10 years hard labour

Ten years ago on December 6th, 2012 I started a new job. I immediately caught a filthy cold and wondered if I would get through the first two weeks.

Tomorrow is my tenth anniversary. How did that happen?

It’s been a journey of parts as the company name has changed four times and with it my role has changed from the job I took ten years ago. I’ve been promoted, felt demoted, learned corporate speak and always, always tried to steer clear of office politics.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and despite working in licensed fast fashion, I’ve always found integrity, somehow.

In the corporate world no one is ever safe from redundancy and I’m conscious that no one is indispensable. We’re tiny cogs in a giant machine churning us out one by one. Someone will replace me who’s younger, cheaper, hungrier and my time will come, I’ll send the final email and no one will remember me three weeks later. And that’s how it goes.

It’s good to be aware of this and have a plan B. I’d quite like to own a campervan and take up travel writing or perhaps restart upholstery and finish my bloody chair. I don’t imagine either option pays nearly as well though and I’m not keen on living in a campervan (nor is Big T) so perhaps that dream can be held off for a while.

And so, trying to recover from another filthy cold ten years later, I wonder where I’ll be ten years from now.

Whatever and wherever, it’s important to stay curious and I’d better not have this cough!

One month to go

In a month we’re off on a gap year to Cambodia and Vietnam. All very exciting except for tarantulas.

When I say gap year, I mean three weeks but I’m sure it will be a gap year fast tracked and condensed as we’ll be packing it in.

I have bought a backpack and will be travelling light. My clothes are already sorted and I’m busy building a capsule wardrobe ideal for Asia in January which is hard to imagine from England in November. Apparently it will be quite warm!

As usual I have no idea what the itinerary will be, all having been meticulously planned by Big T who’s been busy reading up.

I just show up, packed and ready to go!

A sobering thought

In September I stopped drinking almost by accident and it seems to have stuck for the moment.

This year my birthday cards all seemed to be about drinking, champagne, raising a glass and everywhere I looked were references to wine o’clock, drinking to cope, drinking for fun or just drinking. I felt I may have reached saturation point.

This weekend we went to a party and I didn’t drink. I had a good time and didn’t find drunk people too annoying. With Christmas rapidly approaching, I might push through to January.

Make mine a gin and tonic, hold the gin!

The dog’s haircut

How is it even possible that the dog’s haircut was more expensive than mine?! Hard to believe but perhaps only in London I suspect!

After many years of funding exorbitantly priced central London hairdressers, I recently took a punt on a local salon for a cut and blow dry, a fraction of the cost but a most stressful experience.

Let’s be honest, you get what you pay for so there was no chat, no discussion about what was happening, just a wash with water running into my ears (I hate that!) a whirlwind of scissors, a rough blow dry and before I knew it, I was catapulted out on to the street half an hour later. The fastest salon experience ever.

I was quite nervous as I have thick hair which can be on the bushy side if not well cut but despite my misgivings about the lack of communication, it all seemed to be ok.

Will I go back? Definitely not for colour which isn’t worth the risk but possibly for a cut as I now know what to expect.

As for the dog’s haircut, she looked amazing, it cost a fortune and took four hours of me hanging around in Battersea killing time by looking for a new bed.

As always, the dog won!

Agnes reclining on velvet whilst draped in cashmere. Couldn’t give a shit!

Two more days

Two days later and I lost count of how many meetings we had, how many presentations we made and how many meals we missed.

By the final meeting, we were broken and slowly dragged our sorry team off to the airport only to discover our flight had been delayed. Given that we’d arrived early, we had a lot of time to kill. Not ideal when all you want to do is crawl into bed and collapse.

I’m currently sitting in the Barcelona airport, I’m exhausted, sticky and coughing as the cold I had last weekend has joined me on this whirlwind trip.

Despite all that (and a miserable hotel in Barcelona) we’ve had a laugh. Four of us have been on this bizarre adventure, we’ve talked, laughed, worked, starved and collapsed and at the end of this manic week, we’re exhausted but happy.

As I said though, travel for work, not all it’s cracked up to be. Now get me home!

Travel for work

Let’s get this straight, travelling for work is not glamorous!

I left London and went to Madrid on Sunday evening. The flight was delayed so by the time we arrived, queued for a taxi and arrived at our very basic airport hotel it was half past midnight. Less than five hours later I was back in a taxi heading back to the airport for a flight to Coruna in northern Spain.

Arriving in Coruna at 8:30am, we went straight into a meeting, followed by lunch (2pm) and followed by another meeting. We then checked into our hotel, had a working session and finished dinner at 10:30pm. By this point I had no idea where I was!

I woke at 8:15am completely disoriented and thought I was in Stockholm. I was up and out with a quick breakfast and then it was back to back meetings from 10am to 3pm. My voice was starting to sound quite hoarse.

There were no refreshments except a bottle of water stolen from my hotel and a granola bar (I now carry a supply when travelling after missing meals in Brussels and Stockholm). We went straight to the airport for lunch at 4pm and then boarded a flight to Barcelona.

We’re now halfway through with another two days ahead in Barcelona and a late flight back to London on Thursday. I may run out of granola bars before I make it home and I will most definitely run out of steam.

They’ve certainly had their pound of flesh from me this week!

Conferences and crisis

This week I’ve attended three conferences and have struggled with a crisis of conscience.

Sustainability, supply chain tracing, living wages, alternative materials, recycled plastics, single use plastics, polyester, sustainable cotton. Recyclable products are not the same as recycled materials. The list goes on and it’s all well intentioned. And yet working in an offshoot of the fashion industry, the worst polluter after the oil industry, it’s hard to see how change will happen unless the industry has a massive overhaul and people stop wearing cheap, disposable clothes.

It’s a quandary and I don’t have the answers. I wish there was a solution in which we would all understand we need to make a collective change. We can pay to offset our carbon footprint but what does that really mean?

It’s all about greenwashing as we claim to clean up the oceans by removing plastics when we manufacture plastic toys.

People need to demand better quality clothing and be willing to pay more but does that mean that sustainability is only for the rich? What about countries like China, India? Will they pay for more sustainable fabric?

The term living wage is interesting. A wage paid at a regional level to allow someone to have enough to eat, clothe and house themselves with a little left over for emergencies. It’s not aiming high enough.

I’m left feeling that true sustainability eludes us and the goal of Net Zero by 2030 is impossible to achieve unless something changes drastically and I don’t know what that is.

Off to Spain

This week I’m heading to Spain for four days of meetings although I’m currently stuck on the tarmac at Heathrow so it’s not an auspicious start.

I’m spending the night in Madrid before heading north to A Coruna and then down to Barcelona before home on Thursday night.

It’s a whirlwind trip, the itinerary has been a challenge/nightmare to organise and so far we’re delayed by an hour which means a late flight into Madrid. Grrr.

Let’s hope we can make up some time when we finally get going. I have an early flight in the morning!


Escape from Stockholm

I had decided to leave Stockholm a day earlier than intended as I was supposed to be going to New York, and that’s where it all went wrong.

I was in a bad mood as I’d rearranged everything only to discover at the eleventh hour that I wasn’t going to New York after all. I should have stayed in Stockholm.

It was a mess. I checked out of my hotel a day early and still got charged for the extra night. I took a taxi to the airport and got stuck in horrendous traffic so a thirty minute journey took almost two hours and I finally arrived at the gate with five minutes to spare having run through the whole of Stockholm airport jumping every queue and apologising to half of Sweden.

I hadn’t eaten breakfast and had a splitting headache and then to top it all off, some fucker had a nut allergy which meant I couldn’t eat my emergency granola bar.

I arrived back into London in a very bad state, head pounding and emotions frayed. It took a couple of soft boiled eggs with rye toast and a cup of tea to talk me off the edge.

Lesson learned. Stick to the plan and don’t try to reschedule!

A quick trip to Stockholm

I didn’t have much time between arriving, leaving and meetings but did manage a quick tour of Stockholm hitting a few carefully chosen shops and whetting the appetite to return.

Cyclists on one side, pedestrians on the other
Very Swedish
A juxtaposition
Lots of water and bridges

My impression of Stockholm was one of civilisation. People seemed better dressed, better looking, more considerate, friendlier, healthier and generally living a better quality of life. They didn’t seem to know about the cost of living crisis as the restaurants and shops were full of happy, affluent people. I didn’t see a single homeless person, anyone down on their luck or anyone wearing a cheap black tracksuit.

I sampled some traditional meals and learned about fika, the Swedish coffee break consisting of conversation exchanged with something sweet during the day. The importance of herbs and spices was apparent as saffron, cinnamon and cardamom as well as dill featured on many menus.

I saw beautiful design, Josef Frank textiles, furniture, clothes and more, all rather tempting and a note to self to return with a larger bag (and more money!) next time.

I have watched many a dark Scandi drama (probably known as TV in Sweden) and would love to spend more time in the Nordics. This was just a dip of the toe into the icy waters of the Baltic.

I barely scratched the surface and have much more to see on my next visit (if and when I return)

And then it was hard to leave (literally) and that’s another story!