As 2015 slowly winds down (I’ve started to write this at the end of November), I find myself moved, as always, to compose my thoughts on the year gone by and jot them down. Where to begin?

Work

It’s my professional life that has seen the most change this year, with drama from the start. My manager at my (then) job in office supply retail resigned at the end of January, having had enough (understandably!) of the company’s ineptitude. I don’t exaggerate when I say he was sorely missed, not just by me but by everyone, and I consider him to be a friend as well as a manager I respected. His departure from that place sparked my own quest to leave, and I had several interviews – including one with a pretigious London department store, a job I came very close to getting, but agonisingly, just missed out on.

I won’t lie, missing out on that particular job hurt, and it still does. It would have been a remarkable thing to note on a CV, and I would have been honoured to work there, even despite the stress and hassle of traveling into London every day.

My now former employers slipped further and further into decline, with head office taking forever to appoint a new manager to the store. This left myself, another team leader and a part-time sales manager to somehow juggle the responsibilities of a general manager on top of our regular duties, and whilst we did have sporadic support from other stores, the area manager paid very little attention to our plight, and visited us just once. He left us to sink without offering any help, and I am very, very disappointed in his attitude to our situation.

It would be fair to say I was unhappy at this point. The month of February was a long one, as was half of March. We struggled – I struggled, and felt there was nowhere to really turn. The area manager was useless and uncaring, and this was also the case with the company as a whole.

Then things began to turn around. The new manager started, and for a time, things began to improve. The store got organised again, and I felt I could flourish once more. Oh how wrong I would prove to be.

Without going into specifics (former colleagues may be reading this and I don’t want to land anyone in it), it was suggested to me that certain (untrue) suggestions had been made about me. I had to explain myself to the area manager in person (which I did, and was no bother), and afterward, I asked my manager to have a word with the person who had made these suggestions. To my knowledge, he never did.

Ultimately, leaving was as much for the sake of my sanity and health as anything else. Stuck in a job with no prospects and an atmosphere that was becoming poisonous, combined with a head office that had no clue how to run a business, I realised I had to leave, not only for the sake of my career but for my well-being. Leaping into the unknown was risky, and to be honest, I feel very bitter about the circumstances, but I had to act in my best interests, and I did just that.

The upshot of it all is that I have ended up in a career that plays to my strengths, even if at first I wasn’t at all sure of the industry. My former colleagues and manager have repeatedly told me I’m a good salesman, and you know what? I am.

I’ve heard several stories come out from my former employers, regarding how the store has been over the course of the past few months. If I ever needed validation of my decision to go, these stories are very much it!

As the new job has progressed I’ve sharpened and honed my salesman skills. I am bloody proud of what I’ve managed to accomplish so far there and I look forward to seeing what else I can do!

Personal

I am fortunate that, after what was a difficult year last year, 2015 has been kinder on the personal front. My loved ones and friends are healthy and I had the pleasure of meeting an old friend earlier in the year for a few drinks and merriment! My wife is well and my daughter continues to astound and amaze me. She is now at school proper – where has my little baby gone? Her personality is shining through now – she is a very relaxed and chilled little girl, with a wonderful creative streak – she likes to draw, she likes to bake (yes, she loves making cakes and biscuits!), and she likes to make her ponies… erm… do battle?!

It’s been the love of my family that helped me get through the tough times earlier in the year. I owe a lot to them this year – more so than usual. My wife, my mum and my dad have in particular shared my tumultuous journey and got me through it. Without them it would have been all too much for me.

Despite the tension, stress and pressure at the start of the year, I feel like the shackles have come off this year. Being free of my thankless role with my previous employers has given me a new lease of life, and I feel like I’m appreciating the world around me a little bit more. I enjoyed a wonderful trip to the Tower of London earlier in the year with my mum, wife and daughter, and back in May had a much-needed week in Yarmouth with my wife, daughter, step-daughter and granddaughter. These were much needed family occasions that gave me the chance to recharge my batteries and get myself back into a good place (my little girl got her first experience of a horse and carriage ride too!)

2015 can best be defined as a transitional year. It started out tough – very tough. It’s ending on a positive note. I have to be happy with that!

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It’s like a switch is thrown in the brains of every managing director, CEO, shop owner and store manager. November 1st is go time for Christmas!

Cue festive streamers, signs, lights and even music. The most wonderful time of the year is now the most wonderful two months of the year (and now Christmas is bleeding into October too, with supermarkets and shops getting their promotions and deals on the shelves, complete with wrapped presents and pretty, gold red and green tinsel). When did this happen???

It’s been the case for years of course. We’ve become obsessed with the bargains and sales that drive the build up to the big day, unable to resist the assault on our senses. Here in the UK, the phenomenon that is Black Friday is starting to take hold more and more, and in the USA, it is a full-fledged day of absolute pandemonium (ironically taking place the day after Thanksgiving).

To me, Christmas should be a family affair. My fondest Christmas memories are of the gathering of my family clan, introducing my wife to the idea of going to a pub on Christmas Day, and of course, the look of absolute wonder and joy on my daughter’s face when she spots the presents under the tree. Whether or religious or not, Christmas should always be about spending time in the company of people you love, and about making your loved ones smile.

Now, I am hardly adverse to buying presents and like anyone, I enjoy receiving gifts. What I resent is the steady transformation of Christmas from a special, magical family occasion, into a corporate money-making exercise, with our eyes and ears bombarded (earlier and earlier every year) with festive songs in shops, adverts on TV, and leaflets through the post. Kids in particular will look at all the toys and gadgets being advertised and will work themselves into a frenzy, bubbling over with excitement for two months, placing merciless pressure on parents to treat them. The parents also have to deal with hyperactive kids more or less bouncing off the walls in anticipation of the 25th December.

It isn’t fair on the kids, or the parents.

There’s also intense pressure on the employees of retailers. Having worked in retail, I have often had to work both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, not usually getting home till quite late on Christmas Eve, as I’ve been rushing around trying to get the store ready for the Boxing Day offers (and naturally, there is a lot of work to do). The people at the top seem to think the people at the bottom have nothing to do at Christmas, other than work to the bone at their behest.

Mind you, a lot of retailers (my former employers in particular) regard their staff as little more than faceless numbers anyway, doing little to encourage loyalty and showing very little either. It hardly surprises me that they see employees as a means to an end, and they probably resent letting them take Christmas Day off!

So to recap. Christmas starts too early. It’s placing enormous pressure on parents and kids alike. It burdens employees of big retailers with the expectation that work comes before family, even at Christmas. What should be a wonderful time for families to gather has become a huge marketing machine. I say Christmas needs to be reclaimed! Make it a family occasion once again. No Christmas decorations (and especially no music!) until 1st December! If a store absolutely must be open on Christmas Eve, it should close at 4, no later. Who is with me???

Recently my wife, daughter, step-daughter and her daughter spent a week in Great Yarmouth. It was nice to get away from all the stresses and strains for a short while, and we crammed quite a lot into that week, including swimming, a trip to the Sea Life centre, bouncy castles and a whole lot more!

Of course, it’s always nice to come home to your own bed, and as we settled into bed on Friday, I was pretty sure I’d close my eyes and be out like a light.

Unfortunately, there was someone outside with other ideas.

At around 1am, both my wife and I were awoken by the sound of our front door rattling. Someone was shaking the door handle, but unluckily for them, our front door is pretty noisy at the best of times, let alone when someone is aggressively shaking it.

I leapt out of bed and used the torch on my phone to shine a light down stairs, turning on lights as I passed them, and checked the house over to be sure no one had gotten in. I phoned the police, who sent someone around pretty quickly, and they advised us it was probably someone drunkenly trying to get into the wrong house (a genuine attempt to break in wouldn’t take place so noisily, and if they were that determined to get in, they’d break a window. By now paranoid, we tried to get back to sleep, and eventually did, but I dare say it was a fitful sleep, with every little noise disturbing us.

It would have been bad enough if just my wife and I lived here, but we have a five year old daughter too, and when you’re a parent, even the remote prospect of anything happening to your child will bring you in a cold sweat.

The audacity of thieves is astounding. These days they are getting more brazen, and I am giving serious thought to investing in a burglar alarm as soon as I can afford one. It shouldn’t be a necessity, but I fear it is.

As February slowly gives way to March (crawling slowly on its belly as it happens), I look back upon the first two months of the year with… well, I don’t think regret is the right word but it’s the only word that springs to mind.

The two jobs I was especially keen on landing both didn’t work out. Several other applications and interviews in that period didn’t work out either, which is quite frustrating.

I suppose what’s been frustrating me more than anything is that my current job has been getting quite stressful during this period. My manager, whom I have a lot of respect for, resigned in the middle of January and I can honestly say I don’t feel that head office have been overly supportive (and certainly haven’t moved their arses when it came to finding a replacement). This has of course led to extra work for me and my colleagues, and though we’ve had support from other stores, sickness has taken its toll on us as well.

Add on endless tasking from head office (they seem to forget we have actually have customers to tend to), and it’s getting on my nerves. There are endless collations, training exercises, pogs and promotions to do – on top of stock, and on top of reports. I thought we were supposed to be a customer-facing environment?

Still, on the horizon is firstly my wife’s birthday, followed by her going to see Spandau Ballet in concert! Next is a trip to Bristol for a gathering of the ‘clan’, for my mother’s birthday and also for other relatives’ birthdays. Following on from that, my brother’s birthday and a family trip to Great Yarmouth for a week! So, even if the job hunting isn’t proving to successful right now, at least there are prospects for R and R!

So it’s clear that I haven’t made any serious updates to this site for a while. Between the ever-hectic job (where the pressure is currently unrelenting) and having a snuffly, restless four year old (who is more keen to sleep in mummy and daddy’s bed than her own after waking up at stupid o’clock), it is fair to say I feel knackered!

I am in the process of seeking a better path for myself, career-wise. To that end, I have two particularly intriguing prospects that I obviously cannot name on here, but both have their distinct perks and both promise better financial gains.

One is as a salesman, with team leader responsibilities, which is similar to my current job, except with a greater emphasis on the sales aspect. The other is as a manager, with a company on the up, in an industry which is quite secure.

I might not get either job. I might be offered both (in which case I have a tough decision to make). I really hope to hear from one of them soon!

It’s Christmas Eve, I am at work (yes, work – my employers know no mercy), and I feel exhausted after yet another early start, but I am heading into the big day determined that it will be a good Christmas. (Nearly) everything is wrapped, five-bird roast is bought and ready, decorations are up and we’re nearly, nearly there. To all of you, I wish you a merry, and safe, Christmas, and a very happy New Year!

So, we rapidly approach the end of 2014. What sort of year has it been?

It has been a year of struggle at times, especially on the personal front, for reasons that I won’t go into great detail here. Suffice to say, what happens in my family will stay firmly within my family (I will never understand why some people choose to air everything online).

My daughter finished her year at nursery and in September started school, in reception. I really can’t believe how big she’s gotten – she now babbles away excitedly, and continues to make tremendous progress – being with other kids her age, and with some loving encouragement from mummy and daddy, she is astounding me.

She has had a busy year. in June she went on holiday abroad with mummy and daddy, nanny and grandad, her uncle and aunt. We went to Ibiza, to the very same resort that I went to with my mum, dad and brother back in the late 1990s.

It was weird – the place was familiar in many respects, yet obviously, with the passage of time, it had improved and changed. At one stage we were sitting in the lobby, and I could vividly recall sitting there, playing card games, the first time around. The pool looked exactly the same, the weather was gorgeous, and the hotel food was very good for what it was. After what had been something of an exhausting spell at work, the holiday was very much needed!

My daughter loved it – she was babbling away for ages about how she went on a plane, and how she went swimming every day, and how she danced every night. It was wonderful for her, and I hope to one day repeat that holiday – it would be great, when she is older, to revisit that same resort.

Work has been, at times, a real headache. Again, I will not go into all the details, but suffice to say at one stage I felt stretched to breaking point. There was a spell, in July, that tested me greatly, but, I dare say, it was the making of me. Since then, I have felt stronger as a manager, and whilst I know I still have work to do, I have taken some great strides forward.

As far as my beloved Liverpool FC is concerned, they came agonisingly close to winning the league title, but for heart-breaking results in the final few games – and sadly, this season is proving to be a disaster! Still, seeing the scum that is Man Utd flounder last season as a joy to watch!

Watching Lewis Hamilton win the 2014 F1 championship was also pretty special – after the troubles he’d had earlier in the year, it was nice to see him get the glory – he deserved it!

Finally, the World Cup provided some amazing entertainment – not for England mind (I watched one England game on holiday, and wish I could reclaim that time), but watching the hosts Brazil capitulate horribly against Germany in the semi-final is something I won’t forget in a hurry. That wasn’t the only memorable moment – but it was certainly the most memorable!

As one, last footnote – 2014 is the year this website began!

What does 2015 hold? I have no idea. What I want it to hold is good health and happiness for my loved ones and myself. Anything else is a bonus.

So, my little girl is now at school full-time! No more half days, this is where she is there all day! It’s scary to think how quickly this has come about. When we walk her to school I can’t help but notice all the kids in nursery uniform, and all I can picture is my daughter in that same uniform – but now she’s a whole year older and not in nursery colours anymore!

She’s taken to it quite well. She walks on in, quite happily, and whilst part of me wants my little girl to declare she needs a cuddle from daddy before running into class, I am proud that she is confident enough to stroll in without any drama.

She’s growing up so fast! I struggle to get over just how fast. It seems like only yesterday she was born. I remember her first birthday and I vividly remember my dear nan getting to hold my daughter – a very special moment for me.

Each day my daughter makes me smile and warms my heart. I am very lucky.

Yesterday we ventured off to Southend-on-Sea (a combination of cosmopolitan city and seaside resort town) to check out an attraction docked at the end of Southend Pier (which by the way, is the longest pleasure-pier in the world, at over a mile long) – namely, a replica pirate ship! I had hoped to share a few pictures, but the file sizes are too big for poor WordPress to handle!

Nevertheless, it was a great day out – my daughter absolutely loved traveling down to the end of the pier on the little train they’ve got, and she was entranced by the pirate ship (but not before she detoured and did some colouring in and pirate-hat making!).

I’m not sure just how faithful a replica this ship was, but if it’s even remotely accurate, then the sleeping area for the average member of the crew was cramped, to put it mildly, and you have to be very careful of every last bit of rope and rigging or you’re going to have a spectacular accident. Life at sea in those days must have been bloody hard!

My daughter had a great time, exploring and playing on the ship – and she also enjoyed her beach-side picnic too! It was, all in all, a very good day!