Friday 28 June 2013

Categorise us

These things are givens: my blue-green eyes;  the brown curly hair that refuses to be tamed (I joke "it wears me"); that I am a musician; that I'm Mensa-level bright; that I like puzzles and solving problems but can't do crosswords; my need to create and craft; that I'm a damn good cook and love entertaining;  that I am a bookworm; that even though my father worked in a factory and my mother trained as a dressmaker, I am inexorably middle-class.

While some a physical attributes or accidents of history, many of the above are labels I stick on myself.  The human tendency to categorise people always amazes me.  As a species, we are awfully judgemental. We go about consigning our acquaintances to labelled boxes, e.g. "shelf stacker" or "nice but dim" or "arty" or, my favourite from a friend, "so common they'd make TOWIE look posh".   It can be funny watching the reactions when the labellee doesn't conform to the labeller's expectations - have you ever had someone protest to you, "But you're not like that!" when you do something that doesn't agree with their preconceptions? 

I've mentioned before that I hate to be labelled, hate the assumption that just because I like one thing, I will dislike another. In any given scenario, you can only possibly present part of yourself to the world.  The core "you" will always be present but it's highly unlikely that your closest loved ones will see the same version of you as your colleagues.  I am aware that pretty much everything people might know about me depends upon where and how we met, for example, at work most of my department do not know that I play RPGs on the weekends. I'm not ashamed of it but it's only ever come up in conversation once, at which point, I out geeked the guy who thought he was the resident geek. They know I sing in a choir but it's taken some of them years to reconcile my taste in classical music with going to rock concerts.  Wonder what they'd say if they knew the last band I listened to live played bluegrass and the one before that played skiffle?

On the flip side, if you knew me through role-playing or choir, it is unlikely my profession would have an impact on you.  At most, you'd know I'm an accountant in an engineering firm.  If pushed, I'd tell you about the business I look after now, possibly about the project I looked after for 5 years. There are days when I re-read some of the emails I've sent at work and think, "my God, I'm good at what I do" but, outside the recipients, only another accountant would get the impact of what I've written.  Maybe that's why many of my dearest girlfriends have a connection to my profession and the job I do.  When the "Ladies of A" get together, we trade war stories about segmental analysis, complain about revenue recognition, share the triumph that comes from finally being able to take the static figures from the management accounts as presented in Hyperion and drill all the way down into the ledgers to find the primary transactions.

If you were watching us from a nearby table at a restaurant, you probably wouldn't notice until after the second or third cocktail since the conversation is always interspersed with stories about husbands and children and football and holidays and houses and hobbies and homemaking.  Until that point, from the outside, we probably look like any other group of middle-aged "ladies who lunch".  After that point, when the alcohol  loosens the volume controls, you might notice the lack of conversation about hair and make-up while we dissect the technicalities of the accounts we manage (although we might make the occasional detour into shoes...).  Another case of appearances deceiving.  Not fitting in to neatly labelled boxes.

I am not a stereotype.  Don't try to make me one!

- Pam

(Incidentally, one of the funniest assumptions that has ever been made about me is when my Head of Project Controls and I went to check into a hotel in Glasgow and walked up to the reception desk together.  Having told the desk clerk that I'd booked two rooms, indicating my male colleague as I did so, the clerk promptly asked me if we'd like two keys to my room! J's face was a picture.  I hate to think what mine was like.)

Friday 14 June 2013

How many meals?

This morning, I skived off work*, scooped up the contents of the meat fund and went to the kosher butcher.  It had been six months since my last visit, I had £230 to play with and a freezer that looked half full.  In the end, I spent £199.35 and bought the following:-

2kg roasting chicken - 3 meals plus stock
3 x 350g packets of chicken livers - 3 meals
2kg rolled turkey leg roast - 3 meals
marinated Tuscan lamb roast - 1 meal
1lb marinated stir-fry beef - 2 meals
4lb minced (ground) beef - 8 meals
Shoulder of lamb - 2 meals
5lb cubed steak - 5 meals
9 chicken breast fillets - 9 meals
Lamb spare ribs in honey - 1 meal
2 packs beef sausages - 2 meals
700g turkey schnitzels - 2-3 meals
6 packets stock cubes

So that's 41 or 42 meals where each meal feeds a minimum of 4.   The only thing I didn't buy was steak.  (I forgot.)

Let me restate it:  that's four roast dinners plus leftovers; three pre-prepared Chinese meals (just add veg and rice); nine large chicken breasts (250g each) which will make nine stir-fries/ risotto/pasta dishes or curries; five assorted beef stews or curries; 8 meals of minced beef and other possibilities; three of chicken livers; plus a bag of "I don't feel like cooking what have we got to eat?".

It will take us through to December by my reckoning.  Sometimes my ability to stretch out food amazes even me.  Of course, we eat the odd vegetarian meal - less frequently than you'd think - and a reasonable amount of fish (maybe 2lb a month if you include tinned tuna and pilchards), but we don't go hungry by any stretch of the imagination.  Nor do we eat out a lot.

Hmmm..... Do you remember back in October when I was toying with doing a Wartime Experiment but wondered about whether we could survive the food rations?  Dealing with the meat ration was really what was putting me off trying the experiment.  Well,'s  UK inflation calculator tells me that £200 today is the equivalent of £3/17/9 in 1941 money (£3, 17 shillings and 10 pence).  In 1941, the meat ration was 1s2d per week.  Therefore, I reckon I've just bought 15 weeks' worth of meat ration for two people.  Food for thought.

- Pam

* More to the point, since I have done at least 40 hours unpaid overtime since the start of May, which includes unwilling working 5 hours on Saturday and our timesheet week runs Saturday to Friday, I told my bosses that I was booking that time in my regular 40 hours and not working today.  (At my grade, I can't claim paid overtime.)

Sunday 2 June 2013

Stopping for breath

Hello.  How was your weekend?  Mine was very productive.  This is the first weekend since the start of May that I didn't have work to do, and I made the most of it.  Friday, I finished work at 12, then met a friend for lunch and a very l-o-n-g chat (lunch finished at 6pm!).  Saturday, we went to the farm shop, the supermarket, then hit the garden.  Today, I collected Howard from the airport, cleaned the house, cooked up a batch of base, prepared dinner for tomorrow night as well as tonight. I even snatched an hour or so sitting in the garden today, knitting and listening to the cricket on the radio.

It might not sound like a completely fun weekend, but compared to the previous few it was bliss.  I've spent so much time working in May, that just getting a few hours to potter around the house was lovely.  There are two bank holidays in May, after the first - Monday 6th May - I worked 50 hours in 4 days.  You know how I normally work half days on Fridays?  Well, I left the office that Friday after 9pm.  We went on holiday on the Saturday - Malaga in Spain, I may tell you about it sometime - got home the following Saturday at 4pm and by 6pm, I was back logged on and worked until midnight.

And so the cycle continued. Early mornings.  Late evenings. Back and neck rigid with tension. Two more weeks. Two trips to Glasgow.  Two reviews with the Big Boss.  Final submission date was Thursday.  I went home on Thursday night, leaving my work laptop in my desk, feeling lighter than I had even while on holiday.   And being able to take this weekend off was a joy - housework or not.  We haven't quite finished, tomorrow has the potential to be nasty but, thanks to this weekend, I can face the day relaxed.

I hope your weekend has left you in a similar state.

- Pam