Thursday, 22 November 2012

Keeping Appointments - Is It Really So Difficult?!

A promise is a responsibility.  Now, the word ‘promise’ might sound a bit dramatic when used in conjunction with making an appointment with a doctor or a hairdresser but nevertheless, an appointment should be taken seriously. I have childhood memories of being asked, “Do you promise?” as a means of making doubly sure I understood that what I was agreeing to was important, so it seems to fit.
Time is a very precious commodity.  There is no way to get it back once it’s gone, nor is it possible to make more time – believe me, I’ve tried.  So if you have made an appointment, whether that be to meet a friend or colleague for coffee, or you’ve booked some time with a professional (dentist, beauty therapist, photographer, whatever) you should do everything you can to keep that appointment.

Somebody has agreed to give you some of their time, may even have turned down others in order to give you that time, and they should be treated with the deserved respect. 

I understand that it is not always possible to keep appointments, but I do struggle to come up with an excuse as to why one should ever think it acceptable to simply not turn up, without any contact at all.  Very few people these days do not have a mobile phone of some kind, many have access to email on the move.  If you cannot keep an appointment, have the decency to cancel it properly in advance, please!  The sooner the better, as far as the other party is concerned; it gives them a chance at either filling the slot with another appointment, or at least planning their time so it can be put to good use.

People are busy, and things do genuinely “come up,” or get forgotten, but a little pride and self-respect, and some basic organisation, should enable you to keep the majority of appointments.  Carry a diary with you.  If a traditional paper version is too cumbersome, most mobiles have a calendar app these days.  Put the appointment and a contact number straight in, as soon as you make it.  Even set a reminder.  Immediately, the “I forgot,” or the “I didn’t know how to get hold of you,” excuses are gone.

I am surprised most weeks by the number of people who have appointments with me who just do not turn up.  I even call them beforehand to check that it’s still convenient and very often hear, “Oh yeah, I was meaning to call you – I can’t make it.”  It’s frustrating but at least I know they’re not coming.  The very worst is those that I talk to, confirm they’re coming, and then still don’t show up!  Just so rude!

So if you must cancel an appointment with someone, bear these suggestions in mind:

Be a Grown-Up when you cancel and do it over the phone.

Personal contact means so much these days.  It shows a level of maturity and earns respect.  If at all possible, make the call.  If you really can’t face talking to the person you’re cancelling, send a text, email or even leave a voicemail after office hours, but do it yourself.  You made the appointment, you should be the one to cancel if you need to.  If you really can’t do it yourself though, have someone else do it rather than no-one at all.

Don’t go into huge detail about why you can’t make it – you’ll probably make it worse.
I’ve changed my mind.  Fair enough.  That’s up to you.  As long as you let me know in advance, there are no hard feelings, I’m a big girl.
I clean forgot.  Well, I’ll give you one more chance but that’s it.  As previously mentioned, I know things do happen in people’s lives that take precedence over everything else, but forgetting again is inexcusable.
I’m just too busy.  I don’t need to know how busy you are: we’re all busy these days.  Are you implying that I have nothing better to do than sit around waiting for you because you are SO busy? I do hope not.
My hamster died and then the car broke down and then my handbag was stolen, and and and.  Pick an excuse and stick to it.  Even if it did all happen, you’re taking up more of my time telling me in great detail when in all likelihood, at this stage, a simple apology and a request to reschedule (if that’s what you want) is probably all that’s required.

Please don’t think that I’m an ogre.  I’m simply a working mum trying to keep a lot of plates spinning and manage my time as efficiently as I can.  All I ask is that you show me a bit of common courtesy.  It’s only the same as I would do for you.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Carnival Festivities

It’s carnival season in Somerset at the moment and I went to one last week with my family.  For the most part, it was a lovely evening out and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.  I do remember some of the floats, but for me, the procession was marred by the number of adults smoking around us.  There was a family beside us, with both parents smoking, the father in particular was puffing away as if his life depended on it.  Quite ironic, really.
There has been so much written and spoken of in the media over recent years about the dangers of smoking, and the effects of passive smoking on children, that I am quite staggered there are still so many people willing to admit to this huge social taboo.  I would put it up there with drink-driving.
Smoking in the presence of children is tantamount to neglect in my view, and I cannot imagine any addiction that I could not give up for the sake of my daughter, yet there are still women who smoke and drink through pregnancy.
Perhaps more distressing than the cigarette smoke blowing around us was the state of the two children to the other side, a boy and a girl, but the girl in particular caught my eye.  Or rather, her hair did.  It was long, blonde, and distressingly dirty.  She was perhaps seven or eight years old. 
Teens get greasy hair, that’s a fact of life.  It needs washing most days for many years.  I speak from experience as the description of being able to “oil a bicycle” was something I had to be wary of.  That sort of state is not reached overnight, however, in pre-pubescent children, and that is what caused my concern.
My daughter’s hair gets dirty - she massages her lunch in generously and frequently applies other household stickiness throughout the day as she plays in the garden or rolls around on the floor with the dog – and so we wash it most days. It’s still sparse enough that the egg yolk dried in hard, yellow threads is very visible, so we at least have that on our side.  I have no idea how long it would take for her hair to become thick with her own naturally-produced grease because I won’t be finding out for many years yet.
I understand that sometimes hair-washing can be a battle, and hair-brushing even worse, but I would argue that as parents, we have a duty to our children to look after their welfare, and that includes keeping them clean.  I understand, too, that there has been a lot written of the chemicals in shampoos and that might put some people off some products, perhaps encouraging less frequent hair-washing. This poor little girl at the carnival had not had clean hair for some considerable time though to get it into that state, not just going without a brush for a few days.
To my husband’s relief, I didn’t say anything, but given the time I’ve spent thinking about her since, I wonder if perhaps I should have done, or whether that would have made things worse for her.  Poor little girl.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

‘T’ Is For Tay – Loch Tay

The “last holiday before baby” seems to be almost as much of a pre-birth ritual these days as choosing a colour scheme for the nursery and packing a hospital bag.  More likely to happen than, say, a baby shower even.

Loch Tay in Scotland was the last place my husband and I went on holiday before our daughter was born.  I had envisaged somewhere a little more exotic-sounding, and certainly warmer than Scotland in March, but in fact it turned out to be the perfect destination for what we needed -  to get a way for a few days and ‘re-group.’
Once we got there, I didn’t mind swapping my dreamed-of cocktail, albeit non-alcoholic, for a big mug of hot chocolate, and the loch-side log cabin had a better view of the water than any poolside accommodation we’d have got abroad.
I opted out of the kayaking, thankful to have my bump as an excuse to hide behind, rather than admit that the weather was not quite what I’d hoped for.  I wouldn’t have possibly fitted into the boat after all, let alone get out again in the event of capsizing!  That was my story and I was sticking to it. 
In all honesty, we’d left it a bit late to go abroad and even if an airline or ferry had willingly agreed to take me, I don’t think we’d have agreed.  We are both worriers in the extreme!  I’d been carrying my pregnancy notes with me for weeks prior to that holiday anyway. 
We weren’t expecting to get snowed in on that particular holiday, but in fact it was bliss!  We snuggled on the sofa with the heating up high, mesmerised by the giant flakes floating past the windows.  The fridge was stocked up and there was no mobile reception so there was nothing to interrupt us – the perfect chance to look forward to having the baby, but also to remember that we were a couple first, and being holed up in the snow for a few days was a wonderful opportunity to reminisce.
I took this photo of the sheep in the field beside our log cabin and I love it for being able to feel the weather from it, and because of the way the sheep are blindly following each other, just as people say they do.  I’m sharing it as part of The Gallery.  Have a look at some of the other photos there.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Book Review: Seven Days One Summer, by Kate Morris

Jen is a photographer, long-term girlfriend and mummy who feels slightly frustrated and underwhelmed by life when the story starts. She thinks back to pre-baby days when her career was on a high and life was more spontaneous. She associates those days with Sam, an ex-love, who calls her out of the blue on her birthday.

Sam invites Jen to spend a week in his father’s villa in Tuscany, with her man, Marcus, and son, Alfie, and various other friends of Sam’s. Some are known to Jen, others she has not met. Jen and Marcus have fallen into a bit of a rut and Jen hopes this could be the very thing they need to revive their relationship.

Once in Italy, the sun shines, wine flows and suspicions are aroused. Each member of the group deals with their own issues, some better than others. Trying to put up with annoyances from others in the party, everyone does their best to enjoy their time at the villa. For Jen, there is something not quite right about Jill, the housekeeper, but she tries to put it to one side for the sake of the holiday.

I found the book compelling; I didn’t want to put it down until I discovered the climax that Morris was building towards from the start. Morris writes beautifully. Her attention to detail is the key to this book’s success. She creates a vivid picture, but includes the tiny observations that really bring it all to life; I could smell the lavender in the heat of the Italian summer, and I could hear the cicadas on the terrace.

I did find the ending a little frustrating, not for the twist, but because the book had been building towards it for so long and going into great detail that I felt it was rather abrupt and over too quickly. There was more I wanted to know about the background and how the story came about, and more details about how the characters responded thereafter.
Jen is a very recognisable character and I’m sure readers of the novel will see many aspects of their own lives cropping up in Jen’s story. She is easy to relate to, and Morris’s other characters are also very believable.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it reinforced the idea that there are friends you should go on holiday with, and friends you most definitely should not! Relationships do not always transport well. Sometimes, being away is exactly what is needed to pour a little clarity on things, as Jen and others discover. The story throws up many questions about how people gel together as a group and analyses the dynamics well. I found myself cringing on behalf of some characters at the behaviour of others!
The book was most definitely a great read and I recommend it to anyone wanting to hang on to the last vestiges of summer, or who has ever been niggled by people they have been away with.

This is Kate Morris’s third novel.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Writing Workshop - Time

Back-to-work Dread ought to be a recognised condition.  I’m sure there are many people up and down the country suffering from it right now.  They’re feeling the pull between the fun of the weekend, and not wanting to spoil the time they’ve had, and the ever closer trill of the Monday morning alarm.  Back to work.  The daily grind.
I’ve had a temporary reprieve: garden leave.  Tonight is the first time in a while that I’m quite looking forward to Monday.  I’m apprehensive, sure, about what the next few months has in store but I’m also genuinely excited.  My day is not going to be governed by my diary and its helpful little reminders that I have to dial in to a conference call in fifteen minutes, or that I haven’t left enough time to get to my next meeting.  I’m not even wearing my watch today!
It’s going to be like that blissful few days on holiday when you’re not bound by time at all.  The only thing that dictates what to do when is your stomach, which thinks it must be getting close to lunchtime now. Who says it’s too early for a beer?  And who cares anyway?!  Like the song says, it’s five o’clock somewhere.  Isn’t that what holidays are for?  Total relaxation and a complete break from quotidian routine.
I don’t think for a minute that I’ll last long without a bit of structure to my day.  I think we need a bit of schedule and routine.  It can be a definite blessing in disguise. Take housework as a prime example.  I could reel off a list of a hundred things I’d rather be doing , but in fact, by setting a time limit on how much I’m going to do, I do achieve a lot more.  I’ll spend half an hour cleaning, but then treat myself with half an hour reading; books, magazines, blogs.  That’s the problem; there just isn’t enough time for all the ‘fun’ things I want to do.
I’d wager that by Tuesday lunchtime I’ve set up my diary with prompts and reminders, my own to-do list and structured the whole week again.  The difference will be that this time, it’s on my time.  My rules.

You can see more posts about Time at Sleep Is For The Weak here.