Happy Jobmas!

This time last year I indulged in the memories of public sector Christmas past- the celebratory meal at the local Italian that did a lunchtime special for less than a fiver; the Michelin star quality of the canteen Christmas dinner (‘she wants vegetarian gravy!’) and the jolly office Christmas card.

Another jolly public sector party

I was also panicking about my future post 31st March and not sure what I’d be doing with the twenty three hours a day that Homes under the Hammer wasn’t on telly. Post redundancy like the infinity of space was hard to imagine without collapsing another synapse.

It’s not, however, been as doom-laded as I imagined. Since April I’ve set up a business with a colleague and recruited lots of schools. Phrases like ‘tax deductible,’ ‘e marketing’ and ‘business networking’ are part of my working vocabulary and I’ve retired public sector favourites like ‘stakeholder engagement,’ ‘best practice’ and ‘benchmarking.’

I’ve had some work as an independent trainer, have worked for a consultancy and have written for a well-known supermarket chain. I’ve continued my blog and been interviewed for a Guardian article without having to be anonymous.  I’ve also networkedlike a fiend and met some amazing business people.

Worth being made redundant for.

I had been told by a lot of people that being self-employed is a lonely option but I’ve not been lonely at all. I’ve met up with colleagues for coffee on a regular basis and in setting up our business my business partner and I have had to meet a lot, our favourite office being a branch of a well-known coffee chain. We make phone calls, send emails, sign cheques, check out eBay, plan training and design learning resources in our ‘office.’ NB: one of those items is not strictly work related.

It was after one of our meetings that I checked my phone for email and found and interesting message from a local head teacher. It said something along the lines of (and I may be paraphrasing here):

You know how you said you’d rather chew your own leg off rather than go back into school? You’d better sharpen your teeth and break out the salt and pepper because I’d like to offer you a job.

She went on to offer me the acting deputy headship at her school while her deputy is on maternity leave. Perhaps I’d like to meet her for a coffee in the ‘office’ and talk about it.

I discussed the proposition with Mr R who was very supportive. I then phoned my mother who said, ‘excuse while I faint,’ and then fell about laughing. Thanks mum.

I met with the head teacher and we worked out a deal: I’d take the job for three days a week so I can continue with my other projects and will remain self-employed to make the tax/national insurance/pensions thing my responsibility and so as not to confused HMRC. A few days after I accepted the post, the head teacher found someone to fill the post the remaining two days.  I’ll be very busy but it’s not class based and I’m very much looking forward to it. I like to think that maybe the universe has come good after a crappy start to 2011.

So my 2012 is set to be busy, challenging and exciting. Just don’t ask me what I do for a living if I bump into you at a party.

Happy festive season and a happy new year to my readers. Thank you for your support over the last fifteen months and I’ll see you next year.

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Adventures in catering part one

Wednesday’s vegetarian option is liver and onions. Sigh.

 Welcome to public sector catering. Saint Jamie of Oliver, your work here is not yet done.

 Let me share some stories with you. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin with the story of the vegetarian Christmas gravy.

 It is a truth universally acknowledged that a nut roast in possession of all the trimmings must be in need of veggie gravy. I don’t often venture down to the canteen as the resulting week-long indigestion isn’t really worth the effort. But last Christmas my colleagues and I decided the drop the bah-humbug attitude and join in with the office Christmas lunch. After queuing for a couple of hours (the catering assistants don’t do fast) I arrived at the servery and asked politely for my delicious vegetarian dinner. The assistant sighed heavily and went off in search of the nut roast, which she plonked onto a plastic plate.

 ‘Gravy?’ she demanded, wielding a meatily dripping jug.

‘Um, do you have vegetarian gravy?’ I asked, aware of sounding faintly ridiculous. 

‘We’ve got gravy,’ she growled, swishing the jug. I’m now aware of starving colleagues fidgeting in the queue behind me.

‘But it’s meat gravy, ‘ I said, ‘and I’m, um, well I’m a vegetarian.’

 Silence.

 She shifted her bosom up under her pinny.

 ‘THIS ONE,’ she bellowed into the kitchen, hooking her thumb at me, ‘WANTS VEGETARIAN GRAVY.’

 Everyone in the queue turned to glare at me. I slunk away, gravy-less.

 A few minutes later when I’d eaten most of my dinner, a catering size jug with a couple of litres of yellow-coloured water was plonked by my side.

 ‘It’s your vegetarian gravy,’ snarled the assistant. ‘Enjoy your meal.’

 Usually I bring my own packed lunch when I can be bothered to make one. Pity the participants of our courses who have no choice in the catering but are so intimidated by the huffing and puffing from behind the counter that they daren’t complain.

 I’d rather not have obsequeious staff in the kitchen (I’m British after all and I can’t be doing with all that have a nice day nonsense) but I’m sure we can do better that this. Can’t we?

 What have been your experiences of corporate hostility hospitality?

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