who lives in his shoe.
At the beginning of the week I was faithfully preparing the presentation and supporting documents for an important pitch Sam & Ben had on this week. Sam had given me particular instructions as to what to include and I had followed them to the T. Half an hour before the meeting and Ben asks to do a quick check through of the packs that I've had lovingly printed and bound through a local supplier to ensure their presentation is up to the mark. Just when I’m giving myself a solid pat on the back for doing such a thorough job all hell breaks loose: the client’s financial report is missing.
Sam and I are both sitting with the checklist he created for me in front of us – we both know there is no mention of this particular document anywhere on the list. I know he knows that too - I saw him glance down at it while Ben was frantically leafing through the pack one last time. But does he admit it was his mistake? No of course he doesn’t. Admit failure to Ben? Never! He’d much rather stand in the background whilst Ben tears a strip off me and he nods and blushes like an Edwardian debutante.
I don’t know what’s more annoying, having to shoulder the blame for something you haven’t done, or having the culprit further torture you with blatant avoidance tactics. It’s so unfair!
Have you ever had to take the rap for something outside your control? Or had to endure a boss incapable of an apology? We love hearing your experiences – please share them and you could win a £25 John Lewis voucher.
22nd May 2015
The Office Charity Bake Off
Two heavy weights of the bake tent are preparing to lift the lids off their cake carriers and to reveal their lovingly crafted sweet treats to the world. The air is buzzing with anticipation, made all the more heady by the thick wafts of icing sugar clouding the breeze. Everyone’s awaiting Ed Stirling’s arrival with baited breath: CEO and sometimes Bake Off judge. From the back of the assembled crowd a rogue tummy issues an expectant gurgle, and all eyes are fixed on the tins...
In the blue corner, gripping her Emma Bridgwater spotted container and panting with all the adrenaline of a proud mother on the rugby side-lines, is Priscilla. Mother baker supreme, lifelong devotee to Mary Berry and by all accounts last years' wronged runner up.
In the red corner, teetering in her signature stilettos and pencil skirt combo, but with the casual addition of a skimpy frill-edged French maid's apron is Melissa. Reigning champion and (not so) coincidentally current extra-marital squeeze of Ed, CEO.
Nobody would have predicted what happened next.
Pricilla unveiled a glistening, perfectly caramelised tart tartin – a solid staple, but notoriously difficult to achieve such perfection; the crowd gasps in appreciation. Meanwhile Melissa is wafting herself seductively over a cut glass cake stand displaying an array of pristinely crafted petit-fours, like a chic Parisian Nigella. The male interns in the front row drop their jaws to the ground: they are visibly salivating.
I glance at my school girl’s effort nestled between the glistening products of our two baking titans and groan with embarrassment. My roughly cut brownie chunks are charred black around the edges and yet still liquid inside – oozing obscenely all over their soggy paper plate. How is that even possible, for something to be both burned and raw??
No-one was more shocked than me when we returned back an hour later to see the winning rosette balanced on top of my sad brownie platter. I heard Melissa even ask whether it had accidently slipped off her cake stand onto my plate and I have to admit, the same thought had crossed my mind… I don’t understand, was it some kind of pity prize? I feel like such a fraud, and although outwardly kind I can see both Pricilla and Melissa are (rightly!) churning inside.
What was Ed thinking? The office has loyally scoffed the lot and I am so worried my under-baked disaster will have given them all food poisoning! Paul Hollywood definitely wouldn’t have gambled on that, he would have pronounced them ‘raw’ and advised Mary not to eat them. Oh god, what if the whole office is ill over the bank holiday weekend?? I’m slinking off now to get out of the line of fire and praying to the gastro gods as I go…
29th May 2015
Never work with children or animals. Isn't that what they say? Unfortunately it’s half term week and it cannot be avoided - London is stiff with little people.
You can't move for them! Queuing up in Starbucks for their babycinos; hogging London's green spaces at lunch times with their picnic blankets; having screaming fits and flinging yoghurt around on busy commuter trains. I had to take cover behind an estate agent on the 7:45 who took a full strawberry petit filous to the chest.
As two of the three guys I support are Dads, I thought they'd be working from home, or taking time off at least some of the week, but it's been way too busy in the office. Ben's little ones, clearly missing their dad and with a penchant for making mischief have been calling in a few times a day:
'Hello, Bertie good morning, how...'
'No darling, I'm not Daddy, I'm Lucy.'
I must say it's a little disheartening that the child thinks I sound like a 47 year old man with a slight lisp on the phone.
'Rucey...? ...want DADDDYYY!!!'
By this point he is bellowing this down the receiver as if the only reason his father is not coming to the phone is because he can't hear him, so he must shout louder. My ears are still ringing.
Today has been a rollercoaster of its own. Nigel arrived at 8.30 this morning with a very guilty look and his little daughter in tow. We both knew who would be babysitting all day. That early start I'd purposefully come in for was obviously going to come to nothing so I set about gaining the trust of this incredibly cute but painfully shy child instead.
Up to my neck in work as usual, I put my new minion in one of the empty offices with as many coloured pencils and bits of printer paper as I could find and left her to it.
After a few hours I thought I'd better check in on Nigel’s daughter as I'd heard barely a peep out of that office all morning. Popping my head round the door I got the shock of my life when she swivelled round in the chair holding a pair of scissors, happily showing off the new haircut she'd given herself. She looked like Donald Trump in a gale force wind. This is not going to be an easy one to explain...