Wednesday, 30 January 2013


My moral compass has been tested to its full capacity this week.

There is a lady that I manage (let us call her 'C') who has been under-performing for as long as I can remember. If you take her as an individual then I'm sure you'll have come across worse but when compared to the rest of the department, her work really is abismal in a variety of ways. She is one of those that is capable of flying through work and always does what she is meant to do; no rod of iron needed yet her output is dire. We are constantly having to spot check issues that she has been dealing with and I guess you could say that she is comparable to that call centre agent that we always get through to when dealing with gas, electric etc that you never fully quite have confidence in. C is 'half job Harry' personified.

The biggest problem I have with C however is not her poor work ethic, it is the fact that she is quite possibly one of the kindest, thoughtful and most buoyant of human beings that I have ever had the fortune to encounter - something that made this week unbearable when I was more or less pressured into embarking on formal disciplinary action with her. I'm no fool - I know that she is never going to be able to meet the stringent criteria outlined in her review and I admit, it makes my stomach sink.

I have never had a problem with work. I adore customers, I enjoy resolving escalations, interdepartmental relationships have always come with ease. The one element of my job that just happens to take up the largest portion of my time is the harsher side of people management and it makes my heart tighten when I think about upsetting others. Getting a team on side, the building of trust has always come somewhat naturally but I guess that comes from the fact that I'm not one of these people that finds it easy to treat others unfairly; I can think of almost half a dozen other managers that most definitely aren't cut from the same cloth. Is it a weakness that I'm so uncomfortable when it comes to discipline? I look at other departments that are run in a manner that even Stalin would shy from. I see how everything is managed to precision with a huge output volume yet the teams within despise their management. Don't get me wrong, my guys are highly competent and can also handle high volumes yet we are always chatting, having a laugh and morale seems high in comparison. The only problem is that when it comes to addressing serious capability issues such as with C, it seems unnatural and almost wrong.

I know I have to proceed, no amount of dragging my heals will change that - it is my job and that is what I am paid to do but I've decided on a half way approach. If I give C my full support and do everything in my power to ensure she is up to scratch, the rest is in her hands. It pains me to see and I am trying my hardest not to dwell on possible outcomes but sometimes it is just too tiring when it comes to carrying the weight of others.

As they say you can lead a horse to water, I just hope this one has enough sense to drink.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Inside death row.

Adam has been out painting the town red this evening so I've been able to partake in one of my most cherished pastimes - watching the most ridiculous real life documentaries. Everyone at work has been banging on about the new two-part Trevor McDonald feature in which he travels to Indiana's maximum security state prison to speak with prisoners currently on death row so I decided to give that one a whirl.

What resulted is one of the most sombre two hours that I think I have ever experienced. Never before has a television programme affected so much that I struggle to shake the words and image from my head hours after it has ended. The nature of such an environment; completely void of what we deem to be 'normal' life, the direct way in which real people speak of such unspeakable crimes committed by their own hands, the idea of legally putting someone to death - a concept so far detached and so alien to anything I have ever known. Just wow.

I guess if anyone had ever asked me prior to watching the documentary whether I believe in the death penalty, I suppose my answer would have been a resounding 'no' but now, after that - I'm not even sure what I think. Seeing such remorse and pain and anguish in some of those murderer's eyes, I can't help but focus on the tragedy of their lives and resulting actions. They are still human beings after all, yet their treatment and presentation could be compared to battery farmed chickens, herded around and referred to merely as numbers. Despite their horrendous actions and sentiments of pure evil, it is unnerving just how unsettling their dehumanisation is. I should be angry and hate those people, I should want them to die, but all I could think of was the tragedy; the discomfort at how low a grade of human being they are in the population's eyes, stripped of everything that once made them individuals.

It feels wrong even typing it. They're evil and that should be that.

I don't think I will ever fully get my head around the idea of a governing body being able to legally take a man's life. It seems so alien, so wrong to someone that was born in raised in Europe where even the strictest of laws and decrees seem child's play to elsewhere in the world. Yes these prisoners have taken lives themselves but is it then right to take theirs in return? Is it right that humans as a collective should be able to choose when it is okay to take another life? On the other hand is it a mere case of punishment fitting the crime? Does the planet have the resource to keep every high risk prisoner locked up for life and is this a valid enough reason to enforce the death penalty?

As with the meaning of life, wouldn't it be perfect if we could just all sit down, discuss the issue and reach a logical conclusion? But we won't. 'Cause we're humans and humans have feelings, lots of feelings with oh so many opinions and views. And after dwelling for hours, I'll take my feelings and send them to bed, still not having made sense of them at all.

I blame you, Trevor McDonald.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Don't worry, be happy.

The snow has been falling thick and fast for the past few days. Lincolnshire received the worst of it last night and even I, the boy who endured many a winter in the frozen tundras of Sweden, found it a struggle driving to work this morning. It does still amuse me how this country grinds to a halt at the slightest sign of the white stuff but I guess you'd never truly understand unless you came to live here; despite having snow almost every single year, there are still no real provisions in place should the inevitable happen. Road gritting is confined to only the busiest of roads, path gritting is non-existant. Buildings and pipework are not built to cope with extremities of any kind and more often than not, many schools are forced to close. It's a shambles and to the rest of our frozen northern European neighbours we're a laughing stock - but I don't think I'd have it any other way. It's part of Britain's bumbling charm.

Skye, of course, is loving the snow. I guess you could say she is in her element and I've been tempted several times over the past few days to purchase a sledge in order to see what she is made of. If it wasn't for work then I really think I would. Damn work. It's pointless even being there with all the schools closed - I guess this is how lifeguards feel in winter.

Lately I've been attempting to work on just how much I worry about the tiniest, most pointless of things. If you asked people that know me just what kind of person I am, anxious would definitely not be on their list of traits - to them, I'm probably one of the most laid-back, easygoing people they know. To be honest, pointless is probably the wrong word - it isn't pointless things I worry about, it's more when someone does something to spite me. It's strange really, it may even be something innocent where the other party has no idea of the impact of their actions but I have this overwhelming urge to get some small piece of revenge. I sound like a complete psycho but it isn't as bad as I'm making it sound.

A good example would be the lady from the end of the street that insists on parking in the one available space outside our house ...... four doors down. She probably has no idea it's an issue and probably does not realise that it then prevents us from parking across our drive like the other neighbours can but it angers me to the point that I just cannot stop thinking about it. The best way to describe it is a strange underlying sense of foreboding, as if you have a constant worry about something that you need to do, no matter how much you try and forget it.

I've been trying to put those 'little' worries into perspective and recognise the logic behind them. It's helping a great deal and I haven't experienced that underlying feeling much at all lately. Don't get me wrong, it's easier said than done but by learning to chill out and understand the sheer insignificance of our constant worries, it really does help us to become more tolerable, decent people. As with most things, I guess it comes best with age - time builds and heals in multiple ways.

I suppose now I am starting to understand just how my Grandparents and the other elders in my life managed to achieve such a heightened sense of calm and tranquility - they've recognised that worrying is simply just not worth it.

I'd just prefer to achieve it sooner rather than later.

Sunday, 20 January 2013


Meet Skye, the newest addition to our rapidly expanding family.

She came to us last Friday after several weeks of 'umming' and 'ahhing' over whether we should take the plunge and adopt a four-legged friend. To be honest, it was slightly more rushed than it should have been but an opportunity landed in our lap that probably would not have arisen again.

She was living with a lady in Barrow after she rescued her from a family that were, let's say, not treating her too well. The lady had raised Huskies her whole life but after her last one died, she had no intention of homing any more. I guess Skye was the exception - she told us that she had to take her in as she would never have forgiven herself had she left her with the old owners. She looked after her over the past year, building her up, training her and getting her back to her ideal weight ready for rehoming. As luck would have it, Adam's hairdresser knew the lady and when Adam mentioned we were thinking about getting a dog, she put us in contact.

Needless to say we have spent a small fortune on dog-related paraphernalia and have had lots of stuff very kindly donated by family and friends. I've grown up always having a dog so the whole thing is kind of second nature to me but I can tell by some of the suggestions that Adam comes out with that it is all slightly alien to him.

She's a two-year-old Siberian Husky so as you can imagine she is obsessed with exercise - she will easily walk two hours a day. It can be quite difficult fitting this in but, to be honest, I'm really enjoying the new routine and exercise - there is something incredibly therapeutic about taking the dog for a stroll last thing at night and first thing in the morning before the regular hustle and bustle of the world takes hold. I'm 9-to-5 but Adam works shifts so she is never on her own long and has a huge kitchen/conservatory to wander around in - we aren't quite comfortable with leaving her in the garden on her own yet as we've been informed that this breed are the Houdinis of the dog world. When Adam is home in the day he takes her on huge walks around the local reserves so by the time I get home she has more or less passed out.

Her whining has been a slight issue and further reading suggests that this is a common trait in Huskies. They whine. A lot. She usually starts at around 5am when she is in the conservatory and it is impossible to sleep so, after a few nights of torture, we finally gave in and allowed her to sleep in the corner of the bedroom. We haven't had any issues since. As strict and condescending as most online Husky forums are, I was surprised to find that most of the owners on there allow their dogs to sleep by them. I guess this is a strange concept to me as all of my past pets have slept in conservatories.

She's a beautiful, kind-natured dog and it is comforting to have an animal around the house once again. The routine that I am falling into is something that is much needed - one of my weakest traits is that I lack motivation and Skye is definitely helping with that. After all, it is those little things that make up our lives and keep it interesting - even if it doesn't feel that way at the time.