Category: Random musings


The end of an era

I am finding myself writing less and less these days for so many different reasons I won’t even start to bore you with them. That being said it’s 1am I am just in from the pub (far from sober) and all I can think to do is this.

Much like most other Saturday’s this one seemed to be following a pre-set path. I finished work, went for a run and settled down for a night in front of the idiot box. Then came the spanner, I saw a post on facebook saying that a bar manager was working his last ever shift in a bar. Now this is not the first time he has done this and somehow he always comes back but after a few conversations I found out that this was for keeps and that he was truly leaving. Not a big deal right? just another moment in time! Nah so far from it you wouldn’t believe!

See the thing is that bar one sub-human nobody ever mentions (no not Voldemort, FAR WORSE), this was the guy that took over the last bar I ever ran and for the last 11 years has made it his own! I would love to sit here and tell you I made as big an impact on it as he did but even my ego won’t stretch to that. See this guy, as relatively unassuming as he is, took a failing business and made it one of the best bars in this city (no small accomplishment when you consider this is Edinburgh). But not only that he ensured the future of the bar by leaving a staff that are all to ready to take the mantle and run with it.

I sat where I now type and decided that while I will see him again I needed to be in that bar for his last night. I was not disappointed, in the end everything that the bar meant to him was visible on his face. More than that though how much he meant to the bar was clear in those that had come to wish him well. In a city that is increasingly disposable one of the stalwarts of what will always be its biggest industry was given the send off he deserved.

What he leaves behind is a legacy. A manager that loves the bar and in turn a bar that loves him. Managers of the future linked to the bar by parents who drank there and those who worked with them.

Before I became a boring banker I had a few of these leaving nights and I remember them all as if they were yesterday. They were all an incredibly sweet pain, like losing someone you had loved for years but at the same time you knew you had out grown. I feel privileged that I was allowed to share this night and know that over the years to come there will be more than one like it. That being said I doubt that there will be another Barry, as what he has left behind is not a failing business that needs a savior but an institution!

12 Years

12 years, to some it sounds like the blink of an eye to others an eternity, I guess it’s a matter of perspective!

I have been considering that time frame for a good few months and in non to positive terms. You see today marked my 12 year anniversary of working for the same company (can’t tell you who as they wont let me). Not being of the most natural sunny disposition, I admit that my mood at the thought has been apathetic at best and at worst down right depressed. Choosing to concentrate on the negatives I found myself rehashing old grievances, lamenting decisions that would have taken me elsewhere and wondering what on earth possessed me to even apply for the job in the first place! I was willingly putting myself in a very dark place and was seemingly incapable of dragging myself out of a daily malaise.

Until today.

A simple platitude reminded me that it hasn’t all been bad. In fact the more I thought of what I have because of this job, either directly or indirectly, the more I realised that every bad day, every knock back and every time I have wanted to break down and give up were nothing in comparison.

While recounting every good thing would bore even me, there are a few highlights that for the life of me I simply could not imagine my life without.

Within the first year I would meet a man who has since become one of my very best friends and someone I am immensely proud to call a brother (of a family chosen not born). I remember so well him meeting one of my little sisters and the amusingly (at least to me) high school like way they got together. But get together they did and since then they have married and had 2 beautiful daughters.

Jump forward a few years and I was lucky enough to get a training job in Malta. A 6 month secondement that would come at a time in my life that I simply could not stay in Edinburgh any longer. What better way to run away than to get paid to do it in the Mediterranean. In those 6 months I met friends that I will keep forever, got to live and work in a foreign country, had countless experiences that my friends are now sorely sick of hearing about and fell for a local girl who will forever have a piece of my heart. I now count Malta as a second home and get back there as often as I can but far less than I would like.

I have 3 little sisters (again chosen not born) and had I not worked for this employer that number would be 2. For 3 years Sarah saved my ass and on more than one occasion probably my job but this is the least of what I am grateful for. It would take a far greater wordsmith than I to explain what my little sisters mean to me and how much I know I owe them. But for the last 8 years I have been privileged to know someone who has perhaps the biggest heart I have ever encountered and I only wish she lived closer.

It’s strange the way life works and it can be all too easy to dismiss things out of hand as being unimportant. I am glad I was forced to look at the what these last 12 years have given me and not simply what they have cost. While I may not survive another 12 years in the company I know my life has been made far better for the 12 years that have just passed.

 

All too often in today’s work place I find that “training” is replaced by regurgitation and childish exercises, no doubt intended to refresh knowledge and improve understanding but with the only results being that those taking part feel patronised and uninspired.

 

The current, and all too long running, fascination with acronyms is a great example of what is wrong with large industry and their training methods. Having been in a working environment for longer than I care to remember I have had the unfortunate pleasure of having more acronyms than I can count forced down my throat. In the service industry these mostly focus on how we can engage with our customer in the front line roles. Without exception the dozens of acronyms you will hear have a central theme, CONVERSATION, it’s basic and fundamental in all front line exchanges and perhaps because of this it is unfashionable!

 

Why must a worker be able to tell you the meaning of a letter in an acronym before they are deemed able to have an acceptable conversation?

 

Why must there be so many variations on a central theme that invariably get lost in translation?

 

Why must we over complicate something so simple?

 

Is our obsession with “training techniques” and “formulas for success” really achieving the aim of improving individual’s competency? Or are we simply succeeding in creating a generation of employees who no longer have basic conversational skills and rely on robotically programmed responses to taught scenarios. Can we now look at our service industry and make genuine comparisons with an automated factory production line? Front line robots being controlled by master robots and those in turn being programmed through a single computer programme. While some may find this insulting, I would ask them to think about their last group training session and see the truth in the statement.

 

So how do we fix this problem? What can be done to ensure that training either individually or as part of a group actually succeeds in it’s over all aim?

 

The answer, as so often, is in the question.

 

People are individuals. We are all different, from varying backgrounds and have had different life experiences. How then can a “one size fits all” approach ever be expected to have the desired results. These differences must be nurtured and praised, for it is through these that we truly establish effective communication and rapport. Having a conversation should be the most natural of things and when done in a style that the individual is comfortable with, so long as they understand the aim of that conversation, will result in a far more effective and enjoyable experience for all concerned. Our training should then reflect this and be tailored to bring out the best in the individuals being trained. Not to train these individuals to become part of a collective consciousness without the ability to think for themselves.

 

Please do not misunderstand me, I am fully aware that in order to get across a mass message occasionally these methods are an unfortunate necessity. That being said, surely the use of acronyms ceased being of any benefit in high school (or before), when learning was less about free thinking and individuality than it was remembering what teachers had advised us would be an acceptable answer to pass an exam.

 

This is also not an attack on those providing the “training”, I am not a fan of shooting the messenger. Those poor soul’s are after all only doing what they are told they must (being programmed). It is not their fault that the materials they are forced to use are not fit for purpose and that even more fundamentally they are not allowed to deviate from them. It should also be pointed out that this lack of adequate training methods does not stop at the front line. With this being the case and with those people providing the “training” not being supported or trained sufficiently themselves, how then can we legitimately expect the “training” they provide to be of an acceptable standard.

 

 

Auschwitz

I recently took a trip to Poland and was told by more than one person that I trust, not to go without visiting Auschwitz. Now I have never really been into that period of history and the world wars aren’t something I have looked into a great deal outside of the usual school stuff. That being said I do believe that history has a lot to teach us and that it can show us a better way forward. I have never been so convinced of that as I am now!

 

I will not layer this post with the history of the place, the numbers that are barely even fathomable or the facts we all learned at school. If you are reading this I suspect you probably know these things better that I. This is just about my experience, one that I know will never leave me.

 

The first thing to strike me was the contrast. We arrived around 11 am, the sun was high in the sky, it was a beautiful warm day and there were no clouds in sight. It was almost peaceful.

As with most guided tours we wore headsets so that we could hear our guide. As we walked from one building to the next I found myself very grateful for the illusion of privacy and the escape from conversation. It’s hard to describe how it feels to walking down the dusty streets, between the rooms and exhibits but it reminded me of church when I was a child. The need to be quiet. Every noise seeming to echo to eternity.

I could recount the different displays, all of which told the scale of the atrocities perpetrated within the borders of these camps but that would need far more paragraphs than a simple blog lends itself too. 3 however stood out to me, not to say that the others weren’t equally as powerful but these are the ones that I have seen each night since before I sleep.

In the 4th building we visited, the opening hallway stretches out before you and runs the entire length of the building. Upon the walls at either side are row after row of pictures, singular portraits of those who entered the camp but never left. Under each one 2 dates are marked, the date on which they came to the camp and the date they died. Some dates were longer than others, the longest I saw was just under 2 years. The average though was around 3 months. Much like old portrait paintings whose eye’s seem to follow you around the room, these photographs have the same effect. Wherever you walked they appeared to be staring straight through you.

The final building in Auschwitz 1 is the only remaining gas chamber, all the rest having been destroyed by the Nazi’s. On entering the building there is a simple black marble head stone, 1 solitary marker for the countless lives taken. It stands next to a door almost as a sentry. On passing through the holding room you enter what can only be described as a bunker. Long and with a low roof. Looking up you can see the holes into which the gas pellets were poured. Nothing else marks the room out as what it was, only the feeling you get as you walk through. Passing into the other half of the building you are confronted with furnaces, in front of them rail tracks and tables. Their purpose obvious and so left unsaid. I had found myself at the back of the group by now and as I turned I saw I was alone in the room.

The entrance to Birkenau gives a view the full length of the camp. Through the gate in the grand arch you can see the path and to it’s side the railway line. A simple sight now with buildings either side and tourists walking its length. What struck me most about this was the inevitability, being able to see the end. Yet being completely unaware of what was to come. I am not sure if the site of a gated road will ever not now send a shiver down my spine.

 

As I said before, people I trusted told me I should go and they were all right. There are not many times I have been heard to say that something is life changing, but this was definitely one. If you ever find yourself in Poland this is something everyone should do.

Friday Top 5

 

 

Been a while since I did one of these so I figure my birthday is the perfect time to write one. Today I am 2 years old , no I have not been drinking it’s 2 years to the day since I started this blog. That being the case I thought I would do a reminiscent top 5 and, in no specific order, pick my favourite poems I have posted. I have to admit I have enjoyed going back and reading some of what I have written and remembering why I wrote it in the first place. Though on reflection some of it is utter drivel some I still like. Anyway ………….

 

 

No 1.  Blank Page

I wrote this long before I started this blog, it’s probably one of the first poems I actually sat down and purposefully wrote. I guess that gives it a certain sentimental value to me. I was at a point in my life where everything was changing and it seemed like there was simply no respite. I started writing a lot after this and  realised that a blank page offers so much.

 

No 2.  Memories

I am a wonderer at heart, think I have now lived in over 30 houses. Mostly in the UK though there was a short stretch in Malta. I love my city (Edinburgh) with all my heart, it is without doubt one of the greatest and most beautiful cities in the world but I sometime have to leave and this was one of those times. I knew there were people and places I would miss but at the same time I also knew it wouldn’t be forever (doubt it ever will) and that regardless of how hard it was to leave staying just wasn’t an option.

 

No 3. Revenge

So I have been told in the past I have anger issues and with poems like this one I guess it is hard to argue. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. I have no anger issues (any more) sure I get angry and when I snap it is definitely something worth seeing (probably from a distance) but like most people I fume and rant for a bit before getting a grip and moving on. This though I like because sometimes it’s fun torun with the feeling of anger and getting your own back (does that make me a touch mental, ahhhh well never mined)

 

No 4.  Touched With Fortune

OK I admit it I am an old (not that old) romantic, guilty as charged and completely (almost) unashamed of the fact. This poem is nothing more than a story I wish to happen.

 

No 5. Stay With Me

I think anyone that reads my blog with any kind of regularity will probably be tired of me saying that I have the best friends in the world, but you will have to indulge me once more. They are more like family to me and there is not a day that passes I am not grateful each and every one of them. I am not great at sharing feelings/opening up and all that kind of thing and I am far from an easy person to know at times. But somehow whenever I have needed them they have always been there and they will probably never know, because I will never be able to put it into words, just how much they mean to me.

 

Well there you go a reminiscent top 5 for my 2nd birthday. So far this blog has given me far more than I ever thought it could, from an amazing holiday in Spain and new friends across the world to people I have known for years knowing me a little better and me discovering so many amazing blogs that I really need to spend more time reading. I wonder what the next year will bring