Friday, 31 August 2012

Disaster

I am proof positive that there are no such things as guardian angels. Or at least if there are, I’ve had a vacancy for a very long time.

I mentioned that I have an interview on Monday, right? I really would like to work for this company and I’ve been doing my research and preparing like mad. And this weekend I was going to pull all that research together and formulate my responses to likely (and unlikely) questions. I’d planned my outfit. I’d plotted how to slip away from work without detection. I was going to be slick, professional, prepared.

So I was mildly surprised when my colleague wished me luck this morning over my computer. His girlfriend was one of the interviewers so he knew about it. I sent a merry note back about Monday and how nervous I was; he queried the date. I checked my letter. No, the interview was TODAY in half an hour’s time. Dear Reader, I hope you are gasping in horror and sympathy – can you imagine how I felt? Well, let me compound your horror that by telling you that it’s dress down Friday in my office and I was in skinny jeans (they’re still called that if you’re not skinny, right?), a coral Breton tunic and plimsolls. Their HR department was sympathetic but immovable. Shaking with distress and fear I ran out of the door, straight there.

I managed a merry quip about the lovely jacket I’d been intending to wear at the start of the interview; I closed by laughing that at least no-one at work would dream of where I’d been, dressed as I was, but really I was a hair breadth from screaming with rage, frustration and disappointment. Mixed in with a dash of humiliation for being such an idiot (HOW did I think it was Monday? It’s in my diary for Monday, I had it all planned out...). I didn’t do my best; I was nervous and gabbled too much and too fast. My answers were not succinct and slick, they were flabby and unfocussed. I think I managed maybe 60-70% of my best at most – that’s all. Okay, under the circumstances that’s probably all I could do but it’s not enough. P thinks that my 70% is better than anyone else’s 100%, bless him, and praised me for my bravery in getting up and just doing it under difficult circumstances. And he pointed out that I have more chance of getting it by doing what I did, than by taking the easy option and not going.

I have to wait for two weeks now to hear the result. And I need to. I’m pretty certain that I won’t get that job but I cannot help but have a little, teeny-tiny flicker of hope and I need that to be put out so I can move on. But I bet I have nightmares tonight.

Still, at least they’ll remember me, right? Grrrrooooaaaan.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Dough-girl

So I’ve clearly missed refined flour. A lot. I’ve eaten quite a bit of bread, a croissant (and a bite) and a couple of cakes. It may be coincidence that I’ve had dreadful stomach pain and bloating for the last couple of days. I don’t think I’m gluten intolerant but maybe my system was a bit shocked to have been dough-bombed to this extent. What the reason is for my severely upset stomach is another matter. I’m trying to tell myself that it will help with weight loss but I remember that dysentery from Syria did not. Oh yes, the mental scars on that one are still super-fresh. Suffice it to say that it was a mercy for the passengers of the Jubilee line that I was working from home this morning or we could all have found ourselves in a pretty pickle. Well, not a pretty one...

Apart from the gastric upsets which set in on my actual birthday, the weekend has been fun. We saw my friend and god-daughter and handed over their bridesmaid/flower girl dresses – and were quizzed by her husband on canap├ęs and eating times! (My friend’s husband that is, not my god-daughter’s because she’s 6. And anyway, I intend her for my nephew. Who may well be gay, but hey). We had a lovely long hike with a picnic (baguette with pate and a bottle of cider – oh happy days!) in the sunshine and watched a film with a bottle. We went out to dinner and had a lovely meal (squid followed by duck with pistachio pilaf followed by baked nectarines). And P bought me a beautiful 1950s ladies’ dress watch.

I drank much more than usual, ate much more than usual and much less judiciously than usual. And I know Lesley quotes Mrs L’s mantra “knowledge is power” but in my experience knowledge has the power to turn round and whack you round the face, leaving you blinking in pain and disappointment. So I did not consult Scales of Doom this morning – even though I could sense it peering beadily at me whilst I was, erm, pinioned to the loo. Next week will be soon enough. Especially since the way that the weeks have worked out means that I’ll have done 4 ‘fasting’ days between now and then. Even then, I bet the knowledge still has the power to sadden, dismay and disappoint me. Even with a little light dysentery on the side.

Ah yes, the tie shop. Well, it’s actually rather a prestigious shirtmaker’s. But although the full story is – I confess – rather good, I can’t tell you because I’d have to play a bit fast and loose with P’s details. And he absolutely hates that I write this anyway so I can’t be too candid. Suffice it to say that I was working there and he wasn’t but nor was he a customer – he had a specific reason for being roughly there-ish. And we got talking. And then we went to an exhibition over the road and it went from there. And a mere 17 years later we’re getting married!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Hedonism ahoy!

My bi-annual bout of hedonism is about to commence.  I look forward to this with more than usual eagerness as today I'm on a 'fasting' day and so am a) hungry and b) very, very tired of cottage cheese.  But tomorrow there will be cake!  Croissant!  Dinner out with pudding! Wine! All of which I am sure will make me very sad when I crawl back to Scales of Doom on Wednesday.  I may even chicken out....  But in the meantime I will enjoy immensely.

It's my 3rd day of 'fasting' this calendar week but diet weeks currently start on a Wednesday and I can't see when I'm going to fit in another before next Wednesday.  No matter, I will be 'fasting' next Wednesday and Thursday (probably) and I'm sure it will be a grievous shock to the system after a few days off.

Yesterday afternoon I took a half day's leave to do more wedding stuff.  Poor P tried on many suits in order to find 'the one'.  His line in the sand was that he wanted them to have a working cuff.  This automatically cut out almost all the suits we looked at.  In the end, having been to a number of posher options, we found that the Saville Row collection for M&S were a great buy - okay, they were expensive (especially for M&S) but the fit and the quality was great.  And then we found that they had 20% off!  This cheered P up no end - after walking for miles and being sold at by salemen intent on making him buy something he didn't want and didn't like, he was not happy mid point through the afternoon.  We also bought bridesmaids' dresses and ties for the groomsmen.  P told the man in the tie shop that we'd actually met there (we did!) and now we'd come back to buy ties for our wedding - the man showed some interest but didn't offer us a discount, affected by the romance of the moment!

Laden, we staggered in to an over-crowded pub to meet the secret drinkers from my office (ie the nice people who had snuck off and not told the coven of evil managers or the brown-nosers, rather than people with alcohol problems) where I discovered that foregoing alcohol in the interests of The Diet meant that 2 gin and diet tonics made me rather squiffy.  Maybe I'm not build for hedonism!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Tunnel vision

My boss has resigned. He doesn’t even have another job to go to, he just can’t deal with the toxic way our office is run. I can see the difference in him – it’s like a weight has been lifted from him. He’s also abandoned all pretence at towing the line and is being very frank (“career cul-de-sac” was a personal favourite). But it was still a shock when he confirmed that there was literally a campaign against me. I kind of hoped I was just being paranoid but it seems I am not. He advised me to “get out as quickly as you can”. Good advice. And on the upside, at least I’m not paranoid! (Or if I am, that they really are out to get me!)

This is the third ‘campaign’ against someone in less than the year my boss has been there but of course I have been there for four years and this is the 6th I know of. I don’t suppose it will ever end. In fact, I can see them gearing up against a newish girl on another team too. She’s good at her job but they’ve just taken against her. It’s a cycle of persecution that never ends. And why does this keep happening? Well, no-one’s really sure – partly it’s fear (I might be next so quick, let’s pick on someone else) and partly I’m sure it’s because the Dementor gets a kick out of the drama, with her in the middle of it all.

So it’s good advice I got from my boss – but kinda superfluous. Believe me, I’m trying to escape. So I was devastated to find out – by accident – that I hadn’t even been shortlisted for one of the jobs I’ve applied for. Devastated because it’s exactly the job I’m doing, just in another department; it would have been the easiest to do and the easiest to move to with the same money and I’d be able to take the leave I’ve been squirreling away for the wedding. I’ve now found out the reason I wasn’t shortlisted which is pretty shocking – even too shocking to share here, anonymously – and maybe, just maybe I had a narrow escape. Apart from the salary, the leave and the ease of it all.

I do however have an interview for a week on Monday. I’m terrified. It would be a struggle financially, I’d also struggle with my leave for the wedding and honeymoon and the job is only for a year. But it’s a great organisation – it literally sounds like the antithesis of where I am now. And I do really want it. So I’m terrified.

Luckily I lost 1 ½ lbs this week – that was with 3 days on the “fasting” programme in anticipation of the weekend. I say 'luckily' as L is a fabulous baker and brought a whole tray of her incredibly delicious millionaire’s shortbread which I definitely had my fair share of. I was pretty restrained apart from that but I think that third day 'fasting' saved me – that and a 5 hour hike anyway. It was a great weekend – they’re such a well suited and lovely couple – and it stopped me brooding when my escape tunnel had caved in. I’m now digging my way to tunnel 2.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Purple haze

Bless her, R must have tried on approaching a dozen dresses yesterday – and E joined us at half time (when it would actually have been quite nice to suck an orange but which actually found R and I in semi-stupified silence in Starbucks necking a quick drink). E must have tried on the ‘short’ list of half a dozen before we moved on to fresh frocks – I am a purple meanie who just sat/stood outside or dashed off for additional sizes.

But the long and the short of it is that we have a dress. I haven’t actually bought them yet because I’m hoping for a shopping event over the bank holiday to get the price down a little if I can. It doesn’t tick all the boxes – it was E’s first choice but only R’s second (and mine too actually) which caused a people pleaser like me a bit of anxiety – I did suggest they wore different dresses but E and R didn’t think that was a good idea. I have to say that they did both look amazing in it – it’s quite 50s but in a very elegant way rather than a cute way - and R looked like an off-duty ballerina dressing for dinner with an admirer after a performance and E looked like a wealthy, glamorous socialite or film star. I was in fact so struck by how they looked in it that I snuck away at lunchtime today to try it on myself as a possible cruise dress: I looked like a frumpy housewife. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a housewife (I currently rather aspire to this) but frumpy? Never.

The frumpy me that stared back out of the mirror today was the icing on the cake of this week’s weight struggle: I put on just over a lb. After that monster cycle ride, talk about rude! I’ve decided to squeeze in an extra milk ‘fast’ day today in the hope of a much better result next week. Especially since we have friends staying with us in Suffolk this weekend and P has been cooking up a storm of SE Asian food which does tend to have sugar in it even if I stay away from the coconut rice and Singapore noodles (and I won’t be able to entirely) and there will be plentiful wine. I’m doing starter and pudding – I’m doing a mango and lime fool with coconut and lime macaroons which is, at best, damage limitation as it’s not actually swathed in yards of pastry or similar but still, has the evil sugar in (both naturally occurring in the mango and added in).

By the time I have to confront SoD again, I will have done 3 milk ‘fast’ days and I’m hoping that will both compensate for a very little extra excess on Saturday (we’re also doing a long hike) and make up for this week’s disappointing result.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Not as flat as all that

On the basis that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, I'm pretty damn strong at the moment. 

I found a mostly-off-road cycle trail in a book that we fancied trying on Saturday; it was 22 miles - which seemed on the wimpy side but manageable.  We were gone four and a half hours.  Seriously.  I've taken off the time P took to mend both our chains when they got stuck.  With at least 5 miles still to go, I felt really tired and turning the pedals became more and more of an effort.  Suffolk is not as flat as you might think - it has a lot of barely discernable but long inclines (up of course) which became very discernable as time went on.  Even P who walks up 18 flights of stairs every day was flagging by the end.  I had to sit on the sofa comatose before I could summon up the energy to get in the shower.

So, I ought to have a respectable loss tomorrow.  The two 'fasting' days this week have been my toughest yet - not sure whether it was the cycle ride, the fact that my period has just started or some other random factor.  I'm looking forward to being able to eat a little more tomorrow though.  And looking forward to a good result (p-l-e-a-s-e Scales of Doom).  (Ms Kay - have answered your question as best I can (not sure what the opposite of diet guru is but that's me) in the comments section under your comment.)

Actually I have a critical shopping trip tomorrow - for bridesmaids' dresses - and may not have time to think about food too much.  I'm meeting my two best friends and we're hoping that some time and determination will find what has so far been a disturbingly elusive dress.  I want it to be purple, them both to love it and ideally be something they can wear again.  It doesn't sound hard, does it?  We shall see.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Working for my crust

I feel you are due an update. I have been avoiding coming on here for fear of being what is glibly called “a Debbie Downer”. Things at work are still desperate but I’d like to thank you for your words of support, advice and encouragement; I have applied for one job and am in the process of applying for another and I have my eyes peeled for any others. Applying for jobs is a lengthy and time-consuming process; applying for jobs whilst trying to satisfy the despotism of a cliquey group of tyrants and trying to keep one’s wilting pecker up, is a whole other world of pain. But oh so worth it – even to feel that I’m doing something to get myself out of that situation is good.

And good news on the old WI – Scales of Doom are obviously aware that I am teetering on the brink of the abyss and awarded me a 2.5lb loss for the week! I can’t quite believe it! Okay, the misery diet may have helped a little but I had fish and chips, 3 fizzy cola bottle sweets, 1 spoonful of ice cream, 1 slice of bread and 2 glasses of wine (not all at the same time – over the course of the weekend). I have no impending tricky things to negotiate in the week ahead (food-wise at any rate) so it will be interesting to see what happens this week. As long as TOTM doesn’t sod it all up.

The trick, I think (and it is harder than you might imagine) is not to think of it as a 2 day a week diet; oh no, it’s an all week diet where 2 days are particularly tough. It’s all too easy to put off having anything on the milk days by thinking you’ll have it once the 2 days are out of the way – and then thinking you’ve promised yourself and you deserve it! The reward needs to be scales-based rather than food-based.

Talking of which.....

My birthday weekend is in 3 weeks time now and I have been consoling myself with self-indulgent thoughts of a diet-free nature in times of stress. This is what I fancy but will try to talk myself out of at least some of this arrant hedonism:
Breakfast – chocolate croissant, fruit
Lunch – picnic, mid-hike, with baguette, pate and cheese and a cupcake or brownie
Dinner – we’re going out. 3 courses plus wine plus a glass (or two) of fizz.
Following day – afternoon tea and more fizz I expect
I know, terrible isn’t it? And I’m not usually that interested in croissants – I have no idea why I suddenly want one so badly, pastry is not something that ever calls to me usually. But then, I always said my favourite carb was rice and it’s actually bread I really, really miss. Not boring old sliced bread but yummy artisanal have to cut it yourself (wonkily in my case) bread. Okay, I need to stop thinking about bread now.

I am working from home today. It’s a weird one – I miss my colleagues (most of them are lovely – just a few (senior) ones who are vile) but it’s a treat to have a lie in and be able to bung washes through the machine. I had thought of it as a respite from the spite but although I’m out of the atmosphere, an unpleasant email last time I was working from home showed that they can bring the nastiness to you. Poor P came home to me in tears again. I am not really a cryer so this must be alarming for him (I think 3x in the last week) but he takes it all in his stride; on Monday he looked at my face when I got in and said “you’re not going to be eating tonight, are you?” so he knows the signs! He’s been an absolute tower of strength and I really think I wouldn’t be so sane without him (okay, my definition of sane may be different to yours!). Every day he tells me that it can’t get any worse and they can’t physically hurt me or kill me so it’s okay. I am trying to stop finding it all so hard, adopt a ‘sod it’ mentality and just think that it’s only a matter of time before I’m out. Work in progress.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Living for the weekend

I think I’ve hit rock bottom at work. I am trying to think of this as a good thing because although I may languish here for a bit, it can’t get any worse unless they sack me. And that’s hard to do in the civil service and with years of good appraisals behind me.

Wednesday was appalling; it was a day without food again (just felt too sick) but a day in which I cried on two people; one was a friend but the other was a senior manager who just came over to say she was sorry I was being treated so badly but that I wasn’t alone in that, if it made me feel any better. It did a bit (which I know is wrong) but I just burst into tears and choked out “I’m so sorry, I’m just not used to people being kind” which, whilst pathetic, is true.

I had agreed with my manager to do a first draft of a major piece of work for when he came back in 3 weeks time. It was brought forward to 3 days time. I tried to explain why this wasn’t possible but to no avail. I managed something for a meeting with my head and deputy head of department; it was the wrong thing and they didn’t like it (despite me telling the deputy head what I was doing). I was torn to shreds in the meeting. And the information I needed to do my work, none of my contacts could understand a) why the rush (it’s for something at the end of October) and they were working to a previously agreed deadline and b) there was nothing they could say and they were mystified as to why it was getting this level of interest. I couldn’t explain since as far as I know (and that’s precious little) it’s simply about the egos in my office. At least, that’s what I’m choosing to believe because the alternative is that it’s simply aimed at making my life wretched for no good reason. But the lack of substance doesn’t prevent these two demanding that I find substance where there’s none. There’s no scrap that I can embroider into anything even, no matter what the pressure.

Then the Dep (Queen of Dementors) took another piece of work my manager was happy with, asked for proof he’d signed it off, then told me it wasn’t good enough.

I was in the office for 11 hours straight on Wednesday and 9 yesterday. I didn’t even dare leave my desk to get something to eat or go to the loo as I feared it would call attention to me. As it was, because I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything, I didn’t need the loo, so that was one problem solved I suppose.

One of our new and junior members of staff who was looking some stuff up for me actually asked me “Are you being punished for something? Because that’s what it feels like”. She’s really unhappy there and wants to leave because of the toxic culture where bullying is not just condoned but encouraged and the blame culture that leaves people frightened and unhappy. She wants to leave but she’s only been there 6 months and thinks she can’t. I’ve been there over 4 years and I think I must. Fingers crossed for the job I put my application in for last week – and that something else suitable comes along, I’m certainly scrutinising everything.  And I'm leaving an escape tunnel behind me if I possibly can.

In diet news, well am hoping a day without eating and a day eating practically nothing will balance up the fish and chips planned for Saturday night. My official WI showed me 1lb up on the previous week but nearly 3lbs down on the unofficial post-weekend WI so there’s a lot of work to do and I need to keep on working hard at it. I walked past Ben’s Cookies last night and so strongly wanted to treat myself because of how miserable I feel – but managed not to and come home for a piece of fish and some courgettes instead. No, not the same thing at all is it?! But my one treat will be that supper and I mustn’t waver in any other respect. My brother’s asked me to make sure that my niece doesn’t have too many sweets or chocolate and says she’s “greedy”. Poor little girl, she’s only 9. But she doesn’t want to grow up like her Auntie, of that I am sure.