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Darkest Hour at The Odyssey

Last night, K and I went to watch Darkest Hour at The Odyssey cinema.

I love The Odyssey. When I was a child and then a teenager, and even into my early twenties, The Odyssey was an Odeon cinema and the only cinema in the local vicinity. It was where we always went when we wanted to see a film. It wasn’t a regular event as a family (E.T., Crocodile Dundee are ones I remember seeing with M&D and P) but when I was a bit older I used to go regularly with friends. It wasn’t a brilliant cinema in today’s standards: it had 3 screens in it’s heyday, a small pick and mix shop next door and (more appreciated as I got older) a pub just a few doors away. But it was accessible; the bus was reliable and it was a good place to meet friends.

Incomprehensibly to my children, we had to wait for the local paper to be published on a Thursday to see what films would be showing during the coming week and we either had to wing it and hope that they had tickets when we showed up, or in later years, if we had kind parents with a credit card we could book over the phone. The films didn’t change all that regularly so when a new release arrived it was very exciting.  Equally, if we missed seeing something while it was showing, it was game over – wait until the video came into the local rental shop some excruciating months later. This would, without doubt, seem like torture to our youngsters now in the world they inhabit with instant entertainment at their fingertips: streaming services, downloads, multiplex cinemas with 10 plus screens, online booking, pre-booking, etc.

The Odeon shut down in 1995 when out-of-town complexes became the norm. I was sorry to see it go and there was a lot of opposition locally. But, going to the multiplex soon became the norm and now with 4 in a 15 mile radius to choose from we are not exactly short of options.

The Odeon reopened in 2014 under a new name, The Odyssey (in homage to local director Stanley Kubrick’s film A Space Odyssey) and it is beautiful. It has one screen – the original Main Screen of the old days – and has downstairs seating, with tables and chairs or sofa options, in addition to the normal, upstairs seating. You can buy a glass of wine, a gin and tonic, borrow a blanket or a cushion, the seats are generous and comfy and there is plenty of legroom. But, what makes it so special is the feeling it gives me when I walk into the auditorium: I feel 15 again and it evokes such strong memories of my childhood that it makes me very, very happy. There is no booming noise, no brighter than bright lights. There is a curtain across the screen, there is subtle, subdued lighting, art-deco finishes and the film is introduced by a real person who walks on and talks about upcoming films and the film you are about to see. They talk with passion about films and they clearly love working there. It’s fab.

We saw trailers for Darkest Hour when we went to see Murder on the Orient Express as a family late last year. K and I both said how good it looked and were astonished to find that it was Gary Oldman playing Churchill. I’m a big fan and it looked gripping, so it seemed a no-brainer to try and see it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get around to it, but I was chuffed when I saw it was being shown at The Odyssey. Just like in the old days, you have to either book in person, by phone or, a day later, online. I didn’t want to risk not getting seats so phoned on the day of general release and bagged two seats on the front row of the upstairs seating (an aisle seat for me, obviously). The front row has so much leg room, even I can stretch my legs out. Fab.

The film itself was very, very good. I deliberately hadn’t read much about it. I’m familiar with the facts of Churchill’s rise to power and knew it focused on the start of the second world war. The trailers we’d seen showed the epic “on the beaches” speech in Parliament so I knew it would have some standout moments. I knew Oldman had won the Best Actor BAFTA recently and there was no question it would be a stellar performance. He was phenomenal and so were the supporting cast. It was funny, emotional, clever and enlightening. It wasn’t epic but it was very good. I am glad I have seen it, but, in hindsight, I would have been equally happy if we had waited until it was available to stream at home. The problem with The Odyssey is that it is a little bit too comfortable: the temperature is just right, the seats are soft, you can stretch your legs. In addition to this, I had my woolly scarf keeping me nice and warm. Sadly, all of this meant that my eyes shut for a little bit too long on a couple of occasions. Only for a matter of seconds, I didn’t miss any of the film and I didn’t make any unfortunate snoring noises. But, it did make me wonder how much I was enjoying the film. I have this issue at home – I love Silent Witness and Shetland but they always seem to lull me into a sleepy state and I miss bits. It was on a par with that. Very good, but not enough to keep my eyes open the entire time.

So, full marks for The Odyssey; 8 out of 10 for the film itself. Not that I’m a critic. But the eyes don’t lie. Odyssey-42

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Hips, tunnels and music

I’ve had a problem with my right hip for a while (OK, about 12 months) and after a particularly bad day a few weeks ago I finally bit the bullet and went to see the GP. I’m not a fan of going to the doctors. I always take the kids without much hesitation, erring on the side of better safe than sorry when it comes to their health. With my own, I’m less conscientious and always expect to be made to feel like I am wasting their time. I don’t know what this is based on, as I’ve never had a bad experience and have always come away feeling generally happy with the care and the outcome of a visit.

The GP examined me quite intensively (at one point making me yelp) and agreed that there was definitely something going on. She suggested it may be Trochanderic Bursitis which is (in simple terms for any other lay persons out there like me) inflammation or irritation of the padded bit around the hip joint. She had suffered with it herself at one point and it eventually cleared up on it’s own. Having witnessed the yelping she was kind enough not to send me away on the basis of her own experience and suggested that physio may be in order. I mentioned that K has private medical insurance through work and she immediately suggested an appointment with an Orthopaedic Surgeon for a more specialised opinion and if physio was needed this would also be covered by the insurance.

I love the NHS; I think it is a fantastic institution and am eternally grateful for all the times that I, and those that I love, have been the beneficiary of it’s care. However, faced with a potential wait of another 6 months to see a consultant and the inevitable wait for a scan and then another appointment was not appealing, now that I had finally got the ball rolling. I called BUPA the next day and was given an authorisation code. Within a few days I had a letter from our local private hospital with an appointment for the following week.

I saw the consultant last Friday. He agreed that I do have some symptoms of bursitis but that I also have symptoms that don’t fit with this diagnosis. He suggested an MRI would be a good starting point and, once we see what it shows up, he will decide on a course of action. Like all good consultants he didn’t speculate on other possible causes. I wouldn’t like to play poker against him (even if I knew the rules).

The MRI was duly booked in for the following Wednesday (yesterday) after much joking with the receptionist about it being Valentines Day and surely I would be being wined and dined. Oh, how we laughed. She booked me in for 7pm.

I am not a fan of enclosed spaces; I don’t like sitting close to people; I have to have an aisle seat at the cinema and theatre. An MRI? I wracked by brains to remember back to episodes of ’24 hours in A&E’  – was the MRI the tunnel one or was that the CT scanner? I was pretty sure the MRI was the tunnel one. She gave me a leaflet. It was the tunnel one. Oh hell.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep too well on Tuesday night (massively exacerbated by the full-caff coffee which the hopeless waitress at the pub where I had dinner with my friend “kindly” gave me instead of the decaf that I’d ordered) and by teatime on Wednesday I was pretty anxious. K kindly chauffeured me and metaphorically held my hand until it was time to go in. Gowned up and procedure explained to me by the very patient technician I was ready to go. Luckily, as it was my hip/pelvis being scanned I didn’t have to go in all the way. My head poked out by a few centimetres. I had ear plugs in, ear defender headphones with music playing (I could have taken a CD) and a panic button in case I, well, panicked. The fact that I was given a panic button made me slightly more panicked than I would have been if they’d said, “you’ll be fine, we’ll be right outside”. The fact that a panic button is sometimes necessary worried me. The noise, the vibration, the length of time it took, along with the panic button gripped in my vice-like claw made the whole experience almost unbearable. The music helped a bit. I quite liked some of the songs (a weird mash-up of One Republic/Hosier/The Script/One Direction (why?) like some strange boy-band compilation) and counting how many songs had passed with an average duration of 3 minutes each was a good puzzle for my poor, tired, emotional, overwrought brain. It was over in about half an hour; but it was a long half an hour.

I am back to see the consultant next Friday to find out the results and to see what the next course of action is.

 

Hunting for happiness (a work in progress)

“Everyone you meet always asks you if you have a career, are married or own a house, as if life was some kind of grocery list. But nobody ever asks if you are happy”.

I saw this quote this morning and it made me think. The person who said it (the late actor, Heath Ledger) was maybe feeling a bit jaded by being asked the same things by journalists all the time. But I see his point. We meet someone new and one of the first things they ask is “What do you do?” – meaning what job/career. I used to dread this question when the kids were small as I always found myself making excuses for being a ‘stay-at-home mum’ (awful expression, but infinitely better than ‘full-time mum’ – as if being a mum is something you take off, like a cloak, when you leave the house to go to do a paid job). I wasn’t embarrassed to not be working (it’s not like it’s something to be ashamed of) but quite often I was made to feel that I had to justify it “but what do you DO all day?” was the most common question. I gave up answering and became very adept at deflecting conversation away from myself, a habit which I have found hard to shake off.

But I am getting away from the point. It does seem that we are more interested in peoples jobs, marital status, number of kids, where they live. Of course, it’s far easier to ask someone about these things when you are meeting for the first time, or if you don’t know them well. It’s not the norm to ask someone about their state of mind. “Are you happy?” would be a bit of a weird conversation starter, but I’m not sure why. When we were kids, my parents always used to dread running into a certain neighbour because they would inevitably ask them how they were, and then be there all day listening to the never-ending list of ailments they were suffering from. Not really what you want when you are in a rush to get somewhere. When I bump into someone I know or meet up with a friend, the most natural thing in the world is to ask “How are you?”. Very rarely do I hear (or, in fact, give when asked myself) any response other than “OK thanks”. People rarely launch into a lengthy monologue of all that is not right in their world. If it’s a close friend that I know well, it’s generally easy to pick up on tone of voice and a follow up of “Are you sure?” is sometimes required to get the true answer.

Is asking someone how they are the same as asking if they are happy? It’s not, but in our reserved, British, stiff-upper-lip way it’s probably as close as we’re going to get. There’s a world of difference between being OK and being happy. Being OK takes a little work, but not much. It’s just ticking over, getting on with it, being OK. Being happy takes more effort. As my blog name suggests, I am still working on it, hunting out the happy moments. Day to day I am OK: I have bursts of happiness, flashes of “ah, that’s lovely”, life-is-good moments. But, it’s hard in the day to day –  school runs, work, washing, food shopping, cleaning, cooking – cycle of life to be happy all the time and to find the happy moments in the mundane.

How would it feel to be asked if you are happy? Would you feel awkward saying yes, as though it’s admitting that you live in some sort of utopia – I know I would – and that you are being a bit smug. Perhaps that’s just me. Or is the opposite that stops us asking? How would you deal with someone saying that, no, not really, they’re pretty unhappy actually. Again, I suspect it depends how well you know someone, but if it’s a good friend you would surely have an inkling that all was not well, through just chatting and being part of their world. But, we all keep parts of ourselves hidden; we all keep some things to ourselves. I have a friend who is a big over-sharer but even she has stuff going on that she doesn’t like to talk about.

My lovely girl starts sentences very often with “I’m so happy, because x has happened”. She’s not being smug or showing off, she’s sharing a happy moment and expressing that happiness. Quite often it’s something small like finding out that the book she is reading has a sequel. But to her it’s a happy thing and she wants to tell me. I love it. If I asked her if she was happy she would probably say “yes”. I hope that she doesn’t grow out of seeing happiness in small things and maybe I can learn a bit from her.

I don’t think I will suddenly begin asking everyone I meet if they are happy. But it has certainly made me think about my own response when asked how I am and about looking for those small moments. Keep hunting the happiness.

 

 

My poor old brain

I’m still doing my old job. Even that sometimes takes some thinking about, although mostly I am on auto-pilot, and this week has been particularly challenging in that department alone. The difference now, when faced with a challenge when I am wearing my old job hat, is that I am expected to sort out my own issues, wearing my new job hat, rather than asking D, because in a few weeks’ time I will be expected to resolve things for the person who will be doing my old job.

That is fine and I like sorting problems out but combine this with other new tasks that I have already taken on (and am learning pretty quickly, even if I do say so myself) and my brain is starting to hurt.

I am thoroughly enjoying the new stuff. Some of it I have touched on in the past, so it is not entirely alien, but doing it ALL is quite daunting and I am actually having to think. 

I am asking lots of questions, making sure I am on the right track. Sometimes, I am answered with a “you just sort of know” response. What? What does that even mean? I have had the expression “soft knowledge” mentioned and I have to say this worries me. D has been doing this stuff for 10 years. He Just Knows Stuff. I have been doing my old job for 7 years and I suppose there are a few things you Just Know but not really. I don’t really know what to do with this. I am a processes person. You click this button and this happens. You tell the customer x will happen and you make x happen by doing y and if needs doing as well you just do it. You don’t “just know”.

In other news, we have offered my old job to a new person. Hopefully, they will stick at it (we don’t have a great track record at choosing the right people – present company excepted of course) and they will love it (?) as much as I have.

More ch..ch…ch…changes are coming as this process progresses. More things to learn, more people to get to know and hopefully eventually I will “just know”. I wonder, can my poor old brain cope?!

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Ch..ch..ch…changes…..

…turn and face the strange….

It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it?

For a good 18 months at least, I have been thinking about work, home, and how I can change things a bit to make my working life a bit more interesting. I’ve looked at other career options – limited, with no formal qualifications in anything and I don’t relish the idea of studying or attending training courses. Not really knowing what my ideal job is makes it difficult.

As you know, if you’ve read my previous posts (presumptuous of me), I had a “review” at work at the beginning of the year which, while positive and comforting, didn’t really change much.

Then, one morning, two weeks ago, before anyone else arrived, my boss “D” (the less misogynistic one) told me he wanted to give me “the heads up” (I’ve never really understood that phrase) that changes were afoot and things would be “getting a bit more exciting” and that there was an “opportunity” for me to do something “different”.

My initial reaction (in my head, the outer one was all smiley and faux-excited) was not to get too excited as I have heard similar things before, albeit less enthusiastically and said less certainly. I was to wait until the other boss came in for us to “have a formal chat”. Luckily, unlike the review, I didn’t have time to stew on the formal nature of the chat. I cracked on with some emails from ratty customers and waited.

Luckily, I wasn’t in for a long wait and pretty soon they were both sitting at my desk and they offered me a promotion. They’re expanding the business, diversifying into another product line (very different) and want to be able to free up D so that he can concentrate on the new stuff. They want me to take over the existing stuff and they are going to employ someone new to take over my current role. They want me to do it and they think I can. They’re happy for me to continue doing a 4-day week. They’re happy for me to still go off to pick the kids up from school. Basically, they will do whatever it takes to enable me to do the job, because they want me to do it.

I haven’t had such a confidence boost since T reached 2 years old and I realised that I was a good enough parent not to have killed him, and that maybe we could have another one. It’s immensely flattering. It’s exciting (it really is, this is not my faux-excited face). And it’s going to be a challenge. I haven’t had a proper challenge (apart from parenting stuff) since I joined the company 7 years ago and went back into the working world. It’s just what I needed to happen and it means I don’t have to have an interview for a new job, get to know new people, realise I was happier where I was.

So, it’s starting to happen and I’ve already taken on some of the new stuff – it’s making by brain hurt a bit, but in a really good way. Good changes, confidence boost and challenges. Love it.

 

 

 

 

Open Options

Last week, T received his Mock GCSE results. Based on his predicted grades he didn’t fare brilliantly: low passes for most and some below. He is predicted high grades of 7’s and 8’s (A’s and A*’s to anyone on old money) which we have always felt are either optimistic or, in the case of some subjects, completely unrealistic. He has always been a steady, level-pegging student. We have only ever asked that he tries hard and does his best; we want him to achieve the best he can for him, to give himself the best chance of being able to do what he wants in later life. We are also not naive enough to think that his entire future happiness hinges on what grades he gets at GCSE; so long as he gets the passes he needs to do what he wants after GCSE’s, we will be happy for him.

So, what does he want to do after his GCSE’s? From the age of about 3 years old, when he first understood what a Police Officer was, he has wanted to join the Police Force. This ambition has not wavered over the years and, in fact, has only been fuelled by the last year as a member of the local Police Cadets. Over the last 6 months or so he been looking into how to take it further, after school. He has asked some of the older cadets and has established that those who are looking to pursue it further are all studying a Public Services BTEC at college. We attended the Open Evenings for the two most local colleges in the latter part of last year and quickly narrowed it down to one. He seemed set on going this route and subsequently signed up for the course, starting in September, and had an interview last week (the day of the Mock GCSE results). He was offered a conditional place – he needs 4 GCSE’s at level 4 or above. Easily achievable, we think.

The following day, his school held a Post-16 Evening to look at the options available to students after GCSE’s. T’s initial response, when I suggested we attend, was that there was no point as he knew what he wanted to do and he didn’t want to stay on and be made to feel he should go on to Uni. My experience at his age was exactly that: I did A levels and for the two years of study I was primed for Uni. I didn’t want to go to Uni. I left school with 2 mediocre A’levels and  started working. Nothing has changed much since my time, so I was inclined to agree with him. However, my parent hat went back on and I persuaded him to at least go along and hear what they had to say. We’re not anti-Uni. Uni is important and necessary for people wanting to do jobs that require a degree. But not all jobs require a degree and not all kids want to go.

For the first half an hour, I wondered why I had dragged him along. It was like deja vu and I was 15 again, being told that this number of students went to top ranking uni’s last year and this student went to Oxford. It’s a great school, you can’t get away from that. However, I would also like to have heard about X student who had struggle academically throughout their school life but had achieved Y and has gone on to do Z. There needs to be more balance. The school produces a map of it’s leavers destinations – uni’s and colleges. There is a box at the bottom showing students who haven’t gone on to uni. They don’t make it on to the map – they are in a box. I say no more. Needless to say, by the time we left the hall I was ready to go home and skip the subject talks we had booked in for. We stayed, because I am an adult.

I am glad we stayed. The first talk we went to was Business Studies. T’s Business Studies teacher is awesome. I don’t use that word often or lightly. But she is. She’s engaging, lively, she connects with the students on a level that I have never seen before. I would almost consider going back to school if I could have her teach me full time. She’s that good. The school offers both A’ level and BTEC Business. BTEC Business can result in the equivalent of 2 A’levels after the 2 years. No exam, just coursework. My heart did a little skip and I nearly clapped. Some of the current year 12 students spoke and they talked about one of their modules requiring them to create a business. They have gone one step further and are running a business. They are making money, running a business while studying and it goes towards their coursework. Sign me up now. T seemed equally enthralled. And the best bit, Mrs T teaches BTEC Business, not the A’level. She went on to say that they have as many students go on to do further study as they do go on to get jobs, apprenticeships. It’s not all about Uni. Hurrah.

Similar feelings for ICT. We went to the Computing talk but it was clear from the start that it was not the course for T. He is doing Computing GCSE but this was all whole new level. Not beyond his capabilities, just beyond his interest. The clincher for me was the 3 students who were there as “ambassadors” for the subject – they appeared to be 60 year old men. I suspect they have always been this way but I can’t risk it happening to T.

As we left the event, I asked T what he thought. He has decided to apply for both college and Sixth Form. There has been talk for some time that the Police Force will soon only recruit graduates. This has been bandied about a lot, but we can’t guarantee that it won’t happen. If that is the case then T needs to be prepared to take that step. Or change direction. Doing Public Services may end up narrowing his options, but also may lead to his dream job. Doing Business and ICT BTEC’s may broaden his options, and make him look at other avenues. It also won’t stop him going to Uni and applying to the Police as a graduate if necessary.

It feels good that he has made some sensible decisions. It feels good that he is keeping his options open for now. And he has some goals to reach in order to do either, which will hopefully keep him focused.

 

 

 

Review Relief

The Work Review took place this morning. I was in the office incredibly early thanks to very little school traffic, and I found myself getting increasingly nervous. I don’t know why – I have known D, my boss, since secondary school and we get on really well as employer/employee. He’s a very relaxed person and we have a good laugh. But, there was something about the formality of having a Review that was making me a bit sweaty-palmed. And for someone with perpetually cold hands that’s quite some achievement.

He arrived in the office about half an hour after me and we chatted about Christmas, family, etc.  I made a cuppa; he did some paperwork; I answered some emails. I knew he was due to leave at 10 a.m. for a meeting and I started to wonder if he had forgotten about The Review. But no, with plenty of time to spare, he said “shall we have this review then?” and laughed. I laughed (a tad more hysterically than necessary) and he came and sat down at the desk next to mine. With his notebook. Palms sweating even more, I wondered if I should get my notebook in case I was expected to take notes. I looked across my desk and noticed my screen was still on my Gmail. Gah! not a great impression to give. I managed to flick it on to a work screen and by then I forgot all about getting my notebook.

I didn’t need it. As formal as it felt, and sounded, to start off with – ” we (the other boss was away, thankfully, so this was the Royal “we”) want to talk about your role, make sure everything is going as it should from both our perspectives, talk about how we can measure your performance and then look at new ideas we have for how to expand your role, does that sound OK?” it soon emerged that they are very happy with what I am doing; they think I am hardworking, conscientious; they are happy that I put in the hours; they have lots of ideas for things I can get involved in; and so long as I keep the required performance levels up on the accounts then they are happy. I squeaked out lots of “OK”s and “oh good”s and “thank you”s steeling myself for when it was my turn – what on earth was I going to say? Why was I being such a dribbler? The best part was that the other boss (the grumpy one) had allegedly said a short while ago that he wished they had come across me ten or fifteen years ago when they were first starting the business, as I am a superstar. I don’t think he said superstar, but I like to think that was what he meant.

My turn.

“Er, I’m happy with the work, most of the time. I like the flexibility and I like coming into the office a couple of times a week to break the week up”.

So lame. Think, think.

“I sometimes find some of it a bit mundane”

OK, I didn’t know I was going to go that route but I’ve started so I’ll finish….

“so some new stuff to get involved in would be great”…..

He’s already said that….THINK!

“I know it can’t all be interesting all the time”…..

“…..had lots of jobs so know it can’t all be fun, fun, fun”…..

“…..really like working here”…..”….happy to do anything really”…..

SHUT UP  – NOW!

I stopped. He smiled, “Great, so that’s all good. We’re going to give you a pay-rise starting this month.” I don’t kiss and tell, but suffice to say it’s not enough for us to start eating caviar every night (why would anyone want to?) and it’s probably going be hard to spot it on my payslip, but it’s the thought that counts and I didn’t take the job expecting to earn megabucks.

I have to admit to being on a little bit of a high after that. It was nice to hear nice things – it’s nice to know they know I am conscientious, and that I am capable of doing more. And, of course, that I am a superstar.