Feeling broody – the urge to be a grandparent

Recently I seem to have been surrounded by pregnant customers in the shop who are all at the same stage I was 24 years ago. And it’s made me feel rather broody. Now obviously I am far too old to have a baby, seeing as I am 52 this year (when did that happen?!); not only that, I’ve been through the menopause as well as being sterilised a long time ago. So clearly, there are no more babies for me.

But that hasn’t stopped me feeling broody in the slightest.

Yesterday a friend called in the shop with her little girl to show me something. She was walking! All by herself. I’ve watched this little one turn from bump into baby, cuddled her and seen her development over the last 20 months, so it was such a delight to see her walking. She wanted to go up and down the steps into the shop holding my hand and I was immediately transported back in time.

I loved being pregnant but there are no photos of me during this special time at all because my parents tried their hardest to make me feel ashamed of being a single mother.  I loved having this small person to cuddle and call my own, raising her into the amazing young woman she is today.

She, in turn, has only ever had one true goal in life and that is to be a mum. Since the age of 4 she’s asked me religiously every year if she can have a baby yet. Let’s be clear here, she didn’t want any baby siblings, oh no, there was and still is, no way she wanted to share me with anyone. She only wanted one of her very own.

As she’s grown up, I have lightheartedly joked that she can’t have children until she’s 28 – the same age I was when I had her. When the conversation arises with friends about having kids, she tells them mum says no, not yet, she has to wait 😉

Well, I’m about to do a complete U-turn.

I am now beginning to understand the broodiness that parents have when they want to be grandparents. Is this something biological within women? I’m sure there is some research on it somewhere, some anthropological reason that’s based on our need to  keep our tribe going.

For now, I shall have to wait patiently for this momentous occasion. I don’t believe in meddling or putting any outside pressure on our children to fulfill our needs. It’s her life and it will happen when she’s ready. Even though I can’t wait be called Granny 🙂

 

 

Empty nest – it really can affect you more than you think

Four years ago my daughter announced, out of the blue that she was leaving home the following week. I had no time to prepare for this mentally or emotionally, just to help her pack and take her to her new live-in job 50+ miles away.  Of course I was excited for her – first full time job, first time living away from home – but I had no idea of how it would hit me. And it keeps on hitting.

You see, I’ve been a single parent since getting pregnant.  Her father chose not to be in her life so it’s just been me. Wherever I was, she was, pretty much. Add in to that I home educated her from the age of 8. We have been a very tight knit family all the way along.

So, once she’d left, for the first three months I quite enjoyed having the house to myself, doing what I wanted, when I wanted, no one else’s mess to clear up or live with etc. Then the cracks started to show.  I rapidly began going down hill, to the point where I was feeling suicidal.

Even though I lived on an estate and people walked past my house many times a day, I felt like I could die in that house and no one would notice. My daughter was being busy in her new job, working split shifts so not a lot of free time and so apart from work, I had no one to talk to.

She had been the person I had shared everything with, there is nothing about each other we don’t know. When you are an only parent to an only child, the bond is very close or at least it was with us; I know many other single parents who have that same close bond with their children. Without her, I felt totally lost.

I cracked up, ending up being referred to a psyciatrist for help. Not that she was much help to be honest; she just wanted to put me on medication instead of truly understanding what I was feeling.

What was my role in life if not to be a parent? What was my purpose?

Here we are, four years on and I still feel lost without her. Yes we see each other regularly, as much as our respective work schedules allow and we talk on the phone or via facebook regularly. We get on extremely well and I love being with her (although I also love being on my own, just in case you were wondering); our relationship has matured beautifully.

But I still feel lost without this purpose in my life – being a full time parent and all that that entails. I was educating her, involved with multiple home ed groups, we had horses, dogs, cats, my mum was still alive, a full calendar of activities every week. Busy busy busy.

Now I have a full time job and a great team of staff who are like my family, and I enjoy their company each and every day. But still, there is this emptiness. My purpose as a parent has been completed. That’s not to say she doesn’t need me, but she’s 23 and has her friends, her work and her own life. I am not one of those parents that continues to insert myself into their childs life even when they no longer live at home.

I still feel lost, rudderless, floating adrift on the sea with no port in sight.

I don’t suppose for one moment that I am the only parent who feels this way when their children leave home. A former work colleague with three daughters who’d all flown the nest, warned me this would happen and hit me hard but I didn’t believe her. Boy was she right.

This is something that I am having help with; learning how to be a person in my own right is not something I am currently good at, even though if you met me you would say, as everyone does, how very self-contained and self-sufficient I am. It’s affecting me more deeply than I had realised.

So I suppose the moral to be learnt from this is for mums-to-be, mums-in-waiting and mums of littlies: yes, by all means devote yourself to your children but don’t forget to devote time to being you, to evolving as an independant being outside of being a partner/spouse/parent. Finding your purpose in life as a unique individual is important to your own fulfillment.

Perhaps I know my purpose really. Maybe I have found it but just haven’t recognised it yet. Hopefuly the threapy will help me discover.

Holiday camp guest antics – when are the camp responsible?

We are in the midst of an adult weekend. 80’s to be exact and usually they are a great bunch, unlike the 90’s lot last weekend which involved streaking naked across the beach (grown men) whilst families enjoyed family time, someone flashing in town and other such behaviour. I felt sorry for the local supermarkets who had a hard time with them.

Yesterday was no better. Usually the 80’s crowd come to have a good time, party well but they support the town, spend a lot of money in the shops and are just a little livelier than normal. These weekends often attract hen and stag dos and I think it was a stag party that caused us some bother yesterday.

My friend is the manager of a charity shop adjacent to my shop. She came running in, a bit shaky, to tell me of a group of 6 guys who had just come into her shop causing havoc. They’d tried on dresses and hats but wouldn’t let the assistant look at the price tag whilst wearing said clothing, without yelping that she was attacking them and someone call the police.

Next minute, one of them wets himself and strips off his kit (which is a pvc outfit I might add) in the middle of the shop. Another one barged through the door that says ‘Private – Staff Only’, out through the back door into our joint delivery area and proceeds to urinate against the back door of my shop! Naturally she came to inform me of this deed.

We have a Radio Link in the town which means participating businesses have a radio connected to ‘comms’ allowing all of us to report this kind of activity and of course any theft. Comms are connected to local beat police and town CCTV who can find and follow any perpetraitors of such activity.

I got straight onto comms, reported the incident and they got straight onto the police and CCTV whereupon the group in question were located and followed through town. At this point, all particiating businesses on the high street were then on the radio reporting where this crowd were. The CCTV came back to say they’d seen the group with a glass display head which I was asked to check with my friend if it had been stolen from her shop. Yes it had.

Eventually the crowd reached the next pub where the display head was taken off them. At this point, the holiday camp security had been alerted who asked if the group should be thrown off site of just given a final warning. The latter was chosen. So imagine, you’ve paid say £400 for accommodation for the weekend (giving you access to all facilities and entertainment on site), then you have to buy food plus your travel down there and it doesn’t make for a cheap weekend.

A final warning means one more misdemeanour and you’re off. If resort security decide you’re leaving, they don’t care what time of day or night it is, how drunk or sobre you are, if you’ve contravened the rules, you are escorted to your accommodation, watched whilst you pack and escorted out the front gate. You are then banned for life. This has been known to happen on a friday not long after arriving. One taxi driver was asked to take someone home to Southampton at 3am because he’d been kicked off site.

The town would not survive without the holiday camp, it’s that simple. They bring in huge revenue to the town from tourists and of course provide a lot of employment. But when should the camp take responsibility for what guests do off campus?  Well they do and they take it quite seriously.

For example: a recent sports even involvng under 16’s teams resulted in some of the kids throwing eggs round town at cars and property. The teams were warned beforehand that any bad behaviour would result in being expelled from the site which did indeed happen.

It’s my contention though that whilst I applaud the camps’ stance, what their guests do off campus is not directly their responsibility. In the case of this weekend, they are grown adults (supposedly!) who should take responsibility for their own actions. Legally, pubs are not supposed to serve people who are beyond drunk but I guess if you’re still upright, talking and moving without assistance, you aren’t beyond drunk.

Should the pubs refuse them service, especially when they have caused aggro in town beforehand? Should the town take a stronger stance as a community and ban them from the town? I know that’s quite extreme but there are families here with young children, both residents and holidaymakers, and none of them (or anyone else for that matter) needs to witness that kind of behaviour whilst going about their daily business.

My friend and her staff were a little shaken up for quite a while. They are not on the radiolink but after yesterday, I’ve advised her to press her boss about participating because she could have called for immediate assistance from police via comms, I would have heard her pleas for help and could have gone next door for support.

All the fun of a seaside town eh?

 

Investment Secured – we live to fight another day

The phone call we have all been waiting extremely anxiously for arrived just after midday friday: the company have secured investment and so our jobs are safe. For now.

Mind you, that phone call was preceeded by another to inform us they could not afford to pay the four weekly staff more than a certain percentage of their wages this week!  And that after assurances from our boss monday that this would most definitely not be a problem.

I’m not sure I can articulate accurately how I feel but let’s try.

The lies that have been fed us this year are astounding. They have rolled off the tongues of senior management like honey. Do they think that we haven’t noticed? That’s of course when they have actually said something. Most of the time we have been left in the dark with no true contact from our board of directors.

This lack of leadership leaves you wondering how on earth they got the job in the first place. Why don’t executives have to pass compulsory leadership training before stepping over the threshold of the boardroom?

And how do they think we feel being the constant bearers of bad news to our staff? It does not make for a happy working environment I can tell you. Alongside all this, all stores have been having to condense their shops down to smaller and smaller sales areas, in the vain hope that customers don’t notice the complete lack of stock.

It is utterly demoralising to arrive at work every morning, to see a great gaping space on the shop floor where fixtures use to be bulging with clothing and shelves packed high with homewares.

If I had had a £1 for every customer that asked “you aren’t closing are you?” in the last two weeks, I could have taken the month off work and enjoyed the free time, without all the stress.

Even that has been demoralising because people are essentially very selfish: “oh no, where will I shop?” has been the common cry. No thought to gosh what are you lovely people going to do for work if you lose your jobs.

Two of my staff have already left, a third is on her way and I strongly expect a fourth to follow fairly soon. That leaves me only 3 staff plus me to run the shop. Not that there is much to do at the moment for sure, except spread the already sparse goods out a little further so it doesn’t look so empty.

One might think that I would receive the news of this investment with excitement. I don’t. In my humble opinion this is merely a sticking plaster. I strongly suspect that in January we will reach groundhog day, as the income from brick and mortar retail dries up in the first quarter of the year. It will be back to robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I’ve never worked for a company like this. In the few short months I have been manager I’ve had to deal with High Court Enforcement Officers begin to list my stock as the rent hadn’t been paid (again), tell my staff repeatedly that they won’t be paid in full or on time, not be paid in full or on time myself more than anyone should be,  listen to the misinformation from HO on a weekly basis including categorical denials of something that was true.

To say they treat their staff appallingly is an understatement.

So tomorrow I shall be giving my CV a workout and a polish. At least this investment means I don’t have to rush around looking for any job to pay the bills, I can take my time to find one where we are mutually suited.

Election Day – a critical juncture in UK politics

I haven’t voted for years, simply because I haven’t been on the electoral roll so not visible enough to get a voting card. That’s what comes from living under the radar so to speak. But this one is important and so I decided to poke my head out of the shadows and have my say.

The British public voted for Brexit and that is probably the most key point in any manifesto this election. Leaving the EU must be done right with every benefit for the UK signed sealed and delivered. There are of course many other very important issues of the day, most notably the security of our country, particularly in view of the recent atrocities in Manchester and London.

So which party does one one vote for?

None are perfect. None will fulfill every promise it professes in their manifesto. It’s a case of reading between the lines whilst also looking at who has the most experience on the home stage as well as the world stage, who will do the best by everybody as much as is possible and who will serve their own interests the least.

The leaders of each party must also be carefully scrutinised. We don’t get to choose who leads each party, the parties themselves choose their leaders and I think most people in the UK would agree Theresa May is dreadful. Jeremy Corbyn is worse. He might speak much that the public agree with but he doesn’t have the experience to lead a country let alone unify his own party.

Whoever the country chooses, and one hopes they will choose wisely, we are stuck with for 5 years. A lot of damage could be done in that time as history has shown us very clearly.

So my fellow Brits, think very carefully before you vote.  I hope everyone has cogitated deeply on the meaning behind the rhetoric that has been spouted during campaigning and chooses wisely for the future of our country.

 

 

When your staff let you down

In every management role there are one or two aspects that are less favoured. For me it is having to have those difficult conversations with staff members. It’s not something I garner any pleasure from at all and one where I am as uncomfortable as they are during the interview. But it it has to be done and so far, in my current job, I have had to do more than once.

Next week it will happen again.

I try to be as accommodating as I can when doing rotas; if anyone has a specific day they cannot come in to work for personal reasons –  looking after grandchildren, attending hospital appointments for example – then I will try to put them on a different day.

Rotas are done 4 weeks in advance. It is each team members responsibility to check the rota to ensure I haven’t changed it (although I always endeavour to let them know I have if it’s at short notice) or to just remind themselves when they are next working. What I don’t appreciate is texts late evening on my day off asking what time they’re in the following day!

There are rules to how any team member must inform me that they will be unable to attend work, as there are within any company. It isn’t complicated – you ring me at the shop or at home if you are supposed to be in first thing – so I can at least try to get someone to cover for you. A phone call from a spouse, partner, sibling, friend, neighbour, parent or flatmate is unacceptable unless you are so incapacitated (ie voice lost completely or have been in an accident and are in hospital) that you cannot call personally.

Therefore when someone’s mum calls me to say their child will not be able to work I am not happy. Even less so when there is no valid reason the team member cannot call me themselves. It isn’t just contravening company rules that rankles, it is showing disrespect to me and to fellow team members. I only have a very small team which leaves me few people I can call upon to stand in at short notice.

However, there is another aspect to this that has to be considered: a future reference. As managers we are required to keep file notes on our staff as a record of mistakes (to see if there is a consistency to the mistake and whether re-training is required), inappropriate behaviour, contravention of (a quite relaxed) dress code and unauthorised absences from work.  When a team member leaves, these notes are fowarded to HR who will take them into consideration when giving a reference should one be required.

So today, on my day off, whilst enjoying some mother-daughter time, I had to phone HR, phone my boss and then call into work to speak to my asst manager, all regarding this latest episode of being let down. Not what you want to be doing in your limited free time.

 

Six months in – my review

Yesterday my regional manager finally sat down with me to do my 6 month review. Only a little late but as you have probably been reading, there have been more pressing concerns within the business!

I was trying to think this morning the last time I actually had a review in any job and I simply cannot recall one in recent history, so it was an experience for me. We covered such topics as decision making and problem solving, organisational ability and planning, people skills, communication, commercial awareness and drive.

Normally, I don’t give much energy to others’ opinions of me, it can cause unnecessary anxiety and I’m perfectly capable of creating enough of that all by myself without adding to it! Nor am I particularly adept at dissecting myself or blowing my own trumpet. I do what I do and am who I am. I make no apologies for either, I just get on with life and deal with whatever is in front of me in the best way possible.

All that said, I was actually quite keen to hear what she had to say. Although this lady iterviewed me, she only sees me once every 5 weeks for a few hours, so I was interested to hear her observations of my character and work ethic garnered in that short space of time.

I will be honest, I hoped it would be all positive because none of us want to hear negativity of any kind and let’s face it, there are some dreadful senior managers out there who have no people skills at all and really shouldn’t ever be conducting reviews. However I respect this lady, know she is acutely aware of what goes on in her stores and is a shrewd judge of character.

I needn’t have worried.  She had noted all the positive that I have brought to the business and my team, things that I hadn’t even thought about. It really is satisfying to hear someone comment on your strengths and not focus on your weaknesses. When she asked me what I thought my weaknesses were, well, really there’s only one that stands out – paperwork. I’m simply not a details type person and paperwork requires detail. Not that my office is a mess or my paperwork is bad, I just find it tedious which means that sometimes I don’t give it quite as much attention as I should so I miss dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

So now I have become a fully fledged member of the company (for however long it lasts!) and passed my second audit, I can relax, and keep moving onwards and upwards. Of course this also means that should I need to look for alternative employment if the worst happens, I will get a glowing reference. Never a bad thing 🙂

 

 

The jury is out we have a reprieve

Today our company went to court to plead their case against HMRC issuing a winding up petition. It seems that behind the scenes, there have been machinations to obtain investment from an outside source which may come through in the next couple of weeks or so.

In the meantime, other things have happened such as selling property to bring some much needed income into the company. All this means that HMRC were happy to allow us a bit more time to gather this hoped for investment to keep the company going.

Along side that, we have been running a promotion in store which has resulted in big sales across the stores; my little shop, now in full summer season with tourists piling into the town in their droves and aided by glorious hot sunny weather this week, has taken much more in the tills than usual. It really is nice to be seeing a healthy end of day takings report.

That said, who knows if this external investment will materialise and if, in two weeks, we will still be allowed to trade. We are not out of the woods yet but for now, at least, I know that we will be paid. We won’t however be getting new stock.

Our shop is looking mightily empty in comparison to normal. In fact on tuesday I took the decision to condense the shop down significantly enough to effectively close off one area of the shop. In doing so, we now look like we have stock but in reality we have very little and absolutely nothing in the stock room at all. When it’s gone off the shop floor, it’s gone.

The mannequins remain in the window for now but once my walls start getting bare, they will be removed to fill gaps. Further condensing of stock will be mean taking product off floor standing hanging rails to fill the walls as I cannot cope with bare walls. At times like this, I am grateful to have a creative mind and be a big picture thinker because I can envision how to set up the shop to best presentation for the customer.

You might be wondering if I should really be job hunting and yes, I probably should. But despite all their shortcomings, I like the company I work for because they do give me the flexibility to be creative in the shop, unlike many retailers who send down strict planograms of layout. I also love my team and would hate to see us disbanded.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be dusting off my CV (still not done that yet!) but having looked so carefully at potential store managers roles online, so many have that prescriptive element to them which would stifle my creativity. So unless I can come up with money to start my own store, I shall stick to where I am for now and see how things pan out.

Active parenting – don’t make others responsible for discipline

Anyone who works with the public and thus parents with children in tow, will probably be familiar with the following: “behave otherwise this lady will tell you off”.

I’m sorry, but when did I become responsible for instilling social etiquette into your child?

There are of course parents who don’t even give their children a warning. So when you ask them firmly but nicely to stop doing whatever it is, the parents take great offence!

Children misbehave, it’s a fact of life; if they don’t push the boundaries, how do they know where they are?

I believe in giving children boundaries right from the beginning. Without them, how do we know what is acceptable and unacceptable social behaviour? Everywhere you go in life they exist – at work, in public, at leisure. If we don’t teach children the importance of boundaries, we are doing them a massive disservice as parents.

So, in my shop, if children are misbehaving and the parent is ignoring it, I have no problem stating the boundaries. I do so in a firm but fair voice. Usually the children will stop to look at me and invariably the look on my face means instant agreement. If a parent takes umbridge at my admonishment of their children, well my response is always the same – you are on private premises and I am within my rights to ask you to leave. I can, if necessary, issue a banning notice to anyone, not that I ever have but that option is open to me.

Many activites are harder with children in tow, I know this and no one said parenting was easy. Been there, done that. As much as we want our children to like us and for us to be friends, our role is much deeper and far reaching. Sometimes we have to be the baddie because our role is to teach them the right and wrong in life so that as an adult, they will fit in to society and know how to behave within it. No group of people can live in close proximity without conflict if boundaries do not exist.

So parents, don’t be afraid to be parents; be active not passive in their upbringing. It’s always worth remembering that you are parenting two generations, not just one, so consider how you want your grandchildren to behave.

 

 

 

 

 

Company difficulties – is my job in peril?

I have been rather quiet on here recently because life has thrown a curve ball and I really haven’t mentally been up to blogging.

The bailiffs turned up on my shop doorstep earlier this year and that was a clue as to what lay ahead. I haven’t ever had dealings with a bailiff but these were High Court Enforcement Officers which means you have to let them in to do their job. You simply cannot refuse.

I can’t go into much detail  obviously as this is work but suffice to say that me and my staff member were, at points, wondering if we were going to have any stock left at the end of the day! Head Office were trying to negotiate terms with the landlord who was, naturally, unrelentant in his desire for full payment. In the end the company paid in full and our doors were open for trading again.

The next month, we were informed that our salaries would not be paid in full on the day they were due. We were told that a percentage would be paid on the due date, the remainder the week after. Unacceptable but what can you do when you know the company doesn’t have the money. It’s better to have some than none at all.

Also, just as our remainder payments went through, the company announced it couldn’t afford to pay the weekly staff on time either; they too would get their pay late.

The next month we had a repeat performance of both scenarios.

During this time, our deliveries have dwindled to a box or two, literally, of stock to replenish existing stock. If we are lucky, it might contain one new item of clothing and/or homeware.

There is promotional discounts on roughly half the stock and very little sale left, in my store at least. My stock room is devoid of clothing stock, just a few shoes left; I do have a tiny bit of homeware I can replenish with but not a lot.

To say I am being creative with the shop floor to keep it looking ‘fresh’ is an understatement. Fortunately I do not have bare shelves yet but if the situation continues, it won’t be long before I have to contemplate removing hanging rails off the shop floor and just have product on the walls. I can’t cope with bare walls.

So here’s the problem. The company has no operating capital at the moment, or at least it doesn’t appear to have, so it can’t afford to buy new stock.  Without stock, fresh new-to-the-customer stock, we aren’t getting the footfall and thus very little money through the till. Without that, we can’t buy new stock. Or pay wages/salaries on time, or pay landlords their dues.  The Ubiquitous hamster wheel.

A loan is supposed to be forthcoming but that hasn’t materialised yet; the company is on the brink of administration which the loan would help prevent. We have until the end of this month to find out IF the loan is actually going to materialise and therefore if we have jobs. Or will we fall like so much of the high street?

I am a little stressed at the moment as you can imagine.

Yet despite all evidence to the contrary, I don’t feel utterly despondent. Not yet at least. It could be though that I am just burying my head in the sand. We shall see.