Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Farewell my friends

It's not often that twitter makes me misty eyed, but that's exactly what happened this morning when I read that Encyclopædia Britannica was discontinuing its printed editions.

Way back in time, well before the Wikipedia world, and even prior to CD-Roms (remember Encarta?), there were places where you went to look stuff up. They were called books. Or more specifically, the best you could use were called encyclopedias.

Ours lived behind the sofa in the nice lounge, tucked neatly (and all in order) in a bookcase that housed tens of these hard covered encyclopedias, along with about a hundred national geographic magazines. Black covered with gold writing on the spine, they looked like they knew exactly what they were talking about. At the age of eight and attempting to conquer another school project on volcanoes, I couldn't imagine there was anything these books didn't know.

I first learned the concept of an index and references between these covers; spending hours gently peeling across the tissue-paper thin pages, taking in the black and white pictures, maps, and diagrams, and occasionally even tracing them with kitchen paper.

Volume after volume, filled with more information than I could ever need to know, you were right there through school projects, exam study, and even family debates. You helped me grow to love the world of research; of pouring over pages just to find out more. I'm sad that my nieces won't get to run their fingers along the grand looking spines searching for the starting letter of their keyword; slowly pulling the weighty book from the shelf, and thumbing the pages until, there it is. All you could ever want to know about.....

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Happy International Women's Day (caution: rant to follow)

International Women's Day came and went this week. Google changed their logo for the day, the papers threw out some stats, and charities used it as a hook to get a bit more cash. And I'm sure somewhere out there, some man said in a grumpy tone, "Why don't we have a men's day?"

These days we're made to think that sexism is a bit like polio. You hear the stories about how it used to be terrible but the world has fortunately virtually eradicated it except for in some far-away third world countries. Not the case people.

Things have changed a lot for women across the world, over the past century, decade, and even year. Saudi women may well be able to vote in 2015, although they still can't drive. Or leave the country without a guardian.

And for the rest of us? Well, as women we're frantically becoming doctors, lawyers, journalists, engineers, and fighter pilots. But even now, we're not all playing by the same rules. I can certainly see this every day in the corporate world.

In the early years of our careers, I see us, ambitious, motivated, willing to get stuck in and work our way from the bottom up. You need someone to answer the phones? Collect the post? Sure, that's called a foot in the door! Unfortunately, a lot of the time it's not. It's corporate suicide.

The women that pictured high-flying corporate success in their youth, who were flying that female flag, go quiet. I see women packing away those flags in their sock drawers, next to their post-graduate education, determination and aspirations.

I really truly hope that all those women who I see in my life opting out of the commercial world, are doing it wholly and purely out of a desire to do something else. Maybe you really do want to start that cupcake delivery service/ make badges/ become a wedding planner. But something deep inside of me, suspects a lot of them are getting put off; driven away by a constant frustration that slowly seeps into your your subconscious.

A few years ago when I expressed a desire to go into general business management in the future, I was promptly told that 'perhaps I should just carry on with HR'.

Now, there's a lot of things in this world that I'm not good at: long division, interior decorating, accents, cutting the nails on my right hand... And I'll freely admit these things. But I have to say, although I was at the end of the queue when spatial awareness was given out, I was definitely at least in the first fifty percent of people when it came to business acumen. But despite expressing an obvious desire (oh and having a post-graduate qualification in business administration) I was very quickly told to get back in my HR corner.

My mother didn't spend hours marching the streets, writing letters, campaigning, and generally jumping up and down, for women to still be facing the big, ugly, elephant that is sexism.The question is, how much should we stay and fight? Is it best to stick it out, face mashed up against the glass ceiling, waving to all the men who started after you, and must have found the key to the room in the Men's toilets. Or do we pack up the collection of heels from under the desk, grab the pot plant, wave over our shoulder, and walk into a world where we can make a few more of our own rules?

As long as the corporate world is a predominantly masculine one, I fear we'll continue to hear: "you're too soft/ emotional/ obsessed with the detail/ part time" and "you're not strategic/ salesy/ old/ in the office (because you're picking up the kids) enough".

I hate giving up. On anything. But after years of hitting your head against a brick wall (or glass ceiling) surely you must have to think the only person you're hurting is yourself?

Sunday, 4 March 2012

5 great things about today

Sunday, 4th March, 2012

1. Coming downstairs this morning thinking I was going to have to fleece a piece of toast from the bread bin, only to find Becky taking her second batch of scones out of the oven. I just about peed my pants with joy

2. Having a mid-afternoon bath using the lame excuse of trying to ease the pressure on my sinuses, when actually I just wanted to cover my face in bubbles and re-enact the Prince sing-a-long scene from Pretty Woman

3. Mid-afternoon cooking in the kitchen with both an apron and Bon Iver, on

4. Sunday evening dinner table with the Franconia Ladies, a lovely glass of Zinfandel and excerpts of Caitlin Moran's genius book read aloud

5. Taking my bright new umbrella for a spin to Sainsbury's. Every time I looked up it made me happy again

Friday, 2 March 2012

Middle class crack

Get a load of that. Sitting right there on the shelf, as if you could just help yourself, take it to the counter, pay for it, and walk out of the store with it. Crazy.

Of course anyone who lives outside of New Zealand will most likely have no idea what I'm talking about now. Unless you live in Columbia and Mexico, where it's also banned.

But let me tell you, this week when the world slammed me with the worst cold I've had for years, my lungs became crackly and my head turned into a snot factory, it was a beautiful moment to walk into Superdrug, pull a packet off the counter and know that relief was just a matter of minutes away.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Northern Line crime

To the man on the Northern Line this morning wearing massive mirrored aviators - you look ridiculous.

This is due to a number of reasons:

- You're on the tube, which by it's very nature (of being a tube) is almost completely underground. Thereby leaving sunglasses unnecessary

- It was 7.45am. So even if for some reason there was ever a sensible reason to wear sunglasses on the tube, it's not going to exist pre 8am

- You were also reading The Sun and wearing a massive shiny belt buckle. However I could have easily excused these things, except for the eye wear crime you commit

That is all.