What does happiness mean to you?

A young boy and girl are wearing flying goggles while outstretching their arms to attempt flying while on skateboards. They have large smiles and are imagining taking off into the sky.

I have been on an amazing journey these past 8 weeks.  Admittedly physically not very far – to Esher and back every Wednesday evening to attend an Action for Happiness course.  But emotionally……

Before you switch off and think oh, no not another happy clappy post; just spare me a moment and have a think about what happiness means to you? Not just about you as an individual but how we can make the world a happier place.

Needless to say on the 1st evening I blurted out the stock answer “family and friends” and of course for some there’s loads of others too; a big house, fast car, designer handbags, 5* holidays, money but do they really make you happy?  Think about tolerance, acceptance, belief, understanding, loyalty, openess, friendships and the communities you are part of e.g. work, home, friends, family, online, sports clubs, dog walking – they don’t even have to be particularly profound relationships but they can make you and your environment a happier place.

Just to cite one example….I woke up the other morning in a right huff about my husband (again I hear you shout), life and the world in general (I’ll blame it on those darn hormones).  I stomped off with my dog for a walk and on it I chatted to 2 other dog walkers – who I will probably never see again – about inane stuff.  Walking back home I felt much chirpier and on reflection realised it was all because I had struck up a conversation.

The things I really got out of the course were:

  1. Be outward looking – the more egocentric and insular we are the more miserable we feel
  2. Say hello and smile at everyone you pass (perhaps not always possible on a crowded commuter train when everybody might think you’re a little potty shouting hello to one and all) – it will make someone’s day and make you feel happier too. As an aside there’s a lovely 90 year old man who pops into our local Budgens at least 2 or 3 times a day.  If you see him, please stop and chat as he would love to have a natter.
  3. It’s in our nature to dwell on the negative so at the end of every day jot down 3 good things that happened to you.  Could be the smallest things such as noticing the cloud shapes in the sky or singing along to your favourite song but it will help change your mindset.
  4. The importance of communities in supporting and bringing people together.  One thing we discussed is the decline of intergenerational families and communities and how important they are in society. What can we do to address this?
  5. How we treat and perceive others – we’ve all been there.  You take umbrage about somebody’s behaviour.  But take a moment and think what might have gone on with that person moments before.  Are they having a particularly bad day; is there something not quite right at home etc etc.
  6. Reflect what things make you happy and take some time for yourself to do those things.  My 2 loves before children were tennis and film neither of which I do enough of.  So I’m going to try and go to the cinema once a month (matinee please as it’s so indulgent) and play tennis once a week.  For one of the other participants in our group it is having fresh flowers in the house. The simple pleasures…
  7. Let’s start small.  The conversations with my Action for Happiness group are continuing as we all want to contribute to our local communities and spread the word.  But it doesn’t have to be anything radical….watch this space!

Finally, I wanted to share a three videos and a podcast with you which are worth watching/ listening to if you’ve got the time.

Before I go I want to share this little poem (Anon) which a dear friend at school taught me and rings so true:
Laugh and the world laughs with you
Weep and you weep alone
For the world has need of your mirth
But has sorrow enough of its own.

 

 

 

 

 

My mantra …the 2 Ps

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I’ve had an amazing summer with my daughter – the 1st one ever that I haven’t been working.  But now as she settles into her new school and autumn is most definitely upon us I turn my thoughts to work…

It hasn’t exactly been the most productive year for me so over the next few months I’m muttering my daily mantra “PERSEVERANCE & POSITIVITY” as I knuckle down and reconnect with old work colleagues, attend networking events and apply for roles which have my name written all over it – (apparently not judging by the number of rejections I have had this year).  But as the-font-of-all-knowledge (i.e. my hubby) puts it; it’s a numbers game.  When he said this to me the other day it was like a slap round the face as I was licking my wounds about a rejection.  It pulled me up short but he’s true.  There’s work out there just for me but I’ve got to hunt (stalk?!) it down.

However I take heart form the article I read this morning on The Pool about a 48 year old mother being given an internship at The Spectator.  How awesome is that?  What’s even better they did not request a CV, name, age or qualifications but they recruited purely on a set of tasks the applicant had to execute.

So where does that leave me as I turn 48 this week too?  A friend of mine who used to be in recruitment suggested that I should dumb down my CV if I want to go for less senior, more hands-on roles but I’m not sure how I’m meant to pare back over 25 years experience. Or if I really want to…I don’t mind taking a step back but it’s finding the companies who are forward thinking about recruiting the right person with the best cultural fit irrespective of age, sex and background.

It’s going to be a tough gig but I’ll get there by by-passing the traditional recruitment agency route and and approaching growing brands and agencies where I see myself fitting in and who, in return, will hopefully see the benefit of my experience.

Wish me luck!

Perseverance, positivity, perseverance, positivity, perseverance, positivity, mutter, mutter mutter….

P.S If a recruiter thinks they can help me then I’m all ears

 

My love affair with food

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I was going to write another self-indulgent post this week and then I thought “Emma, get a grip”.

Instead I thought I would write about food.  I would describe myself as a bit of a foodie and yet, weirdly, I haven’t written a blog about it although I seem to think about the darn stuff for at least 23 1/2 hours a day. I admit it; I’m greedy and love all food – I try and be healthy but you know what sometimes nothing beats a pint and packet of crisps (Walkers Cheese & Onion to be precise).

I’m pretty sure it’s genetic as I was reading the diary my nanny (I know!) wrote and even when I was still in nappies I would throw a strop if there wasn’t chocolate cake for pudding.  Plus I lost the top of a finger helping my mother mince roast lamb to make shepherd’s pie – let’s not go there either… And, as I grew older I was allowed to choose the restaurants for our family special occasions.  In my mid-teens my favourite was Coconut Grove (I think it’s a Carluccio’s now) in St Christopher’s Place off Oxford Street.  It was Caribbean-themed and you could order gaudy cocktails and have platters of ribs, chicken wings and anything else that gave a nod to those tropical islands.  I still salivate at the thought.

My love affair has continued fueled by a number of years in the wine industry, eating and drinking at Michelin-starred restaurants and surrounding myself with foodies working on delicious. Magazine and Sainsbury’s Magazine.

Now that family life dominates, my husband is more of a fuel-for-life kinda man and my waistband has increasingly thickened my tastes have changed and I long for simple foods beautifully executed with fresh, clean flavours. Our go to treat at home when we have people round for dinner is a rare rib of beef with Vietnamese coleslaw.

I would say my favourite restaurants in Central London which I will happily go back to time and time again are Roka, Barrafina, Quo Vadis, J Sheekey, Lima and you can’t beat The Hawksmoor chain for some serious steaks.  Locally our go-to restaurant is Naturally Chinese and for special occasions The French Table but I do wish Kingston had more independents as they all seem to be chains.

And in terms of cooking, I do like to create but I also have a folder full of recipes that “one day I’ll cook” and a shelf loaded with cookbooks.  I did a sort out recently and sent some to the charity shop as I just never used them.  However I go back to the same books/ chefs time and time again:

Mary Berry’s Cookery Course – I bought that for our au-pairs so they could learn the basics and it’s a really good reminder for basic weights, temperatures and cooking times for classic home cooking

Nigella Lawson – Kitchen – you can’t beat her recipes as they work and taste fab.  Try her lemon polenta cake or chicken with 40 cloves of garlic and you’ll be hooked

Made in India – Meera Sodha – a new and v welcome addition to my collection.  Delicious curries, salads, breads and chutneys.  So far I’ve tried the chicken and fig curry, masala roast chicken and chaat salad. Yum!

Dan Lepard Short and Sweet – he’s my go to for baking and bread-making.  Easy to follow down to earth recipes. Banana butterscotch cake, farmhouse loaf and his long-prove sourdough are my weekend hit list bakes

Anything by Ottolenghi as long as I’ve got the time and ingredients.  His recipes can sometimes feel rather long-winded but they are worth it if you’ve got the patience.  I did his version of a Waldorf salad and I could have troughed the lot before our friends arrived for supper

Falling Clouberries – Tessa Kiros – a loving collection of recipes from around the world and from her family.  Mouthwatering and I’ve yet to find a better carrot cake recipe (sorry Dan)

Finally I really enjoy reading Felicity Cloake’s column in The Guardian.  I love reading about the history of recipes and the different versions chefs make.  She then creates the definitive recipe based on her research.  I’ve made her gazpacho and cinnamon buns recently and they’ve gone down a storm.

It would be lovely to hear what your favourite restaurants and cookbooks are.  I’m off to cook Bill Granger’s stir-fried  Vietnamese lemongrass chicken….

 

 

 

What makes you, YOU? I’ve just rediscovered ME

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I’ve had the most amazing pre-summer holidays holiday last week and sneaked my daughter out of school for a few days (naughty naughty!).

First of all It started off with a long weekend with all my family to celebrate my mother’s 80th – my family like to stretch out celebrations for as long as possible (my brother’s 50th lasted for at least 6 months!).  We stayed at the luxurious and super comfy Launceston Farmhouse near Blandford Forum – I highly recommend it for a house party.  This was then followed by 3 days on the beautiful Suffolk coast staying with my in-laws in a rustic “cottage” on the beach at Walberswick. From all mod cons to the very basic, both places are wonderful in their own ways.

What it highlighted to me is that during those fews days there were times when I was really me.  Not worried about school, work, chores, money, husband, daughter, my Sainsbury’s online delivery. Just me being me.

And what were those moments?

They were so simple…

  1. Playing clap catch (v simple game of having to clap before you catch the ball from anybody in the circle) on the lawn with family ranging from 7 to 80
  2. Go-karting – I really didn’t want to do it (‘cos I’m a woos (sic)) but once I was on the track I let rip and effed and blinded my way round the track loving the adrenalin and speed kicking in.  I was probably going at a snail’s pace compared to everybody else but I didn’t care
  3. Swimming in the sea.  This is the one that really got me.  An early morning swim in the chilly waters of Suffolk.  I choked back the tears as I lay on my back buoyed by the swell of the sea and staring into the blue sky.  It allowed me to be still and realise that this is who I am, this is what I love and to question why I don’t do this more often

Being back into the routine of life this week, I let myself drift back to those moments and what I’ve promised is to:

  • Make more time for myself
  • Do more activities – hopefully with my husband and my daughter – that bring out the kid in me
  • Visit the seaside as often as I can – even if it’s too cold to swim. Just the wide open spaces allow me to breathe
  • Go to more exhibitions and creative installations
  • Be a little bit braver and try new things without whingeing!

And what’s more an article I read at thriveglobal.com states that neuroscientists now believe that reminiscing about happy memories can help you handle stress – so what’s not to lose?

What do you do to bring out the you in you?

Owning a puppy and work – who knew they were so similar?!

Rudi

Our daughter, Juno, had been pestering us for ages about getting a puppy and we thought it would be a great idea, taking the pressure off her as a only child and give her something to look after.  We all agreed that we would start looking once we were back from our Easter hols.  And within a few weeks the gorgeous Rudi landed on our laps and we were all delighted.  But bearing in mind that this was a joint family decision this is what I’ve learnt – and so much of it applies to work too that it’s uncanny!

  1.  Yes it was a joint decision but guess who has had to take ownership of the “project”?  Me!  No matter if a decision is made by committee somebody has to take control
  2. And of course when the proverbial and actual “sh*t hits the fan, I’m the one picking it up. One day I’ll get Juno to do it but it’s going to take a while…
  3. I had hoped that having a puppy would get us all out for lovely family walks – err no. You can take a horse to water but my horses ain’t drinking.  It’s all about finding a way to encourage people to change their habits and adopt new ideas.  However much I want to shout at them “will you bloody well take the dog for a walk” I need to take a more coercive approach – no doubt involving chocolate and a pint and a packet of crisps or perhaps some subliminal messaging might help!
  4. In terms of my daily work output I seem to lose at least an hour a day to dog walking, playing, feeding but it has made me more efficient.  If I wake early I walk Rudi before breakfast, I group similar tasks together to get through them quicker and I plan and ponder as I walk. And I’m sure once he’s older and trained I’ll be able to make a few calls too
  5. A walk, or an excuse to get up from my desk is definitely good for the soul and the body.  It clears my head, allows me to stretch and move and ruminate
  6. You talk to complete strangers but it’s amazing what you learn – never be afraid to start a conversation and find a common link with that person and you never know where it may lead.
  7. Giving Rudi short bursts of attention for puppy training has meant he’s come on leaps and bounds in a very short space of time.  Apply this to your team at any stage of their development and they will know you are there to support them and give them the confidence to take the initiative and be creative
  8. I’m now part of tribe (for the 1st time EVER) and I fit in as us dog walkers come in all shapes and sizes and judging by Rudi, dogs do look like their owners – small, round with curly hair but very loyal! Embrace being different and be proud of who you are.  We can’t all conform to a certain ideal but learn how to play to your strengths to develop yourself and your role
  9. I talk gobbledygook to my pooch and apparently when I worked in at Seven I had my own vernacular so no change there then
  10. Bumbags are cool, bumbags are cool, bumbags are cool. If I say this often enough they will be.  Thank heavens my friend Torri, a stylist, wears one when she’s on a shoot.  Hers is full of pins, safety pins, cotton, needles and scissors.  Mine is full of poo bags, dog treats, some change, tissues, house keys and my phone.  I know, not much similarity but a start!

And after 5 weeks of owning a puppy I now can’t imagine life without him; he’s well and truely part of the family