Escape route…

the daily commuteEver have one of those days where you plot and plan your escape route?  I do. Rather frequently. Routine and the Monday to Friday 9-5 is a bore. Luckily the content is sufficiently entertaining that it’s bearable. In any case seems it must be endured till the children are grown and have successfully flown the nest…

On the daily commute… I dream often of coastal lavender farms in France… near Bordeaux… I love the wild wilderness of the Atlantic coastlines… spent my childhood scrambling over granite cliffs, picking blueberries, on the other side of the Atlantic…  and used to fly over the Gironde frequently when I was based in North Africa for several years for work. It is a stunningly beautiful spot from the air with long sweeping white sand dune beaches. Even the French say it is THE place where people know how to eat, how to live. I have never seen it from the ground. I dream of hammocks and sailboats and a heady mix of heavy floral scents, delicious aromatic wines and salt sea spray. Long lunches and longer walks with long views of ocean horizons. ah, one day…

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Dizzy dishes…

dizzy dishesI don’t usually make new year’s resolutions… it’s a bit burdensome to start the year with that sort of thing but then this year I suddenly thought I really should have more picnics… I love them… spoil myself with quality family time, fresh air and better work life balance… more raw foods, less cooking… keep it simple… and maybe a little more boop-oop-a-doop with them… so there, a new years resolution for 2013… bring it on baby! Picnic ideas and recipes welcome!

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Tall ships…

tall shipsOff to Poland in a few days for work and memories of a moonlit night, foxtrotting with a Polish naval officer, came flooding back… a fleeting romance… where is he now I wonder… I still have the letters…

It was the 80’s but seemed more like something out of a film from the 30’s or 40’s… an outrage to the men of our town… the tall ships were in… all the young women of a certain age were sent invites by the mayor to a ball in honour of the sailors flooding the harbour… my boyfriend at the time said, ‘no girlfriend of mine will be going to that.’ I said, ‘Fine. You no longer have a girlfriend.’ Trouble had been brewing for a while in any case… and I was not going to be told what to do. How very dare he! Who did he think he was! Truth be told, I didn’t really want to go and recall being quite grumpy about it all but all my friends were going and it was nice to get dressed up…

So we played the wall flower game, my best friend and I, until a couple of men, naval officers from a Polish ship they were, asked us to dance… what is it about men in uniform?!

I’d taken ballroom dance lessons as a teenager and he too so we, barely out of our teens, walzed and foxtrotted our way round the hall… so charming… he was terribly serious and very sweet… we couldn’t let each other go… in between whirling around the room, we drew pictures on our invitation cards to find out more about each other… without a common language… with lots of laughter…

The next day I gave him a tour of the town… there wasn’t much to see and we were more interested in each other than the tourist spots… it was hot, sunny, and before long we found ourselves in the tall grasses on the hill overlooking the harbour… a hill with a view… a harbour full of tall ships… with a little picnic… with his fingertips gently tracing the curve of my cheek…

The day had a dreamy, romantic quality and yet an emotional intensity to it… taken by surprise… locked in this sudden soaring embrace with a dashing stranger due to be shipped out the next day… it wasn’t love at first sight. it wasn’t love. it wasn’t even really desire, was it? but it was something… magnetic… inevitable… we ended the day at the waterfront… with a sunset tour of his ship… with delicious kisses…

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Secrets to happiness…

She was a girl who knew how to be happySo, TED has curated a little playlist of talks on happiness…

Fascinating stuff. All along the continuum between psychography and behaviour… Freedom. Choice. Power of smiling. Less stuff, more happiness. Habit of smiling. Going with the flow. Create aspirations… Check out the talks here:

http://www.ted.com/playlists/4/what_makes_us_happy.html

Find it rather curious that all 9 talks are by men… coincidence? or is it that men know the secret to happiness? that men are more happy? that men are less happy? that men think about what happiness means more than women? Are women not bothered with the concept? Eh?!

Thinking about my own relationship with happiness now…

“She was a girl who knew how to be happy even when she was sad. And that’s important—you know ”. ~ Marilyn Monroe

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Growing life with giraffe…

Growing life with GiraffeIf you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

An African proverb I came across today… I like it. Really resonates for me. I think I’ll share it with my boss, the ginger wizard, who is constantly banging her fist on the table, hassling me to deliver faster… output, output, output. I’m not sure she even knows what she wants delivered. Just something she can throw onto her boss’ desk and say ‘there, daddy, aren’t I great!’

Fast?! fast can be a tall order, a rather impossible task operating from the centre… There’s been a little too much ‘going it alone’ out on the ground in the past in my organisation and while there’s been a lot of innovation there’s also been a lot of waste and inefficiency… missed opportunities. A lot of people in different boats doing the same thing. To go far, get the impact and the outcomes we want, we need to work together…  A more collaborative approach… a more feminine approach perhaps? It’s a huge culture shift… and of course there is still plenty to be done alone and fast as well…

There is a time for everything I think… just got to know when ‘fast’ trumps ‘far’… it’s all about the balance… and knowing what you want the story to be…

Stories! the current buzz word. Everyone… all the trendwatchers, marketing gurus and digital prophets… are talking about ‘stories’ at the moment… I sent out a top picks for 2013 trends sites to my marketing network today and in researching it came across a keynote speech from Jeremy Gutsche, the trend hunter. Thought provoking 28 minutes… check it out here.

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Breakfast, lunch and dinner…

a year in Kiev 50‘I fucking love science’ has just busted the goldfish myth! seems they actually have rather amazing memories… reminded me of a few goldfish I once knew… breakfast, lunch and dinner we called them…

It was somewhere back in the mid 90s when I was living in Kiev… I was running away from a broken heart and exiled myself to the frozen banks of the Knieper for a year with the Soros Foundation, teaching English for the poison dwarf as we called our director… days of champagne and vodka and mafia bazooka attacks at metro stations… days of 300% inflation, cockroach infested apartments, salo jokes and ice fishing, poetry, music and laughter… days when the bar only had 3 beers in stock, when the cafe only had cheese but no bread and days when after standing for an hour in a snowstorm at the market the farmer ran out of eggs… it was really the best of times and the worst of times… I could fill a book with the weird and wonderful Kiev tales and the companions who shared the journey but for now just the fishes…

It happened one day in winter. I was getting dressed and as I leaned forward into the cupboard a pain ripped through my body… I sat shivering, in shock, in pain, unable to move without the pain searing through my back while my friend rang for help… a doctor arrived finally… he danced around, making jokes, utterly uninspiring confidence… he produced a small vial of liquid, a painkiller of sorts and lopped off the top, spraying slivers of glass everywhere… he couldn’t tell me what the problem was…

For 6 weeks I lay on the floor unable to move… I had an  x-ray which revealed a node on my spine… nothing serious really… my students came to visit… they arrived with sweet smiles and chocolates and a small bag with three little goldfish… they said it was a Ukrainian superstition that the fish would bring good luck and help the healing process.

And, true enough, as I recovered the fish began to disappear… after a month one of the fish died and when I returned to work the second one died… only Breakfast was left… she stayed longer until one day she too was found floating on the surface… I put her on a plate feeling a little sad at the loss of this last member of my little lucky trio and left her on the counter, under the hot water heater… after about an hour she suddenly started to twitch and come back to life… the heater had a drip which must have done the trick! A miracle! What joy!

It was Spring by then and the weather was warming; the Kneiper had thawed, the nudists and fishermen were back on the beaches and the blue rinse brigade back to their Sunday dancing in the island park. At dusk one day, I took Breakfast to this island in the middle of the Knieper and let her go free into a little stream…

I wonder now if she remembered me…

Ukrainian joke: 2 men were fishing. one of them caught a goldfish and his friend advised him to let it go. The goldfish popped back up and said ‘you’ve released me so you now have a wish. You can have anything you want on condition that your friend gets double what you get.’ So the man wished to be blind in one eye.

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Mondays…

At the CoalholeAh Monday… my old friend….  or frenemy, should I say…  Yes, it’s true. We don’t generally get along.

It’s not for want of trying. We always start off on the right foot and I don’t know why or how but eventually it all goes pear shaped, doesn’t it… recently, there was the Monday that my bra strap broke in the middle of a meeting with senior managers… the Monday I got locked in the loo, one of the larger disabled toilets, and had to shout and bang on the automatic door till I was rescued… the many Mondays that technology and train schedules got the better of me…

Today is the last working Monday of my year… hurrah! slightly worried that, with all the Mayan predictions, it might be the last Monday ever… yikes! and if not, two Mondays to come which I can pretend are Sundays… hurrah! Never mind that my teenage daughter woke up on the wrong side of the bed and could only grunt at me this morning… never mind my boss flipped out at 4pm and launched a tirade, cascading her own angst and internal turmoil… and never mind that I was too busy to stop for lunch… the sun was shining!

Tonight was also a sort of wake for my old friend Ian… I’ve told you about him before and his wild ways… Mike and I returned to the scene of the crime… the coalhole where we’d both last seen him together… turns out it was the last time either of us saw him… relived the moments, filled in the blanks, cried over the hole in our hearts, laughed at the madness, the sheer irreverence of him… a larger than life character…

We could feel him in the rafters… at one and the same time mocking us and laughing with us… and not that he’d ever admit it but secretly pleased that we’d come out in his honour…

chin chin ye olde bastard… see you on the other side…

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Zuppa, zuppa, zuppa…

Zuppaoh so delicious on a winter’s eve… all porcini, pancetta and creamy goodness… with a little warm crusty bread… one of my favourites… shame you can’t smell it…

I love to cook. I’ve always loved to cook… I thought I knew how to cook… until I met him… he taught me how to cook, how to really cook… with love, with tenderness, with generosity… and how to eat… how to understand the meaning of  ‘to savour’… whether it was an espresso in the morning sun in the garden or a pizza alle melanzane in a roadside bar or a linguine alle vongole in a marina trattoria or gnocchi made by hand at home…

He himself, from early childhood, had had trouble with eating and almost had to force himself so it had become a ritual and a discipline for him to take time to cook and eat… to do it mindfully… the expansive hand gestures which accompany the pleasures of eating are difficult to translate into words…

oh yes, it was eat, pray, love rolled into one fireworks of an affair…

Almost 20 years on, when I said I would come, it was on condition that he make me his carbonara… but he didn’t. No, he made me an intensely aromatic fish soup, simmered in a local red wine with sun dried tomatoes… all fresh, all natural… later, still hungry, we grilled lamb chops over the open fire… with crusty bread warmed on the hearth… and more of that delicious local wine… ate them with our fingers and then lolled by the fire happy and sated until we fell into the deepest, most peaceful sleep… can’t really complain, can I? still, he owes me a carbonara…

There is a recipe for the Zuppa with porcini and pancetta in the link below… sent to me by another Italian who came into my life not so long ago… he too can cook… and dance… but that’s another story for another day… check out the recipe here:

http://lericettediemilio.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/zuppa-benpensante-con-porcini-e-patate.html

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Living Daylights…

Reisenrad... spinning round...i turned on the television yesterday while busy pottering, free of thoughts of you for a change, only to see Bond in Vienna… the scene in the giant wheel with the cellist… reminded me of you and how we too once, not so long ago, went round in an old wooden carriage on that very same wheel… on a grey, wet evening… another twilight… and, somewhat ironically referencing the other film it appeared in, with our own third man… a third wheel… looking down at the little dots of people and lights… not at each other… our eyes not meeting… it was for me the beginning… although i didn’t realise until later, at the next encounter, the first inklings… the first time, without looking, that i saw you… now having to close my eyes… forcing them shut… your image burnt into my retina…

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Having it all…

IMG_1734Naomi Wolf is asking today who today’s female role models are… difficult one, isn’t it?!

There are some real shining stars at the moment… Hilary Clinton is growing on me for example…  even women like Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham are admirable in their ways… and it’s inspiring to think some women are actually having it all. Think it’s fair to say though that having a house husband or plump pay packet probably helps.

A while back there was a lot of noise about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg commenting to the media that she always left work at 5.30. This too was inspiring and I always keep an eye out for news items relating to her. Some of the headlines, like the one about her saying women should cry at work was a bit… silly?… but think the point about needing to be honest and engage directly were well made.

There has been a lot in the media over the last couple of years about gender imbalance at C-suite in organisations and whether or not quotas were needed to ensure gender balance. I even organised some surveys and panel discussions about this in my organisation. But where is all the talking getting us? Part of me objects to the idea of quotas… I am an early adopter generation of the post feminist concept that men and women were created differently but equal… and equally valued.

A few years ago now, Sheryl Sandberg also had a few words to say on this. Wonder if she still feels the same…

3 pieces of advice:

  • sit at the table
  • make your partner a real partner
  • don’t leave before you leave

All well and good to harp on about women needing to be more confident. This too irritates me. I was at a Web Summit in Dublin recently where maybe 10% of participants were women and they had a special leader’s lunch for women in business… same old same old from the panel… ‘be more confident’… yawn! this is an easy and rather superficial response… and it was held offsite at a separate venue with only women participants. Surely men need to be made more aware of the issues.

They started a mentoring programme for women in my organisation and a few women refused to participate on the grounds that it made them feel somehow singled out… ‘weak’ or ‘incompetent’… and argued that it was men who needed the mentoring to better understand, value and support women in the workforce. Can’t argue with that really, can you?

The worst culprits in my view, though, if fingers are to be pointed, of disempowering women are actually women. We do not help ourselves. There are few women I’ve met in senior positions now, mostly over 50, who do not fear the younger women overtaking them, who have built their careers from the early 80s with their shoulder pads and pant suits by being equal and the same as men… who have put career ahead of family… and who exhibit a very macho and masculine leadership style and use language that speaks to this… focussed on targets and outputs where a more feminine leadership style might take a more collaborative approach, focussing more on getting the process right in order to achieve the desired outcome…

Even with women at C-suite it can still be largely ‘masculine’ so gender balance for me is less about sex and more about getting the balance right between the feminine and masculine leadership, the ying and yang… it’s about behaviours and values.

And on that note… another inspiring woman… who also spoke in Dublin…on redressing the balance… in the bedroom…

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