About Me

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The older I get, the more cynical I get. It is not a fact I am proud of, but it is a fact. I disbelieve just about everything the establishment and the media tell us. I am convinced that we are manipulated into being the submissive, law-abiding robots that we have become. It grieves me greatly.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Fight or Flight

This evening on my journey home, I overheard a fellow passenger on the telephone say how unhappy she was at work - mainly down to her boss, she kept repeating 'you've got no idea'.  I consider myself lucky in working with a good team and having a decent boss, but it hasn't always been like that, so I did have an idea of what she meant.  Years ago I found myself working for someone whose behaviour verged on psychopathic. 

The job had started off OK – but don’t all abusive relationships?  Gradually my workload increased beyond a reasonable level.  The criticism became less subtle and more frequent.  I tried discussing it with her but was accused of being disloyal and selfish.  Along with being her PA, I was also her social secretary.  I would spend hours of the company's time trying to book holidays, weekends away, tickets for concerts, booking restaurants, all the while trying to keep on top of my excessive workload and dealing with the constantly changing details - dates, locations and departure airports.  

My hours became longer, it wasn't enough.  My workload was growing, the backlog of items I hadn't had time to do also grew, preying constantly on my mind that she would find out.   I rarely took a lunch break, but even eating lunch at my desk was a luxury.  She would telephone me constantly with demands - her office was a few feet away, she could see I was eating lunch, it was a deliberate interruption.  It wasn't personal, I had long suspected that she hated all women.  She spoke disparagingly of female colleagues and even more so of the wives and girlfriends of male colleagues and friends.  She constantly plotted and schemed against colleagues that she saw as a threat, which I soon realised was all other women and any men who refused to fall under her spell and pay her the attention she constantly craved.  In meetings I attended with her, I noticed how she undermined certain colleagues.  When they spoke she would start a side conversation in an overly loud whisper or interrupt them with a completely irrelevant comment.  

Her boyfriend once telephoned her whilst she was in a meeting.  I offered to interrupt her, but he assured me that it didn't matter, he was on his way to the airport and would catch up with her later, could I just tell her that he had called.  I did, fully expecting her to be irritated that he hadn't wanted her dragged out of an important meeting.  She wasn't irritated, she was incandescent with rage.  How could he do this, why didn't I get her out of the meeting, she was ovulating and as he was going away it was her last chance that month to conceive.   I stood by her desk in shock, not sure I had actually just heard correctly, whilst she continued to rant and rage. I didn't know whether to laugh or run screaming from the building.  

I frequently told HR that I couldn't cope, they sympathised with me, but did little.  To many of my colleagues, I was the abused child on the block.  The other PAs who had been there some time, some of whom had even worked for her before I became the victim of the moment, would tell newer colleagues in hushed tones who I worked for, and they would all look at me with a pity normally reserved for cancer sufferers.  Senior colleagues would take me out for drinks to cheer me up or regale me with stories of her appalling behaviour in client meetings.  

As the bullying increased, my health suffered, both physically and mentally.  On the train to work I had to sit as far away from the door as possible, because sometimes the urge to just open it and step out of the speeding train was overwhelming.  I never for one moment thought of it as trying to kill myself, I was just desperate not to have to deal with her.  Eventually it became too much and I just walked out.  Then the HR machine swung into action - to protect the reputation of the department rather than to help me.  I realised I wasn't well enough to get a new job, I was suffering from nearly two years of constant bullying, my confidence was shattered.  HR decided I had to stay within that department, but not work for her.  We became mortal enemies, I had dared to refuse to work for her.  I think she thought her sneering constant contempt would keep me in my place, I couldn’t have cared less where she thought my place was.  All I cared about was not working for her.  

I had cognitive behavioural therapy, paid for by HR - but of course they were doing it as a gesture of goodwill, no culpability was accepted.  It worked wonders.  I stopped hating her and planning the tribunal in which I would right all the wrongs against me and started seeing her as the sad, mad, insecure bitch that she was.  I realised that her male colleagues and bosses saw exactly what was going on, they just weren't prepared to take on someone so unstable - those who shout loudest get furthest.  

In hindsight, the first time I raised the issue with HR and they failed to act, I should have left.  Far too late into the months of abuse, I started to keep a diary of her behaviour, but if nobody will listen to you, why put yourself through more misery and the pain of a tribunal?  Many large companies will pay a solicitor £500k before they will pay an employee £5k and HR are not social workers, they are there to protect a company's interests.  If the train this evening had not been so packed, I might have stood up, sought out the woman on the phone and told her that no job and no salary is worth putting up with bullies. The first rule of first aid is to remove the hazard, or remove yourself from the hazard.  When the hazard is a bully with psychopathic tendencies, self-preservation has to come first.  As a friend of mine said when we discussed this - people don't leave bad companies, they leave bad bosses. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Filling in

I woke up early for once and thought I would live on the wild side and turn the telly on whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.  

The face of a cabinet minister filled the screen.  He was suited, polished and his words carefully chosen.  The message he conveyed was loud and clear - 'a vote for me is a vote for spin'.  I immediately regretted turning the telly on.  I don't even want most celebrities as celebrities, so I absolutely draw the line at cabinet ministers. 

He was replaced on the screen by the weather report; then by someone from a mortgage provider with a quick side trip to the streets of Manchester and London to see what non-celebrities think.  The news then moved on to orphaned orang-utans.  This all took about eight minutes and my head is already spinning with the amount of information it has been bombarded with.  The orphaned orang-utans were too sleepy to engage with the reporter and the reporter suggested they have their breakfast and the cameras could return when the orang-utans are a bit livelier.  I think it is advice the BBC should follow itself.  Let us all wake up and come to terms with the world before being attacked by news and views.

I scuttled off to the radio in search of a bit of peace and quiet.  It being a Monday I am not quite up to the cheerful witterings of Chris Evans so I chose Radio 4 and the measured tones of the Today show.  Even Radio 4's news has changed.  It also has more clips from witnesses, more spokespeople.    

We have 24 hour news on several channels, both on radio and on television, hence the interviews, the tug at the heart strings stories of orphaned wild animals, street polls and eye witness snippets.  There is a lot of time to fill.  It isn't 30 minutes three times a day, it is 60 minutes, 24 times a day.  We can't just hear an item of news, we have to be spoon fed it with polls, people who knew the person in the news or, more often, people who may have met them once.  The days of the news being read at 100 words a minute in the calm, measured tones of Moira Stewart or Alastair Burnett are long gone.  I will stick to reading the news in papers or online.  I don't have to have sad stories dripped out to me in a caring, sharing, 'this is how sad you have to feel' voice and I definitely don't need half the nation to get their five minutes of fame to play the part of witnesses.

Today's weather report - a gloomy outlook to start the day, which may brighten once I have had my second cup of tea.  

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Cut to the Quick

I finally had my hair cut.  It was cut very short and, more importantly, I didn't have the roots dyed.  I am now the proud owner of four months of grey roots.  

I like it.  It is longer at the front - and therefore still has some colour in it.  The back is a very mottled brown / grey, but the top is clearly very grey and in places almost white.  I realise that I am not painting a very pretty picture, but I am just describing the many shades of grey in my hair. 

I was very nervous about having it cut.  I actually felt sick.  I couldn't believe how much they cut off.  The pile of curls was swept into a corner - and it looked as if the hairdresser had just shaved my hair off all in one.  I wasn't too sure whilst it was being finished and dried, but once it was done, I really liked it.  The next morning I spent the first 30 minutes in work with everyone admiring and discussing my hair.  

To my surprise even my severest critic, my mother, liked it as well.  She told me it is a very mature cut, which wasn't quite the look I was going for, but I will take compliments where I can.  My cousins' and friends' comments have been very complimentary too and none of them are given to diplomacy.  Two friends have said the curls save it from being 'too lesbian'!  Another little known fact there - not only do lesbians all have short hair, but they must also have short, straight hair.  This morning when I washed my hair, I straightened it when I dried it.  It looked OK, but I prefer the curls.  I was disappointed when I went out that not one woman threw herself at me.  The stereotype surely cannot be wrong?

My hair actually looks more dyed than it did before, now that only some of it is dyed.  The grey on the top is so white, it just blends in with the blonde.  A friend whom I met in the street this morning asked me if I had had red put in the back.  Can the few hairs which have not yet succumbed to grey now be veering towards ginger?  

I will keep having it cut in this way until all the colour has gone.  I am learning about shampoos for grey hair and protecting it from the sun is also a necessity.  I suspect that my grey hair may turn out to be less 'low maintenance' than I had originally envisaged, but for the moment, going grey is here to stay.