IMG_2099I find this stage just after the Christmas holidays very strange. I seem to get an overriding apathetic feeling, not really wanting to do anything except curl up and read or watch BBC Christmas TV, I mean did you see Mark Gatiss’ Dracula? 

The holidays whirl past, a timeless period of glutton where our wine glasses are never empty, and our tummies are always full. Calorie-watching has no place in our household and we seem to have forgotten the meaning of cholesterol. It is the time of year when my mother finally let’s us get out more than one cheese at a time and the M&S party food keeps flowing.

Every year, before I finish work for Christmas I decide that this obscene amount of vacant time off must warrant a new skill learnt; I will learn Dutch I promise myself, or Russian. I will do yoga every day and start a novel. Whilst I am at it I might as well read War & Peace and take up a tapestry course. In reality, after the first twenty hours of doing nothing, taking baths until I am prune-like (I only have a shower at my flat in Amsterdam), and being offered lifts by my parents (I don’t have a car in the UK), I seem to actually manage to go back in time to being a teenager again, my parents doing my washing and cooking my food. What a magnificent time. I become the laziest I have ever been, I don’t achieve any of my ambitious personal goals and constantly wonder if this would be what my life would be like if I had an infinite supply of money. I meet up with old school friends and sleep in late. Yes, I definitely regress when I go home. I do worry that I would have been a blissfully happy aristocrat.

Getting back to the daily grind is really very difficult. My alarm feels like it is going off in the middle of the night (it doesn’t help that it is still dark outside), and being productive feels like something I am no longer capable of. There was a day when even leaving the house made me feel a bit wobbly.  I have tiptoed back into the gym and have been feeling the effects of my first class on 2020 for three days. Walking is painful. I am thankful my manager is abroad at the moment to not see me in this sorry state. For those out there who are getting back into the “regular” week with some resistance, I hear you.

 

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Well that was a particularly long Christmas break from the Rookie.

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I signed off for Christmas late December and have been a bit quiet online. I have been working on a side a  project and spent a bit more time off the grid than I had imagined. If I am totally honest the longer I stay offline the harder I find to get back into it, and then the self-doubt and anxiety builds up. I am going to try much harder this year to keep up a good routine of blogging.

How does the Christmas break go by so quickly?  I was pleasantly surprised that my family and I all bought each other  mostly secondhand or homemade presents sustainably wrapped in secondhand cloth and recyclable paper/ newspaper. One of my present’s was another piece of the Le Creuset set my mum found secondhand at an auction rooms. It was a lot of fun lugging that back on the Eurostar. I truly think she is trying to give me some kind of permanent arm damage as revenge for constantly showing off my biceps at home.

New Year’s was lovely, a group of us rented a little place in Rye for a couple of nights very close to the beach.

I am terrible at New Year’s resolutions, let’s call them intensions.  Here are  a few things I would like to work on over the next year.

  1. Learn Dutch. I am already picking up a bit, but I would like to get a proper move on with my Dutch and converse with the locals now that I live in Amsterdam.
  2. Vegeanuary . Yep the Rookie household is going to be eating a lot less animal products this January year and I will share any favourite recipes along the way.
  3. Read more. Turn off the Netflix and pick up more books.
  4. Saying Yes to plans and meaning it. Or saying no and meaning it. I just need to give a definitive answer and not be the world’s worst flake.
  5. Being a bit more present. I am the worst at this. I am usually listening to a podcast with one ear whilst following a recipe and  cooking and completing an overdue email in the meantime. It is not productive nor sensible. This year I definitely intend to be much more  “in the moment”.

 

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28344976_UnknownThis year seems to be the year that we all have realised that we have enough stuff. Everyone on my Christmas present list, when asked what they would like, has suggested an “experience” gift or something really bloomin’ practical.

We have bathroom cupboards bursting at the seams with hand creams from our aunts, joke presents that are not really that funny ( I still have some racing willies somewhere in a drawer) and the numerous reports on the amount of our stuff heading to landfill is horrifying us all into sizing down on our presents, refusing to panic-buy and rethink our “filler” options. Hallelujah!

However, a quick search on Instagram for #giftguide and I am presented with thousands of pages of gifts, little trinkets to spend my hard-earned cash on this Christmas. If you’re  in need of some inspiration I have a few Christmas gift ideas that might help you this Noël:

  1. An experience; dinner, workshop, a massage or beauty treatment. Something you hardly ever treat yourself to, but is such a treat when you do have it.
  2. Candles. Candles make everything so cosy, and you don’t need to always splash out on the Diptyque or Jo Malone variety. TKMax always have a load of fancy-looking candles that are pretty reasonable, or you could even make your own..
  3.  Plants. This is something I usually get the people who have everything.
  4. Books; even secondhand books (if the person you are buying for is also an eco-warrior). Everyone loves a good cookery book.
  5. Grow-your-own herb kit or a herb garden. Kind of feeds into the above.
  6. Homemade hamper. Homemade chutney, jam, pickled items – get creative!

Psst! Don’t forget to wrap it in reusable wrapping paper/ cloth!

 

 

 

 

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Is it me or does Christmas seem to have come around extra fast this year? Well folks, just because it is Christmas and every marketing campaign in history out there tells us we must buy stuff during Christmas to have a great time, don’t mean it’s true. I have a few tricks up my sleeve that might help you to loosen the purse strings.

  1. Buy second-hand decorations. The charity and thrift shops are usually FULL of them at this time of the year. We went down a couple of days ago and bought all our decorations for around 6 euros. You might even bag yourself a second-hand tree you lucky rascal.
  2. Which brings me to my next point, think about the Christmas tree. According to this Carbon Trust report , considering the transportation, biodegradability and process it is conclusively “better” to get a real tree as opposed to a plastic one, unless you know you will use the plastic one for at least 12 years. Check with your local waste services but some trees do get collected, shredded and turned into fertiliser or in the area of Amsterdam I live, they apparently get turned into Christmas tree bonfires.
  3. Re-usable wrapping paper. Wrapping paper is usually plastic coated so not recyclable. We all see the bin bag from ONE family Christmas, imagine that multiplied over each country. Terrifying. I have started using scraps of fabric I find in the textile bin at work, and hope that people will reuse them (yes I am also that person who checks with the gift receiver if they will indeed find a use for the scrap of fabric and takes it back for reuse if not). Other options can be old newspaper with string, or brown paper.
  4.  Borrow your Christmas party dress. Every year, I used to buy something new for the annual Christmas party. It usually featured a lot of glitter and didn’t really work at other times of the year. Very wasteful indeed people. If you have nothing to wear, ask your friends first, chances are they probably have something and then scour your local secondhand shop. If all else fails I really recommend renting one.
  5. Christmas presents, get stuff people actually need or want. We all know it’s coming yet we all find ourselves panic-buying in the shops with hundreds of other people doing the same thing. The panic-bought present clutter our houses for a few months and end up in the charity shop. Think about what people really need, is there an experience you can get instead of a material item? Can you get children’s toys secondhand? Can you buy a bit less stuff?
  6. Have a veggie Christmas. I know it’s almost blasphemy for some people, but the Linda McCartney roast joints are pretty good, and let’s be honest we’re here for the trimmings!

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Three years ago in my old job, I remember my then-boss calling me whilst I was cooking dinner. It was 7.30pm. I turned off my podcast and put him on speakerphone whilst chopping garlic. He started speaking about a conversation he had just had with his senior. What he told me was an important update but not vital, and could certainly have waited until the next day. He did, of course text me first to check if it was okay to call me, but did not wait for a response. When he’d finished speaking, he asked me to make notes of everything he’d just told me. I was trying to concentrate on two things at once, the timing of the pasta I was halfway through cooking, and trying to listen to everything he was telling me. Cooking is my happy place. Not that night. For the rest of the evening I found my mind wondering to that conversation, wondering if I had caught everything on paper and then wondering why he has asked me to make notes when he has probably the same access to a pen and paper. It was this that irked me the most. And it is not the first time throughout my career this thoughtlessness has left me frustrated.

 

I have worked with a lot of dickheads. I have been working since I was sixteen and I have had more jobs than I can count on two hands. These jobs have varied greatly, from working as an au pair in Switzerland to a sweet wrapper for a famous chocolate company (FYI you can get sick of chocolate pretty quickly when faced with an unlimited supply). I was even dressed as a giant Volvic bottle for a promo job in Brighton, and my most glamorous job yet has been a hand model for a TV advert and no, the hand-job jokes never get tired. There has been one constant thread throughout all of these vocations. Working with dickheads. Some people are lucky, and work in a dream team, the type of people that gets shit  stuff done, will have your back in a meeting, will help out with the little tasks and not take all the credit for your work. These people are keepers and general all-round babes. I am fortunate enough to have worked with a few of them in my time, and still count them as friends. With the right team, working with others can be the can the most wonderful inspirational experience. But let’s be honest, there’s a lot of professional idiosyncrasies that can drive you crazy.

There’s a lot of dickheads in the workplace.

I worked with for one dickhead who used to ask me to go and pick up her dry-cleaning or chicken for her dog (FYI I was not hired as a PA but was the youngest in the team and consequently had to pick up the passive aggressive errands), I worked for another dickhead who was a downright bully and who would pick out one person in a meeting and ridicule them to the others as if there was a private joke between everyone. I worked with another dickhead who decided that getting hit by a car did not warrant me to take three days off, but elicited not to tell the owners that this was why I was reason for my absence from work and I received a notice of dismissal on my return. I worked for a micro-managing dickhead who would correct me on everything I did as a waitress, made me cry twice and was the most miserable person I had ever met. I worked in a pub for another dickhead who used to openly rate the women who applied for a job on their looks, and mark that rating on the right hand corner of their CV.  Another dickhead once scratched his groin whilst talking to me and when I pulled him up on it told me he was sorry but needed to do it. The same person picked his nose constantly when we had conference calls. I even had one dickhead who kept “forgetting” to pay me when I was working in a little coffee shop in Canterbury until I refused to come work until I got paid. He did pay up, eventually.

Let’s just say I have worked with all kinds of characters over the years, so much so that I feel I can impart some wisdom on anyone who currently has a work dickhead, or plural if you are really unlucky.

  1. Try to look at it from their point of view. This is something my mum always tells me, and 8/10 it helps. Are they under a lot of pressure? Are they going through something personally? Can you be a little kinder in your assessment of them? Take a breath and count to ten.
  2. Stay out of the politics. For some reason we love to unanimously moan about work, particularly we love to bond about how detestable we find someone at work. Whilst I do encourage confiding in someone, make sure you don’t make the behaviour out to be worse than it is, something I have been guilty of in the past.
  3. Is the juice worth the squeeze? Think about what you can learn from these people.  Working for dickheads has taught me to speak up a bit more and call out behaviour that is not okay.  I am also a bit more aware of when it is time to move on and look for another job, for my own mental health.
  4. Speak up. Whilst it is difficult, if you or someone else in the workplace is being bullied or harassed,  speak up. Speak to their senior, or HR if they are available. Ideally, if you feel comfortable, speak to the person in question first, and tactfully point out what you find frustrating. If they throw it in your face (and be prepared for that) at least you have tried to discuss it with them first. Keep a record of the dates things have been said/done, so that you can at least build a case on paper.
  5. There will definitely be more dickheads along the way. The grass is not always greener. Look at the good parts of your work.  My current boss definitely has his perks; he  can be very kind, he lets me get on with my work, he encourages me to take courses to develop my skillset.  I am also very aware that I can probably be difficult work with.

Most of all, call a dickhead out when they are being a dickhead (in more polite terms).

There is nothing they hate more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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