Monday, December 27, 2004

Lonesome when you go 

Sometimes I hate being abroad. Most of the best friends I have I made at college about 10 or 15 years ago. Bloody hell, now I feel old. Anyway, out of 8 or 9 weddings, I have been at 3 - including mine; and precisely one stag do, not including mine, which I do vaguely remember being at. The final wedding of this generation is coming up in May, and it would take a lot to stop me being there, but the fact that it will leave my strike rate well under 50% is a sobering thought. These are the things that you know will hurt when you go. The first answer to the question “what do you miss” is always “friends”. Email conversations and digital photos are nice, but a sorry substitute for being there. The great occasions that I have managed to get to have been some of the most enjoyable events of my life, and to have missed so many is an incalculable cost of expat-hood. Apart from anything else, there are about a dozen kids of friends that I have never seen in the flesh.

This blog has become a rather public way of keeping in touch with some friends, although there is a surprising number of people I have never met who read it. The possibility that my mother may one day find it also acts as a slight (very slight) damper on my ethereal mumblings. So here’s my advice to expats, or putative ones. Make sure that you can afford to get home regularly, and at the drop of a hat if necessary. Move somewhere that is attractive for people to visit, and you will find that they come and stay, and your relationship evolves in a way that it never would if you lived two hours up the M1. Recognise the emotional costs – you will find out which friendships survive the test of distance and infrequent contact, and may even find that some benefit from it.

Finally, once you take the plunge, you’re buggered. Having spent any time somewhere else you will have ties: friends and other bonds that will tug at you when you go home again. You’d better get used to being homesick.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Another year over 

In the traditions of dodgy Christmas recycling of back catalogue in the hope of getting a few more hits, have a look at the selection to the right under 'Creme du Pom'. If you've seen all that already, then my apologies for the lack of new material - work has been hectic and I haven't yet finished my Christmas shopping. Here's wishing us allp eace, prosperity and gentle hangovers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

It’s not quite a Jaguar 

Under a bit of pressure work wise at the moment, so just a quickie. Today's snippet of genius: two separate complaints that I had disabled the automatic reminder in Outlook for meetings that I had set up. Apparently it's hard to remember to turn up to a meeting if the computer doesn't remind you 15 minutes before.

Also, Haloscan and Firefox seem to have fallen out, so I am unable to leave comments on my own blog. While I get round to figuring this one out, the answers to recent questions are as follows:
- 14th March
- I don't know, but I do know that ex consultants make terrible clients.
That should make sense to at least two people. In the meantime, more rambling from a very thin notebook...

A new house is like an old car. People who see my old Triumph will admire it, and I have to fight an urge that says “yes, but it needs new carpets, and the gear knob is wrong, and there is a dent just here if you look…”. It takes a lot of willpower to smile and say thank you. Every owner of an old car has a to-do list in his head, sorted according to money and time, with an extra, bonus, ‘when I win the lottery’ section.

As with cars, so it is with houses. Visitors admire the new place, and you have to wrestle a compulsion to point out the bits that the builder screwed up, and where the finish didn’t turn out quite right. They admire the effect on the bathroom walls, and I am only just getting over the feeling that it looks like a jail cell. I just smile and say thanks. “We’re very pleased with it, do you want to see my car?”

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Why wait any longer 

You may have noticed a certain slowing up of the material here. The good reason for that is that work has suddenly become much busier. As expected, the procrastination on the part of the client now become a time crisis for the consultant. ’Twas ever thus. One day I’m going to point out the inconsistencies and hypocrisies in the way that clients treat their consultants. The day I quit probably. They’ll spend tens of millions a year screwing something up, to baulk at paying us a fraction of that to put it right. They complain at our fees, having tried to equate them to salaries that we must earn, since only the executives earn that kind of money. Guess who’s making more difference to the business, guys? Now they prevaricate for three months, knocking that amount of growth off next year’s targets, and then the ensuing panic becomes our problem.

Anyway. Point proven in a meeting this afternoon. It transpires that the reason they do not know what to do next with one of their important projects is that they can’t figure out how to get from the analysis they have done to a set of things to do. Operations director: “we don’t have those skills within the business”. What, thinking??

Monday, December 06, 2004

Yeah, you know her  

Last week was my son’s first ever school concert. His role? Child one. His only line was the first line, and after that we sat through a jazzed up version of the Christmas story as portrayed by 4 to 7 year olds. As always, the parents provided me with the greatest entertainment. This being Cape Town, there was a fair sprinkling of ageing hippy chicks in the kind of outfits that are going to embarrass the crap out of their wearer’s offspring in a few years time. Then there are the crop tops and low cut pants – some low enough to show Caesarean scars, which is probably not what the world’s fashion police had in mind. It’s an indictment of the cokeheads and fuckwits who run world fashion that the ideal body for a woman is the one that only a few had when they were 15. Any group of people who considers Sophie Dahl a bit porky needs a good slap.

Then there was my favourite among the mums – M’s mum. She is a 30 something Afrikaner with a figure that is testament to the skill of a surgeon somewhere, and a good head of blonde hair. The only snag is that she dresses like a hooker. She drops the little one off at school in outfits (hers, not the son’s) that can most kindly be described as impractical – all skin-tight cleavage and big sparkly belts. The boy’s only four, but I think he’s starting to get an idea that maybe this isn’t quite normal. Maybe he’s had a word with her – the other day she looked much smarter. She looked like a classy call girl. Thanks Mum.

I wonder what they think of me?

Friday, December 03, 2004

A comfortable bed that won’t hurt my back 

You may recall a certain back problem suffered by yours truly. I’ve tried everything short of the local sangoma to put it right, culminating in sporadic attendance at a hitherto all female Pilates class. Finally I have discovered something that seems to help: an ear infection. The inside of my left ear has decided to swell up to the point where I am partially deaf, and touching the side of my head, let alone the ear itself, is bloody sore. This being the case, my habit of sleeping on my left side, facing the edge of the bed, is a non starter. The last three or four nights, therefore, have been spent on my right side or on my back. Result: a far more comfortable back. Either I get myself into an awkward position on my left side, or the mattress is worn out under the bit it is trying to support when I am that way round, but something has definitely changed for the better.

The only snag is that I wake up with elbow shaped dents in my ribs. Apparently I tend to snore a bit when I am supine.

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