The Call …

Years back, my father wanted a mobile phone.

For emergencies he said, to keep in his car glove box – just in case.

He wasn’t interested in web browsing (what’s that? I can hear him say), apps (what are apps?) so I bought him a “large key” mobile phone.

Easy to read, easy to use.

I programmed in some hot keys so he could dial me, my sister or the car recovery rescue company quickly.

Three large key buttons that he could easily press in an emergency.

My sister and I stored his new mobile number on our phones under “Dad” (very original) and he would make the odd call every now and again to us (not to the car rescue number) to check his memory of those hot keys.

He died back in 2013 and he is sorely missed.

On going through his things shortly after his death I recovered the phone from our box of his memorabilia.

I decided to charge up the phone to see if it still worked (and to check whether the pay as you go credit was still available).

I was over my sister’s drinking tea as she was cooking some food in her kitchen.

I took out his mobile phone (I was planning to surprise her that I had found it and it still worked) and pressed the hot key for my sister.

I could hear her scream from her kitchen as she saw the call from “Dad” on the display of her mobile phone, vibrating and ringing on her work surface.

Dad would have laughed out loud.

My sister didn’t …..😎

I’ve still got the phone ……it is safely stored away …

Looking back in wonder …

We all know the years fly by.

Back in the 80’s I was wondering what the year 2000 might be like.

We are now 20 years past that.

I have been keeping a personal blog (DayOne) since May 2014.

I never believed I would keep it going.

I have.

Every day without fail.

Maybe because it is on my phone.

And I’m always on my phone.

It allows me a search facility to pin down certain events, places, people that are vague, until it brings up the detailed journal page.

It is my retrievable, detailed memory.

Stored in the cloud as backup to my brain.

It offers a peek at what I’d written 1 year back, 2 years back etc on the same day as I may be writing today.

“Can it really be 2 years ago?” I sigh ….

Memories captured, neatly and clearly (well to the best of my ability).

It is, essentially, a book of my recent life.

Well since May 2014.

And when I read it, at random, complete with photos I have attached to the relevant journal entry, I marvel at what I have experienced.

I smile often and sometimes cry just a little.

But I remain grateful that I am blessed with being able to keep on writing my book …

And still looking back in wonder at an incredible journey ….

30 Minute Flashback …

I’ve always loved photographs.

We used to keep them in large albums with thick, heavy, covers which were difficult to open.

They were often filed away in a cupboard and brought out by chance when we noticed them whilst looking for something else.

Nowadays we have, perhaps, courtesy of digital cameras and phones, too many photos.

Too many to review, often now resident on our laptop computers or personal phones.

Never to be seen again or shared once taken.

My wife, bless her, decided some years back to scan all of our old photos from those albums into digital form for posterity.

It was a massive project.

We recently decided to build, over the weekend, a 30 minute slide show of a selection of these photos (plus some latest phone ones) so we could share with family and friends as Xmas approaches.

We had to decide on selecting 150 photos covering our life.

It was a tough call.

Little did we know how we would react to being transported back to memories, people, events and places that just became suddenly vivid and real again.

30 minutes plus chat time of course.

It became 3 times that estimate when we did a trial run.

A flashback of our lives.

A journey now stored in the digital cloud.

For us and others to review and reflect.

I’m still shaking.

It ought to be on prescription…

Filling Time? No ….

It was time for my 6 monthly dental check up.

I used to have a morbid fear of dentists until my 6 year old son asked me, way back (he’s 38 now) why his teeth were checked but mine weren’t.

Then my son called me a wimp.

Not sure who taught him that word.

But it worked.

I got straight on the phone and booked that appointment but that’s another story.

Watch this space for that post.

I’ve been going for my 6 monthly dental check ups ever since and I’m calm.

I speak to my dentist about golf, about yoga, about anything.

He’s a really smooth guy.

Charismatic, great sense of humour, you know what I mean.

My wife loves him.

I’m sure she eats sweets so she has more visits.

He shakes my hand when I enter his consulting room.

He smiles.

He is genuinely interested in how I am doing.

The examination is comprehensive but quick.

“You’ve taken my advice about using that electric toothbrush” he smiles.

I try to smile back with a mouth full of dental mirror and half of his hand.

After the consultation I gave him some advice about his nagging backache (I asked him how he was doing, of course!) and told him to try yoga.

In 6 months time I’ll check whether he has acted on my advice too 😎

I’d never thought, all those years back, that I’d look forward to an update with a dentist.

He’s that good…

Once you open the door …

I have had a week of the most amazing long conversations with friends.

I was politely advised this morning by my wife that I needed to stick to a day of silence for everybody’s long term sanity.

And to protect my voice.

On Fridays I often accompany my 93 year old Aunt Lil (I’ve posted about her before) to the local shops in town to get her weekly shopping.

After our shopping I was back at Lil’s flat for a cup of tea and the mandatory mince pie.

However I keep wanting to chat.

Asking questions and reflecting.

And following up.

Trying to be sensitive and not intruding.

This time Lil strayed into the subject of sewing machines (I am currently trying to get her sewing machine repaired and she was pleased that I’d finally, after a long time, booked it in for her).

However, little did I know what would unfold.

We had the history of her work career (she was a machinist).

Different employers, different locations.

How she had to walk to work, often in the dark, early in the morning, across desolate fields in East London, to the sewing factory, and, one day, injuring herself by walking into a concrete lamppost.

Hospitalisation was deemed necessary for a few days plus, apparently, some poor eye wound stitching by the nurse (resulting in odd shaped eyebrows – I’d never noticed) …it continued and continued.

We had stories about her evacuation locations during the war.

I really struggled at times between tears of laughter and sadness.

I was very moved by it all.

She then continued to unravel the detail, the stories, the matter of fact accounts.

Once you open the door you have to just hang on.

Different companies, different jobs, low wages, her “boy mad” mate who asked her along to support her at meet ups outside the local dance hall.

I think I’ve probably found out what really affects me the most.

It’s just the talking, the listening, the enquiring.

The exchanging of stories.

The time just passes.

Effortlessly and enjoyably.

And so unpredictably.

And no, it’s impossible for me to be quiet.

I’m just genuinely interested.

Perhaps I always have been but was afraid to ask the obvious question.

Just sharing thoughts, issues, different perspectives.

Just supporting by listening and trying to understand people a bit better.

When I was 18 I had no idea at all that it would be like this many years later 😎

It really is something quite special …

You shall not pass …

My secretary, Val, had phoned in sick.

The temp agency we used in these situations responded immediately and Lisa, the temp, arrived at my office within 30 minutes.

I had a busy day ahead catching up on writing a key business report for my Chief Executive so I asked her to protect me from all visitors and phone calls until lunchtime.

The hours flew by.

The report was completed.

I eventually came up for air and opened my office door and walked out to see Lisa.

“Thank you Lisa for protecting me this morning – did I have any visitors?”

“Only one, a tall guy with dark and grey hair, in his fifties I guess”

“I blocked his path towards your door and he look very surprised, slightly stressed”

“Did he have a strong Scottish accent?” I asked anxiously.

“Yes that was him and he’s left you a note…”

The note read …

When you can possibly spare the time please call into my office.

“Was he anybody important?” asked Lisa

“He’s the Chief Executive Officer, so I’d better rush up to see him!”

The CEO’s secretary, Sarah, escorted me into his office and sat me down.

He slowly looked up from his papers.

A serious expression on his face.

“Who was that secretary who stopped me from getting in to see you?”

“She totally blocked the doorway and wouldn’t let me pass!”

“I’m sorry, that was an agency temp secretary, Lisa, who was covering for Val who is away sick today.”

He looked up, smiled, and said “Don’t say sorry, she was amazing!

I’d like you to give Sarah, my secretary, her agency phone number so she can protect me when she is away on leave next month”

I left his office with my heart rate very slowly getting back to normal …and thanked Lisa again for doing a great job!

I knew, at that first meeting …

I don’t forget my days in Corporate life.

I was very fortunate to have had a range of interesting jobs throughout my career and met some very fascinating people.

Some of them have remained good friends despite moving on to other companies, other countries and other challenges.

We remain connected mainly by the technology of LinkedIn, Facebook, E Mail and the good old mobile phone (well it’s been around for a while now!)

So yesterday I was reminded on LinkedIn that one of the guys I recruited back in 1993, Gary, had a birthday.

I sent him a “hope you are well” type birthday greeting.

He came back with

“Thank you Steve, I am now 52 so we have been connected for half of my life – thanks for keeping in touch!”

He was recruited by me as a potential “high flyer” in finance and wow did he fly!

Charismatic, knowledgable, tenacious, and a great team player too.

I just knew, at our first meeting, that he was perfect for a role in my team.

I used to run, after work, informal 60 minute one to one chat type sessions with potential shortlisted candidates.

Time consuming but so useful.

This was before actually deciding whether to invite them back for the formal interview board a few weeks later.

This process allowed both of us to talk through the CV, see how the chemistry worked and chat through any questions they had about the role being offered.

I tended to know, after this meeting, whether it was worth moving to the next stage.

And often so did they.

Gary is now a very senior Finance Director in another company (he’s moved about and upwards over the years to broaden his experience) and deserves his position.

Back in 1993 I knew he was good.

Very good.

You just have this feeling.

In some small way, due to my decision to offer him a job and him accepting, I have influenced his life a little.

That’s how critical these decision points are.

He certainly influenced my life.

He made my job as his manager really easy.

And made a real difference.

And I knew that he would … at that very first meeting …. 😎

It starts with a cup of tea …

The offer of a cup of tea when I arrive is not to be refused…

There’s always time for one, according to my wife’s Aunt Lil.

The kettle goes on, the cups clatter down from the cupboard, the search for the milk in the fridge is always a challenge.

The mandatory cake or biscuit heads it’s way to you on a plate. Just pick one and enjoy.

The chat begins.

It starts with a review of her recent performances at bingo and cards at the community centre.

“I never win anything” she says.

“I only go to get out to meet a few people”

She offloads her pile of opened, official, post to me with the question “Is this important?”

It normally isn’t.

Then I ask any question about her past.

Hold tight.

Be prepared to be shocked and mesmerised at the detail, the recollection of names, places and events.

Be prepared to want to ask many supplementary questions as the stories unfold.

Be prepared to be amused, intrigued and, often, very moved by her recollections of her life.

Oh my God, I should record all of this for others to enjoy.

I wouldn’t dare ask her if she would let me.

The tea in the cup goes cold as I sit entranced at her stories.

The tea is just the catalyst for us sharing some time together and just chatting.

Her stories now reside in my head.

Long after I leave.

I am richer for them …

Thank you Aunt Lil 😎

The 3 Minute Download …

The old lady looked lost and unstable at the pavement edge.

Her walking stick was tracing patterns in the air.

I had just got off the bus and was making my way through the cut through alley, just 3 minutes from my home.

“Can I help you?” I asked the lady.

“Well it would be really helpful if you could assist me across the road so I can cut through the alley to the chemist please”

“Of course, please hold on to my arm, I’m going that way”

“Thank you, that’s most helpful” she said.

We started to chat.

As you do.

“I live on my own, can’t see too well and my walking is not what it was since I broke my pelvis a few years back”

“It’s a beautiful sunny day for a walk today” I said.

“Yes it is but it’s a bit chilly that’s why I have my coat on”

“I feel the cold more nowadays living on my own, when my husband was alive he would whizz about the place and generate enough heat for the two of us!”

“He used to overfill the kettle, as men do, which kept the kitchen warm as it boiled away but I could never lift the thing to make a cup of tea”

“I’ve now got one of those smart energy meters but I can’t see it”

“So you live locally, close to the shops and chemist?”

“Have done for years – it’s just so convenient”

I escorted her to the chemist but before we arrived at the entrance she was greeted by a guy called Bill who was outside on his mobility scooter.

They obviously knew each other very well.

They hugged each other.

“Thank you, young man for the support” she said in my direction.

I was quite flattered but then appreciated her eyesight was not perfect.

She then wished me goodbye and was now in the comfortable and familiar company of Bill.

As I write this blog I’m sitting here worrying about how she will get back home.

I might just go to the shops shortly and see if she is on her way back.

I really hope I see her again soon to have another chat …

The Phone Call …

I worked with N way back in my Corporate life days.

She was one of the key members of my team.

We had not connected for about 20 years.

We had taken different paths in our careers.

An attempt to remedy this last year with her had to be cancelled at the very last minute but we did say we would reschedule.

We didn’t of course as we carried on with our busy lives.

Tonight we met up for a meal in the City.

My car was parked in my train station car park but this was always locked up at 11.00pm so arriving back later was not a good idea.

What are we going to chat about after all this time?

Will she still recognise me?

I waited in reception at our old offices where we used to work (for nostalgic reasons and I knew where it was).

She hadn’t changed at all.

Still full of energy.

Still buzzing and hustling her way out of the lift.

It was an easy reconnection as we made our way to the restaurant (she had already booked a table – she would).

She had tipped me off to download the free cocktail voucher offered by the restaurant (I did as I was told).

We chatted on arrival and had to be constantly reminded to order our food.

We both asked questions, chatted and listened.

A quick glance at our watches suddenly revealed we had been there for 3 hours.

N was horrified.

“Will you still be ok for your train?” she asked.

“Yes, I’m sure I’ll be ok” I said.

We said goodbye and parted company at the underground train station where she headed north and I headed east.

We promised to keep in touch and meet again soon.

I ended up on my main line train heading towards home.

Slightly tired as I sat down but having enjoyed a really nice evening.

My mobile phone suddenly rang.

I quickly answered when I saw it was N.

“Hi, just wanted to check you managed to get your train ok!”

“Thank you N I am safely on the train heading home”.

“That’s great – thank you for a lovely evening”

A simple phone call of care and concern.

Priceless.

Much appreciated…. very much like her company for the evening.

Thank you N.

We must meet again soon …