Friday, September 09, 2011

One year on

So I am slowly but surely creeping up to one year on the job, which is something of a milestone. On the whole it has been very kind to me indeed, possibly excepting this last month in which I found myself quite regularly doing 14 hour days and discovering that this is not really conducive to holding all the rest of the parts of one's life together (I only discovered exactly how many other things I was committed to when my work took over and I started enumerating the number of people I was letting down!). On the other hand, the last month has also been a milestone in terms of the independence and impact that I am starting to feel I can personally make on my teams. Nothing comes so easily it seems... We are now nearing the end which means I can have a bit of a breather and write this blog :)

In terms of other commitments, perhaps the largest has been the circus, still work-related, deary me -- other than the fact that it has eaten my weekends, it has been lots of fun, very bruise-inducing, and a great challenge (largely to my upper body strength). Several months on, I feel we've gone from trapeze virgins to trapeze performers (no innuendo intended, no really!) which is not to be sneezed at... We are performing next weekend, and lots of people are coming to watch the somewhat dubious spectacle of management consultants trying to put on a circus.

There is less other excitement on the horizon now that I've only just come back from a summer family holiday in Tuscany (I've been back two weeks but it feels like two months). In the misty future somewhere there is the prospect of Singapore - Bali - Hong Kong - Singapore - Sydney over Christmas and New Year's. I've decided the main purpose of holidays is not so much the holiday itself but so that one has something to look forward to!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Silent weekend/Taking it slower

This weekend was dominated by laryngitis, which I seem to get every few years in acute form. It has been particularly bad this time round and I could only manage a whisper all Saturday and Sunday -- now I can croak, but it takes quite a lot of effort and is not very intelligible. It is weird not to be able to speak -- I carried around a pen and notebook for the weekend -- and sticks you firmly with your own thoughts much of the time, which can be either frustrating or sort of peaceful, depending on how you look at it.

Loss of voice aside, it was actually a rather nice weekend. Friday night after work we went to a picnic concert at Kenwood House (on Hampstead Heath). Watched the Gipsy Kings play, along with a whole sea of other concert goers with picnic blankets and hampers. Lots of fun, if a little disappointingly cold -- most were heavily bundled up by the end of the night. I seem to have spent far too much of my life in sombre concert halls, and am only just discovering live music in outdoor, summer, casual settings. Pulp at the Wireless Festival last weekend in Hyde Park was good too, albeit in a different way -- more beer and chips, fewer picnic rugs, but kinder weather!

Saturday was relaxed. Coffee at our little caf on the railway bridge -- excellent for bacon sandwiches. Skipped trapeze class as the laryngitis has been brought on by quite a bad cold, and hanging upside down did not seem a good cure for either. Dim sum lunch at Phoenix Palace -- never fails. Then a stroll through Marylebone and Oxford Street. Second coffee at Apostrophe in St Christopher's Place, friends enjoying the sun and chattering away, only downside was that the volume of this chatter was such that one with literally no voice found it hard to converse. Then home to roast a chicken. We decided to try out the "beer can up the butt" method, which is a bit undignified for the bird, but produced some absolutely beautiful falling apart moist roast chicken. Definitely worth it.

Sunday. Decided to head to my friend's birthday picnic in Greenwich Park despite some slightly dubious weather and a continued lack of working vocal chords. Turns out to be a good decision -- excellent company, too much picnic food, weather fined up so sunny and beautiful, lack of working vocal chords (plus notebook) probably provided rest of the guests with party entertainment. Although picnic as a spectator event is a bit weird, really. Head home in very leisurely fashion, wandering through Greenwich Village and taking the Thames Clipper back to Waterloo. A really good £4.95 spent, what lovely tourist views all along the Thames, hadn't realised Tower Bridge is such a fantasy.

Monday. Took the day off as I am still coughing and spluttering everywhere, and really quite dubious as to how effective a team member I can be when I cannot speak (will find out tomorrow). First day off since I started the job 9.5 months ago, which means almost first day to myself since that time. Certainly the first day to myself in which I have been forced to not do very much for health reasons. Surprisingly wonderful. Do some work from home, catch up on errands, but fit in a little time in the sun on the Heath at lunch. Very, very peaceful with dogs everywhere, some coming to snuffle my picnic box. Back to it tomorrow -- but good to take it slow every so often.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A few of my favourite things

Not really into brown paper packages tied up in string, but rather:

My new Kindle, which was a great birthday present from D. I carry it absolutely everywhere, it slots into my laptop bag a treat, and it has allowed me to indulge my escapism in fiction despite long(er) hours and a distinct lack of quiet evenings at home reading. I have sadly fallen prey to Amazon's ability to increase the amount I pay for books tenfold (having been a keen purveyor of discount bookstores in my previous life), but quite frankly it makes me happy so who cares? I've been wending my way through more of the Peter Carey ouevre, most recently with Parrot and Olivier in America, and the True History of the Kelly Gang. He has the most extraordinary ventriloquism I've ever read, an ability to inhabit the mind and voice of his protagonists that is uncanny. It is a good thing he is so prolific as I have many more of his books to read. D has claimed veto rights on the Kindle (i.e. he is allowed to take it away when I start reading at dinner or whilst walking down the street or other such childhood habits which my mother had to deal with), which is probably a good thing!

Discovering ashtanga yoga, which I mostly do at a very lovely studio called Triyoga in Primrose Hill (with a couple of branches much closer to my work too). Sadly my favourite teacher has had to stop for the summer as she is due to give birth in about a week (was still demonstrating headstands with three weeks to go!), but I can pop into any other ashtanga class too. I love that it is a bit of everything, exertion, technique, philosophy, endurance, personal space, with a neverending challenge (I know this from one week accidentally wandering into a very advanced class which I should probably not go back to for several years!). When I'm not at yoga I try to make space to dance (contemporary, jazz, ballet, whatever!) or now that it's light late I run around West Hampstead and St John's Wood gawking at the mansion blocks, then I turn left into Kilburn and wonder if I should really be running through this council estate at dusk...

The variety of my work: this week I got to read and write about two large global metals and mining companies, a luxury hotel chain, a pharmaceutical company, a diversified company that does just about everything, a great technology company, and the list goes on. As I'm settling into work as well it's great to be feeling comfortable enough to start getting involved in things around the office outside of my actual engagements too -- I'm involved in UK PhD recruiting but probably more excitingly I am learning the static trapeze! No really -- for our office challenge this year we are putting on a circus! Who knows what a circus put on by a whole load of consultants is going to be like, but I'm having great fun learning to clamber around in the air (blisters, aching shoulders and all). Bonus, they just promoted me (nothing to do with the trapeze skills as far as I know), so feeling particularly positive about the whole job thing at the moment. Give me a few weeks and I may be on a new engagement which has me working all hours, and my tone will surely change...

Spending weekends with D. I like our rituals, coffee somewhere on West End Lane, dim sum at Phoenix Palace, a Sunday evening movie, rambles through the Heath; but I also like that weekends are often very different: I head when I can to Bath's Georgian teahouses (loving the fact that I don't have to get on a Tube for two days), we've gone back up to Cambridge often to do dance performances/graduate from PhDs/see lovely friends, and London often provides with randomness when you're out of ideas (a very urban beach/sandpit on the Southbank, the Wireless Festival in Hyde Park in a few weeks, canal walks through unexplored neighbourhoods yielding finds such as establishments selling meat pies and jellied eel).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Living in London

[insert usual apologies for neglecting blog here]

I have now been in London some 8 months which I suppose is long enough to feel somewhat settled. As I spent a fair amount of my early twenties agonising over whether I should really be spending quite so large a portion of my life in the rarefied atmosphere of Cambridge, and yearning for the-grass-is-greener 'Real World', it is reassuring to find that life in London is, after all, rather jolly good (although the literal grass is definitely not as manicured as Cambridge's).

How my time is spent, in order of decreasing average number of hours spent/week:

A taxi driver told me once that this phrase "covered all manner of sins", but I will try to cover my sheepishness at now being a "management consultant". The glaring difference in 'cool factor' between being a marine biologist and a management consultant is by no means lost on me, but I remain convinced that it was the right choice. My new profession would have me now come up with "three killer reasons" why this is so, and despite my best attempts to be contrary it is in fact three that spring to mind:

As advertised on the tin
1. This job is a fantastic way to broaden your horizons. I now know far, far more about Industries X, Y and Z than I ever thought I would, and my understanding of how this society works, and how people work, is the better for it.
2. My work now actually requires me to talk to people, probably more than my introversion would have me do naturally, which is great -- because people here (both colleagues and clients) are interesting folk by and large, hugely supportive, friendly, and come with a rather refreshing lack of academic pseudo-autism.

As not advertised on the tin (or at least advertised in smaller font)
3. For all that we get criticised for going in and telling people what they already know, in at least some of the work I've done I have felt a massive sense of service. To help people see how they can make things close to their hearts really happen, to do it with a sense that they always come first, to see my work making a difference to individuals -- this is more satisfying that I ever thought it would be.

I have been incredibly lucky such that 8 hours is not a problem to obtain; I also for the first time in my life have a real-sized bed rather than a college single; I have slept on said real-sized bed far more than the 'jetset' consultant lifestyle might have allowed (the furthest away I have worked is Birmingham!) -- all good things.

I live in West Hampstead and am quite a fan of the Jubilee line no matter how we like to moan about it (although last week's peak hour delay due to a "loose screw" was probably cutting it fine). It takes me half an hour to the office, so I don't much mind it really. Also love the 139 bus, particularly as on the way home from late nights in Soho it deposits me about 30 metres from the door!

The awesomeness of living in a big city means that there is a neverending supply of fantastic restaurants to discover, many of them neighbourhood gems rather than glitzy Michelin starred pretentiousness. Quickly becoming favourites: Tamada (Georgian, giant xiao long bao!), Saracino (best Italian meats ever), Atari-ya (great sushi, and even has a cheap and cheerful takeaway joint near Selfridges), Koya (uber bouncy tasty udon near office), Miyama (who needs Nobu for miso black cod), Toresano (taste of Spain), Japan Centre (how does the itsu next door survive), Phoenix Palace (old standby for comforting quality dim sum), the Gallery (great Sunday roasts, always good for a drink) etc. Also had the fortune of visiting lots of great cocktail places all with some kind of clever name or other which I can't really remember now -- Experimental Cocktail Club was very tasty, and had a great birthday night at B@1 recently where the staff are fantastic and they do a mean espresso martini.

Rather hungry now, perhaps I'll be back in another year to write about London Pt II? :)