Friday, 11 July 2008

There is a God after all...

In my previous life as an IT person and eventually a Functional Director for a very large ‘Blue Chip’ global American I.T. manufacturer, part of my role required I undertake international travel. There were many reasons for this type of activity over a twenty something years career such as technical support, client meetings, attending and giving training courses for new software product releases, project management meetings, meetings about meetings, meetings to discuss what we knew and more meetings to discuss what we didn’t know and anything else that fell in-between; consequently my arse was often wedged into an aeroplane seat built to accommodate a size zero model who would find getting her arse and thighs in there pretty much tough going.

I can’t begin to tell you how I delighted in the vagaries of air travel; for example negotiating that plastic table with drinks and food precariously perched on it just as the numpty in the window seat needed to go for a waz whilst the aisle was completely blocked by a trolley and two flight attendants. Or even better, given that the table was a feature of the back of the chair in front of me and as such not under my control, it has not been unknown for the incumbent of that seat to recline at speed and with such force that the contents of my flimsy table would be jettisoned fairly and squarely over me. Over time I got smart and stopped dressing up for air travel and just wore anything that a quick hose down wouldn’t sort. It got so I would take at least one change of clothes in my hand luggage as there were a few occasions when I was in one country whilst my luggage was a tourist in another; on one occasion I arrived home before my wayward luggage turned up two days later. Had I known that the last I was to have seen of it was at the check-in desk on the outward bound leg of my journey, I would have simply saved myself endless time and trouble by not bothering my arse to pack it and lug it there in the first place.

I could have merely headed off on my travels with one clean pair of knickers, a tooth brush and one non crease business suit and blouse with suitable shoes in my hand luggage. The downside of this of course is that I'd end up performing a juggling act eking out a meagre ‘capsule’ wardrobe over a three day period whilst trying not to resemble a disheveled old bag lady with hygiene problems. But at least you weren’t office bound first thing Monday morning at your excruciatingly early breakfast meeting still in the stained and crumpled outfit of the unfortunate slightly insane looking international traveller. Of course an occasional solution was that the company would reimburse me for the purchase of a blouse here, some underwear there, to tide me over when I could prove my case had gone awol but it got to be so regular they assumed I was a lazy bint and just fibbed about the loss of my case so that I could expand my wardrobe at their expense from each country that I visited. If they’d seen the shite that I’d bought out of desperation and haste because my tight schedules didn’t allow for shopping trips then they may have revised that assumption. Looking like Bozo the clown was not a great ambassadorial look for the global corporation I was supposed to represent. Anyway, had that bloody suitcase of mine accrued air miles I’d have been laughing.

However, good background info as this might be, if you are still awake this far in, I have a tale to tell. As I progressed up the company ladder, greasy pole, whatever you may call it - I promise that I did that without any arselicking whatsoever, without the learning of funny handshakes, by being devoid of the backstabbing activities of some of my colleagues and by simply relying upon and being grateful for the bad judgement of those clearly bewildered people who for some reason thought I had talent and promoted me – as such with each step my perks improved. More often than not, I was booked to travel ‘club’ class; an oasis of comfort and joy away from screaming babies, queues for the loo’s, drunks sleeping with their head on your shoulder whilst they snored and dribbled over you and the low class punter that polluted the air for fifty seats around him because he didn’t have the good grace to stop dropping his guts whilst in such close company and in a pressurised area. Those were also the days when you could smoke aboard an airliner and kill your fellow passengers with extra concentrated and recycled passive smoke throughout the cabins. Bad as it was, at least that went some way to masking the fug from Mr Fartyarse’s backside.

And so in time, with club class being the order of the day, I became much more enamoured of the idea, the practicality and ease of international travel at spoilt brat level. No more slumming it in cattle class or being on a plane that sported an outside toilet. “No, I’d arrived”, I told myself smugly as I peered back at cattle class. My how I loved travelling and my smugness grew with each trip I took; that is until one day, recessions being what they are, the IT marketplace being what it was – a rapidly dwindling one with diminishing returns, subsequent layoffs and company closures - a dreaded circular on head office notepaper was placed onto my and every other managers desk. “Oh dear god”, we all shrieked as though we’d witnessed a disaster. “Oh for fuck sake”, cried another, as he grasped his desk to steady himself whilst his secretary rushed for the smelling salts lest he fall to the floor in a faint. And so the memo went:

Given the recent downturn in company profits, poor performance in the marketplace as a whole coupled with poor financial projections for the 3rd and 4th quarter results, it has been decided that from now, all international travel will revert to economy class. Club class will be for exceptional circumstances only”.

Well you could have heard a pin drop and shipped in a team of Paramedics on standby such was the shock as it settled in. We moaned, complained, threatened to refuse business trips and manipulated anyone and everyone into reinstating our spoilt brat status but it fell on deaf ears but we knew the score. The top of the tree would be the ‘exceptions’ that got to travel club class; the exalted few that wouldn’t know a day’s work if it bit them on the arse; the people least likely to benefit from a stress free journey with some truly hard graft at the end of it.

And so it came to be. In time we learned to accept it, to realise that controlling costs saved more jobs and in return the company had a fighting chance of survival.

So, there I was one day, arranging with our newly appointed in house travel company, a trip to our manufacturing plant in Minnesota, USA. I wasn’t looking forward to the cramped conditions for an eight hour flight but this was a trip I couldn’t get out of. There was a three line whip on it.

“Okay Ms Mob”, said the travel agent as she went on to confirm the details of my flights, hotel and car details back to me. As I thanked her and went to replace the receiver, she said “you do know that as an introductory offer we are upgrading you to club class, don’t you”. I could have kissed her such was my joy at this news. I perked up immediately, checked she wasn’t on day release from the local loony bin, and promised to bring her back a gift for such generosity.

It was a laborious trip to the airport, hampered by bad weather and the usual traffic chaos on the M25 motorway which has earned the moniker of being the largest car park in Britain. I rushed to check-in and prepared to wave goodbye to my luggage and wish it a nice holiday wherever in ended up. But imagine my joy at being told I had been upgraded yet again to First Class? I was almost delirious at the prospect of travelling in true noboff style. Dear God, in the space of no time at all I had gone from being a rear gunner at the back of the plane to hobnobbing with the captain, the rich and famous and of course the elite members of the cabin crew. I could have danced a jig right there in the airport.

Due to the lateness of my arrival, I was fast tracked through. I felt like royalty what with someone carrying my hand luggage, whizzing me through security checks, and seeing to my every need. My head was spinning at the speed of it all but at the same time, I was aware of a woman, desperately trying to not only keep up with me but to surpass me if she so could. I knew the ‘type’; clearly a spoiled little madam with a huge sense of entitlement and little manners with it. She seemed clearly miffed that I was receiving such elite assistance but that didn’t dissuade her from barging into me at every turn in an attempt to somehow achieve one better than me by getting on that plane before me. I couldn’t believe the dirty looks she kept throwing my way and it became a battle of wits to keep one step ahead of her for it became my goal to thwart this new nemesis who was such a dreadful little bully. Finally, when we reached the departure lounge we parted ways. Me, unnoticed by her into the first class lounge, her, for a quick dash through duty free for her cheapo cigarettes and booze.

What a different world the other half live in compared to us mere mortals. This was better than anything I’d experienced before or was likely to again. But it was all too short lived for I was being gently led by the elbow, towards the plane because first class passengers board first, in a gentle an orderly manner and without someone behind me dead legging me with their swinging hand luggage as they push forward like eejits trying to get inside the shops for the January sales.

“Hello madam, may I take your coat?”, asked the rather posh flight attendant smiling widely like I was ‘someone’ as she took my jacket and hung it on a hanger in the wardrobe.

“Champagne madam?”, she enquired as I settled into the extra wide beige leather seat that could easily accommodate four size 12 models and leave room to spare.

I settled back into a chair that was sheer bliss and picked up the film guide that listed the twelve or so films that I could choose from to watch on my individual DVD screen. This was in the day when this technology was prohibitively expensive for your average punter so I was mightily impressed.

“Bellini’s madam?, how many would you like?”, she asked, before returning with a beautifully laid out platter of Bellini’s, wild smoked salmon, Beluga caviar and soured cream. It was a Kodak moment if ever there was one. God I could have cried at the sheer luxury of it all.

I was in seventh heaven and thought life couldn’t get any better when what do you know, hiking her own hand luggage and dripping with sweat and hair stuck to her forehead, along comes little miss spoilt madam who on seeing me tooled up to the hilt with superior alcohol and food, stopped dead in her tracks. “Oh my God”, I thought, hiding my absolute delight, as I registered the look of shock and horror on her face that perhaps in her eyes I was a ‘someone’ to be reckoned with after all and that she’d blown her chance by being insufferably rude to me. It was a moment that I shall never forget to my dying day. She quickly gathered herself and moved on and I turned my head and watched her struggle through first class, right through club class and into ‘economy’ class and then lost sight of her in the throng of people vying for the best overhead locker to store their duty free.

I tried, really tried, not to let those feelings if smugness overwhelm me for it isn’t a nice thing to do but I asked God for forgiveness this one time and completely indulged myself in a little smug delight at what happened. Half an hour into the flight I rose to stretch my legs and strode to the back of the first class area.

Whilst I was stretching, someone in club class caught my eye. I couldn’t be sure, so I looked again, and looked some more. Just as I was scanning his face in my quest to see if it really was him, he looked straight at me and our eyes locked. “Dear God”, I muttered when I realised it was the head of my division, a man so very full of himself, a deeply unpopular man because of his lack of fair play with several acts of cronyism under his belt, travelling to the same conference that I was. His face was a picture when he recognised who I was and that whilst he was in club class, here was one of his management team larging it up big time in first class.

“Oh hi John", I said, as I smiled, hugging this golden moment to myself.

“Oh erm, hello Mob”, he stuttered, as his face reddened with obvious anger at my one-upmanship and clearly racking his brain as to how I’d flouted the company travel policy to get myself out of cattle class and into first class.

“Catch you later John”, I said as the flight attendant asked me if I wanted to have my in flight meal now or wait until later.

On that I turned my back, headed back to my seat and wondered at how life can sometimes come up trumps when you least expected it.

I’m no longer smug about such things, I’ve matured and realise that material things are worthless in the scheme of things. But that day, for once in my life, I realised that there was a God after all.....

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

And the award goes to............

........A truly loyal and witty bunch of readers who leave superb comments and are a great bunch to know. I said I’d do it and although it’s a long time coming, here it finally is! I want to say thanks to you guys that voted for me on the Best Of Blog Awards, (The BOB’s) – you are the true stars wading your way through the tripe that I write here, for that you deserve a big old pat on the back... I know there are quite a few awards listed here but you are all in good company because every one of you has made me laugh, cry, angry on your behalf or just plain frustrated so you deserve this. These awards are in no particular order!

Debs Lehner – you were the best campaign manager ever. I know I’ve already given you an award but you deserve as much as you can get because you are so good. Now that you’ve been nominated for the Blogger’s Choice Awards most humorous blog I shall bask in your glory when you run away with the title.

AIMS – Best Inspirational Blog 2007 at the BOB’s; a truly inspirational writer. A heartbreaking story that is uplifting because over and over she rises above adversity when most of us would have given up.

Softinthehead – for having a nice word to say about everyone – a very creative and kind lady indeed who writes a lovely blog.

Lane at Lane’s Write – Lane gave me the very best advice when I was struggling to get my novel written. She said something along the lines of ‘if you don’t write you have nothing to edit’. I stopped prevaricating and just started writing and it has been the best piece of writing advice ever. Oh and she also writes a brilliant blog.

Valley’s Mam – writes a fabulous political blog. She has been nominated for the Best Political Blog 2008 on the Blogger’s Choice Awards 2008. She is keeps me going when I want to give up blogging.

Stinking Billy – he was the very first commenter on my very first post. I was amazed anyone found the blog and thought it worthy of comment. Thank you Billy – you made a menopausaloldbag very happy indeed.

Crystal Jigsaw – this woman has a wonderful view on life, her writing is thoughtful and lovely and her energy and kindness shines through her posts.

Carolyn over at Laughingalone in the dark – who was nominated for best Mommy blog in the BOB’s but so generously threw in the towel and put her support behind Punk Rock Mummy who was
competing in the same category. Carolyn asked everyone to send her votes to Punk Rock Mommy who was writing a blog about living and dying with breast cancer. Such a kind and thoughtful thing for Carolyn to do and it sums up this talented young writer so well. Punk Rock Mommy lost her fight for life on the 5th of July. RIP dear brave lady.

Little Brown Blog – a superb writer with great wit. She tells it as it really is and paints the picture of highs and lows in her life with great honesty and humour.

Merry Daze – here’s a sweet and lovely woman who is chronicling the time of her life when she has made a big career change after returning to work from a career break. Gardening is the new rock and roll and Merry is coping with sore knees, sore everything as she learns the inns and outs of landscape gardening and just how backbreaking but rewarding her new career is to her. If you need a push to change your career then visit MD as she will inspire you.

Eileen A Life of Triggers – here is a woman who is bravely writing about mental illness in her family. It is a searing and honest account of her daughter’s struggles to get back to good mental health and how this has been overwhelming to her family; always an educational and moving read.

Casdoc at Motherofshrek – here is another truly inspirational woman who is a champion for Autism and a better understanding of how her son and others live with the syndrome/condition. She never indulges is self pity and with a heart the size of a planet she loves, cares and worries for her son as he takes on his next stage of his life away from home.

Retired and Crazy – one witty broad with heaps of attitude to life, a real disdain for the silly Political Correctness gone crazy mob and any other subject that happens gets her goat. It is this strength of character and unique look at life that has seen her through her husband’s recent health battles with stoicism, great empathy and wit.

Auntiegwen – a fellow Glaswegian who writes with cheeky humour and is never boring. I hope she starts to blog about her dating escapades as well as her beautiful weans.

Ciara – who lives with thyroid disease and whilst this does not define her, she manages to research it and write about it on her blog for others to follow. Always empathetic.

Mopsa at Mopsa Ramblings – so creative and yet immensely practical. The tales of her barn renovation, lambing and the challenges of daily life on a farm is very entertaining and she paints a picture that just makes you want to be there.
Karen - who writes a terrific blog that is also for me educational as she has so much knowkledge.

Belle Diary of a Housewife – a wonderful witty writer who has immense reserves of patience and love for her individual but challenging children. Her sense of humour never fails no matter what happens in her life.

Kitt – and Sophie her dog at The Kittalog. Kitt has a fairly eclectic style in blogging and her photographs are wonderful. Sophie is a character full of fun and the prettiest dog I’ve seen in a while. I suspect she just loves posing for the camera.

Breezy from Breezybreakblogs – a fantastic account of an English couple living in France. Her stories of her Dinner ladies – a collection of belligerent chickens that keep re-enacting the Great Escape into her French neighbour’s garden and how she rounds them up is hysterical. A must read.

Debra from Us In France – more stories from France and how she and her husband are making it abroad. Debra has cats and chickens and even ducks now and is the biggest softest animal lover I know online.

Dumdad at The Other Side of Paris – this is definitely worth a visit. A Journalist with a heart and a conscience as well as real talent and he’s perfectly witty with it. Read about all sorts as well as his and the family’s life in Paris.

Tina at Too young for a mid-life, Too old for a tantrum – a great continuing story about her up and down love life. She’s been a bit quiet lately so I want to encourage her back with an award so she can carry on with the tale.

Mean Moodie Middleaged Mom – writes with brilliant humour and great depth. Writes so candidly about empty nest syndrome and just the ups and downs of home life in general as a mother to sons.

A Mothers Place is in the Wrong - entertaining, delightful and funny. Go enjoy yourselves.

Wakeupandsmellthecoffee – a terrific blog of family life. Great writing and honest. She draws you in.

The Mother of This Lot at Mother’s Pride - Superbly well written and funny too. Recounts the tales of her family, (five daughters and a husband!) in a way that keeps you laughing and reading.

She’s Like the Wind – great family life and business blog. She’s had it tough at times but she tells the story so very well.

Suzy Identity Crisis – Suzy writes the most heartbreaking account of her life as a child. It is a quite astonishing story of abuse, survival, forgiveness and the journey of her life. Quite quite amazing.

Milla at Country Lite – another brilliantly funny take on family life – she’s great and a very good writer.
Manic Mother Of Five - another great blog where the writing is good and you feel at home in her posts.

Maggie May at Nuts in May – just love her blog of family life and things in general and how kind and funny this woman can be. Take a look.

Blogthatmama – a great blog with a woman who writes about family life with great wit and tells all about the Husband she call Lurch!

Willowtree at A Dingo Stole my Barbie – writes great stuff about everything and anything. He’s a straight no nonsense writer with a laconic wit but with a heart of gold if you follow his tales of Belle the dog and her car accident injuries.

Tattie Weasel – a mother, half welsh with a menagerie of animals. Terrific dry humour and well worth a visit.

Insane Mama – what a name eh?! At Help I have a Teenager – this girl is writing a terrific story right now. She’s good and worth a visit.

Jules at Just Because – great sense of humour and does great photo’s too.
The Brit at Spinning the Wheel – what a poet and a romantic. This blog is thoughtful, thought provoking and gentle.

Swearing Mother – a woman after my own heart when it comes to the use of profanity. She’s always topical, witty and passionate about what she writes . Come back soon from your break.

Gonebacksouth – she left home then went back home to her childhood village. This is a terrific account of a woman revisiting her old life but at the age of forty with kids and a husband in tow. Great read and very down to earth.

Dusty Spider – dear Flick who keeps me entertained talking about buying road-kill hats for her daughter’s wedding and travels on her boat.

Donetta Lee who writes the most incredible Friday Flash 55 stories. You have to read them to see what I mean. Such a clever writer.

Very Lost in France – tales of an English family in France. The husband’s away a lot with work and this girl copes magnificently with the nuances of part time single motherhood in France. She also tells it warts and all and if you hanker after a halcyon life over there read this blog first.

Mikiye Creations – a superbly gifted and creative jewellery designer. Her stuff is well worth a look at.

Sy – last but not least the winner of the BOB’s who has a very witty blog and was kind and generous in getting six of his voters to give me their votes one night so that I was bumped back into second place.

Now I know I am bound to have left someone off this roll-call. I am truly sorry for that as it is not intentional. I know that a lot of new readers have been leaving comments and for that I am eternally grateful that you take the time to read and comment. It means a lot to see and keeps me writing when I am tired and want to jack it all in.

I want to also say a great big thanks to the following people who are not bloggers but read my blog and give me loads of encouragement either through voting or just feedback or indeed recommending me to others.

My family – you know who you are and I won’t mention your names to protect you anonymity.
My friends, Betty, Maria, Pat, Susan H, Annie P, Kate, Laura, Sandy and her girls.
My other ‘couple’ friends Tom and Vicky, Robin and Hilary, Pat and Paul, Andy and Claire.
My wee friend Sean L who is always so positive and laughed his head off at the Simondo and Hortense stories. He was a late comer to the blog but I’m glad he and his dad enjoy the stories and have been very kind in their feedback – mostly up the pub after a few Sherry's as it were.

Don B – what a funny man this guy is. He was busy telling all and sundry at the Home Office about how good my blog was – what a star – you can’t buy marketing like that! Good luck in that new assignment in Trinidad and Tobago.

A big thanks to my wonderful two step-sons and their terrific support – when they remembered!

And finally, a great big thank you to the man called ‘himself’ in my stories and in my life. There is no finer husband.

I have included several awards for you each to chose one or as many as you like. This is because I know that a lot of you may have these awards already so I hope you will take another that you may not already have.

This is longer than Gwynneth Paltrow’s effort at the Oscars!
I don’t usually hand out awards so take as many as you want!