Category Archives: Back to Work

One of “those” people

I never used to be one of “those” people. As far as travelling was concerned, as long as I had my Passport and a Credit Card life was good, I was prepared for anything. Over the past year things have changed dramatically.

I wouldn’t describe myself as being “high maintenance”, but my needs have evolved. In order to be comfortable in travel crisis, I now also require an abundant supply of medication and a source of de-caffeinated Tea-Bags.

Essential provisions; severely depleted after a week in the “wilderness”

Following the volcano disruption of 2010, when the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull throwing volcanic ash into the atmosphere and the world’s travel plans into disarray, I think most people are more sensitive to the vagaries of international travel. Irrespective of the length of my trip, I now work on the basis that I’ll be away twice as long as I’m expecting, and for a minimum of a week.

As far as clothes and food are concerned the Credit Card solution still applies. However this doesn’t work quite so conveniently for medication, and I’ve found life is better generally if you have an ample supply of Tea.

Last night my emergency plans were put into action as the last flight from London to Aberdeen, my carriage home, was cancelled. Inevitably it resulted in several hours of chaos and frustration as everyone had to be booked onto new flights and dispatched to a near-by hotel for the night.


The only way to spend an unexpected evening in London!

This was a situation that would have wound me up in the past, particularly given that I am no longer such a valued member of the British Airways Executive Club. The wait was long and tedious but fortunately not life threatening.

This is even more incredible given the airline staff performance was shambolic. You would have thought it was the first time a flight had ever been cancelled. In the past, re-allocation of staff away from dealing with the lengthy and agitated queue may well have been enough to tip me over the edge. As it was I remained calm (although high spirits were a little bit too much to ask for!).

The really good news was that I had a lovely cup of tea waiting for me in my hotel room when I finally got there!

The Red Eye

I have spent much of my working life on assignments away from home.  On a couple of occasions this has resulted in me (or us) “moving house”, but more typically it has meant weekly commutes to a variety of exotic and, more often, not so exotic locations.

Each weekend would end with the dread of the “red eye” flight.  This concern would inevitably result in a broken night’s sleep before the early Monday morning alarm… always too early!  The flight itself would provide a little respite, an hour to steal some extra shut-eye before either completing my commute by heading to the office, or catching another flight.


Once in the office, I’d fight through the day as productively as possible, caffeine and nicotine my best friends, distracting me from the ever-present fatigue.

My week would often be made up of long days in the office.  I had little better to do with my time other than work.  For ease I’d select the closest hotel, irrespective of the facilities, convenience over function.

I became a global expert on Club Sandwiches, the standard by which hotel culinary standards can always be measured, accompanied by fries and a cold beer or three, my diet was not conducive to a long healthy life.

Where did you experience your best Club Sandwich?


I never understood the people who would travel further each day to stay in a different hotel, one with better food, a superior gym or a swimming pool.  To me it all seemed to be a hassle, adding complexity to a lifestyle that already had enough complexities.

My link to home was via short daily telephone calls, a few minutes to catch up on the events of the day, to remind the girls of my existence.

Weekends were spent making the most of being home, in the house, taking it easy.  A few drinks, comfort food and relaxation, trying to forget the week just passed and ignore the week to come.

This was my routine.  My life.


This week it all came back to me as I prepared for a two-day business trip to Amsterdam; a 5 a.m. departure, a day in the office and a night in an unexceptional, sterile hotel.

Of course, the location wasn’t really Amsterdam but a business park on the outskirts with limited facilities for exercise or socialising.  Not that I had the energy for either really.  Instead I opted for an evening alone and an early night, a salad and a bag of carrots grabbed from a Train Station Convenience Store for dinner.

Home from home… marvellous!

What a relief it was just a one-night trip!

If I was ever to travel more regularly again I’d really need to reconsider my travel strategy.  I would likely become a “needy” traveller, taking time over hotels and surrounding facilities.

I can see that it would be so easy to fall back into old habits, to eat poorly and make excuses not to exercise.  I can also see how hard it is for people on the road to look after themselves properly.  With little control over the basics of life, it is tough.

There don’t seem to be any simple alternatives other than to travel as little as possible, and when required to do so, to make sure your priorities are absolutely clear.  For me at least, this means… health first!  Better late than never!

It was twenty years ago today…

Twenty years ago today… I started out on the first steps in professional life.

imagesCA28Y0P1Dressed in my new suit and shiny shoes, I made my way from Clapham to White City on the London Underground. I suspect I may have had some sort of briefcase with me, filled with joining instructions, forms and maps.  I definitely had the wide eyed stare of someone who really had no idea what they were letting themselves in for.

The journey was traumatic.  The timings uncertain.  There was no way I could be late on my first day.  I suspect I was early… very early.  I think I also did the trip the previous day, just to be sure of where I was going.

I was keen, naïve, young, Impressionable and ambitious.  My new life extended in front of me.


Jordan was the king in ’93!

It was a very memorable date for me, and not just because I started proper work:

A new group of graduates started at the company I worked for every couple of weeks.  The initial assignment was 6 weeks training; 3 in London (home for me) and 3 in a training centre just outside Chicago.  It was 6 weeks of burning the candle at both ends, of working hard and playing harder, of adrenalin and caffeine, alcohol and coffee, of team-work and competition.  Exciting times!

Best of all, we got paid for it!!!

For the first few years, we became known by the date of our start group.  We were brothers in arms, linked by the bonds forged over the first few weeks.  People in the group immediately before us or after us might as well have worked for a different company.  I was part of the 4th October 1993 Start Group.

The memories are vivid, but it seems such a long time ago.

Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to hear that I don’t stay in touch with any of my Start Group colleagues.  The regular get-togethers only lasted a few months for me.  I found new friends, formed new bonds, took on new, bigger challenges.

I’d like to think I’ve recently come to the end of a cycle and started another.  Where will this one lead?

Not news, but I’m feeling good

I’ve realised that I have a tendency to write about days when I’m not feeling great.  Sorry!  I guess it’s a way of sharing my thoughts… I am still very much in the “coming to terms” phase of being a Heart Attack Survivor.  There are a lot of new things that go with it; medication, dietary control, regular exercise, anxieties (my own and other people’s) etc. etc.  I guess illness is one of the more worrying!

images (8)

Well, I’m pleased to report that for the past few days I’ve been feeling good!  I feel like I’ve fully recovered from whatever was hanging over me.  All signs of malaise and tiredness have gone.  All is good with the world!

I guess one of the reasons feeling under the weather is newsworthy is that I’ve been feeling good most of the time since I left hospital.  I recognise that’s a good thing… just not newsworthy.

I did a couple of good rides over the weekend.  Having struggled during exercise generally last week, it was great to get back in the saddle and resume my training.

On Saturday we went over 25 miles for the first time.  There’s a long way to get up to the distances I’ll need to cover during my Charity Ride, but it feels more doable now, particularly as my recovery is getting much faster as well.


This week sees my first business trip since the Heart Attack.  In fact, I’m sitting in my hotel room as I speak, having successfully negotiated the tricky drive from Manchester to Lancaster.  The drive was built up as a potentially treacherous route (people have been known to go missing for days attempting it), but it turned out to be fairly straightforward.

Travel has been a feature of my work life for as long as I can remember.  This trip requires a short return flight and two nights away.  Absolutely run of the mill under normal circumstances, but normal circumstances went out of the window a while ago!  So it’ll be good to get it out of the way.  Another “first” ticked off the list!

Not today’s destination I’m afraid…
maybe next time!

I’m also pleased to report that my Stents do not set the Security Alarms off at the Airport (at least not on this occasion!).  Another relief!  Happy days!  🙂

Not enough hours in the day

It’s 20:50, and I’ve just eaten, sat down and put my feet up for the first time today.  I appreciate lots of people don’t get a chance to relax at all… caring for others, working late, second job, studying, etc.  I’m lucky to get a few minutes to myself, watch the golf, and chill out before I turn in for the day.

Apparently he’s often mistaken for me!

On “normal” days, I’ve got into a routine where exercise is the number one priority for me when I get home from work.  A good routine to get into given my recent medical history, but one that is increasingly eating into my day.  As I get stronger, I am able to do more exercise.

Today I did a cycle session that took just over an hour.  I wasn’t cycling constantly, and I never went over my maximum Heart Rate, but it took time.

I think that during my recuperation I got used to having almost endless amounts of time.  A little exercise, a little TV, a little read, a little snooze… and all before lunch.  Fantastic!

My gradual return to work similarly gave me a feeling of extra time… strict 8 hour days, working from home after Cardiac Rehab, regular rest… long relaxed evenings incorporating moderate exercise.  Just what I needed to help get back on track.

Over the past week or so, things have felt like they’re returning to “normal” at work.  I’m working with a couple of clients, not being asked to do too much or pushed too hard (in fact, they’re being incredibly understanding), but I’m working on some interesting stuff.  The kind of work I want.  The kind that I find difficult to “put down”.

imagesCA1KXOM9As a result, my work days have extended a little.  Not by a huge amount, but back towards a “normal” work day.  In combination with an extended work-out, my days are feeling shorter.

(I suspect this is mentally exacerbated by the ever shortening days).

From where I’m sitting, I can’t see a huge number of options to create more time:

  1. Sleep less – Not a particularly viable option for me.  I need at least 8 hours sleep a day, ideally more.
  2. Work less – The only thing I can commit to is to be aware of time, and what I’m spending it on.  I need to earn money.  I also enjoy what I do.  There are plenty of people watching out for me to help ensure I don’t go mad!
  3. Do less – Having just rediscovered it, and needing it to help prevent future health issues, I’m not about to start cutting back on exercise.  What I do need to do is build up a selection of options that provide a mix of intensities / duration.  In time I’ll finish Cardiac Rehab too which will give me some extra time, but I do need to make sure this doesn’t result in every day feeling the same… I’m enjoying the variety the morning sessions gives to my days.
  4. Suck it up and get used to it!

Any other ideas?  Suggestions appreciated!

Just another week… (FD +33)

So, the end of “just another week”… back to work and starting Cardiac Rehabilitation.  Fortunately both  events were tailored to the needs of a survivor of a recent Heart Attack… gentle introductions with lots of attentive people looking out for me.

I’m lucky enough to work with people who care enough to take my recent escapade into consideration.  I have been largely protected from any noise that arose during my recuperation, and much of my week was spent within the confines of a “stress free” protection zone.  A disproportionately high number of discussions ended with the words “…but you don’t need to worry about that.”

I was very much a part-timer this week – following the instructions of my various advisors (including trying to “listen to my body”).  As the days go by, I’m able to do more.  Go longer between rests.  Recover more quickly.  Slowly returning to some sort of “normality” to return.

Over time things will definitely return to normal…  I’ve already noticed myself “rushing” around, and getting unnecessarily frustrated when dealing with morons / imbeciles / idiots*.  The difference at the moment is that I’m more aware of these occurrences.

Ultimately, my health is my personal responsibility.  I need to learn how to deal with these situations in a reasonable fashion.  If my plan is to rely on people protecting me from morons / imbeciles / idiots* and the stresses of the world I’m going to have to live a very sheltered life!!!

* Delete as applicable.

Back to School

I have never had 4 weeks off work.  I had an extended break when I became independent, but I’ve never returned to the same role after more than 3 weeks of away.

I’ve had 3 week vacations twice; once for our honeymoon and once for a family trip to St Lucia.  Both were fantastic breaks, much needed and thoroughly enjoyable.  Special times.  I know it sounds silly, but 3 weeks is so much more than 2 weeks, as far as holidays are concerned anyway (I would highly recommend it!).

4 weeks is a long time!

Can you remember what you were doing on 14th June?  No, neither can I!

To compound things, I hadn’t exactly planned to be off work.  I hadn’t wound anything down, handed anything over or prepared in any way.  I just didn’t turn up on the Monday.  Yes, there are extenuating circumstances, but life has to move on.

So, it’s back to school for me tomorrow;  my clothes are laid out, shoes polished,  pencils sharpened, lucky stress ball looked out (ironically in the shape of a heart!), bag packed.  Everyone’s a little bit on edge.  Ready to move on.  Uneasy about what the future holds.

I’m sure everything will be fine.  One way or another it’s going to be more than a little bit strange, for me and everyone else around me.  Another journey into the unknown.

Onwards and upwards!  Wish me luck!