Sledging With Grandad El Paso

As it’s getting close to Christmas I thought it might be nice to tell a seasonal story and, also explain how (in a moment of sleep-deprived insanity) I once let Grandad El Paso take you sledging.  

Since the moment you were born Grandad has been asking to take you to places.  I have resisted on the basis that, as we all know, health and safety is a concept he is wholly unfamiliar with.

Angry Mum holding baby: No, you are not taking him to the zoo to see the mother-loving tigers! Angry Grandad: He's ten weeks old, when are you gonna cut the apron-strings?!

I had finally run out of plausible excuses to stop him and in a moment of weakness I did agree to the seemingly small request to take you sledging. 

Of course before Grandad arrived I grabbed you, Thing 1, by the lapels of your jacket and sinisterly pleaded into your 7 year-old ear:-

Remember, this is GRANDAD! YOU have to be the grown-up for the next hour!

When you recount this part of the story to your therapist later in life I want you to remember that lack of sleep and flu will do funny things to parents, and that I love you both very much.

Amazingly the sledging itself went fabulously and I got both of my children back in one piece afterwards (to be fair, Current-Step-Grandma Liz was on hand to supervise so it wasn’t total insanity to let you go). 

The problem occurred about four months later when Grandad made his next visit (because we’re close like that) and that was when he finally let me know what you had said to him that day.  

Grandad had decided to bring you back early in an effort to look responsible, or possibly because a more urgent appointment came up, and on the way home he questioned you about how it had gone. 

That was good fun wasn't it? Grandad's looked after you well hasn't he? Sleeping step-grandma passed out in the snow behind him.

Unfortunately, it seems you MAY have been listening during a few of my less than complimentary conversations about Grandad…

You did a great job Grandad! ...Not like when Mummy and Auntie Kate were little and you left them watching horror movies whilst you went out to the pub.

An indignant Grandad explained this to me in front of Current-Step-Grandma-Liz; presumably in the hope that I would somehow exonerate him of the accusation.  Unfortunately I was unable to do so because

(a) it was 100% true 

(b) I’m still quite bitter about it and 

(c) it really serves as extra ammunition in my arguments with him over why he can’t usually have unsupervised access to his Grandchildren.

Grandad says Pfft, I don't remember that! I never had horror movies! Mum: To be fair, they weren't your films, you'd hired them especially for us.

I had to remind Grandad that what had actually happened was in a bid to impress a random stranger (as Grandad is prone to want to do) he had hired us two incredibly age-inappropriate horror films.

Grandad: My daughters are about your age, give me something cool 'n' edgy. cos that's how I roll. Video guy: Whatever Dude!

Grandad continued with his own version of reality, which I can only assume is the truth, in the parallel universe he inhabits.

Grandad says Most teenagers would appreciate how cool I was for letting you watch those videos. Angry Mum: We were 12!

Luckily, he changed the subject at that point and hasn’t brought it up since, so hopefully he’s filed it in that large box in his head labelled “We shall never speak of this again”.

So, if you ever look back and wonder why you only ever went sledging with Grandad El Paso the once, now you know.

 

How to Boss Your Boss

Isn’t it annoying when you ask your boss at work for something completely reasonable and they reply with a big fat unnecessary “NO”?

Now to be clear I’m not talking about a reasonable “no”, like that time I asked to take compassionate leave because my favourite character on Game of Thrones died…

But we need today off!  He knew nothing!  NO!

The situation I’m talking about has more of a 9 to 5 “that man is out to get you” kind of a vibe to it.   I used to have a boss who said “no” to everything, simply because he didn’t know enough about the work we did to say “yes” to anything. 

He was a perfect example of someone who had been promoted above his abilities and couldn’t cope – I believe the technical term is “a dumbass”.  

This situation was very frustrating because the workplace had become stuck in the past as a result of his reluctance to agree to make any changes.

This PC looks a little old, where's the screen?  It's a typewriter.  What's a PC?

One day (when I was definitely not moaning about this situation) a lovely wise colleague gave me some very useful advice; she said, TELL him that you are about to make a change, and STOP asking him if you CAN make a change.

Woman dressed as Yoda speaks Never ask your boss if do the thing you CAN, TELL him, going to do the thing, you ARE.

She explained that if I simply announced to him what I was doing, without phrasing it as a question, he literally couldn’t say “no”. 

To stop me doing the thing he would have to protest it, and to do that he’d need to come up with a valid reason for why I shouldn’t do it, which, thanks to his lack of knowledge, he absolutely never could do! 

As a result, with my new Jedi powers, work became a fabulous, progressive place. 

Woman tries to do an Obi-Wan on a security guard "You don't need to see my identification" he replies "I really do - this is a secure building, get your lanyard."

Of course it’s great to learn a new trick, and I loved my new ability to Derren Brown my way through life, but, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility.  Literally, if you push for an action then you’re responsible if it goes wrong, so choose your moments carefully.

For example, I wouldn’t recommend using it to tell your boss and colleagues that you are taking the day off to watch a Star Trek marathon – I’m not saying I’ve never done it, just that, it’s a bad idea if you would like to keep your job.

I would also caution against using this too widely on family and friends.  Use it to stand up for yourself by all means:-

I am going to take a course in that thing you always refer to as a massive waste of time!

But NOT to put upon them:-

Granma banging in a For Sale sign after daughter demands childcare saying "I'm dropping the kids off with you for two hours cos they are a massive pain in my ass!"

I have had friends (and at least one relative you might know of) who have behaved this way and there is a reason I’m using the past tense here. 

People might find it hard to say “no” to a statement, but that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually find a way.  By the time I’ve fought through the frustration of being told what to do, I give a much firmer and final “no” than if they’d simply asked me nicely.

Remember to use any Jedi powers you master wisely.  If you don’t, then you’re not a Jedi, you’re a Sith (Star Wars bad guys).

So in summary, it’s ok to tell your boss what you’re going to do instead of asking, if you’re happy to take responsibility.  It’s ok to tell your friends and family what you’re going to do without asking, if it only affects you.  It’s NEVER ok to tell other people what they’re going to do FOR you, ever.

Brain Boxes

Ever wondered why it takes me half an hour to get your names right, even though you are my favourite people in the whole world?   Did you know that we keep all the names of our loved ones in one box in our brain?

Unfortunately, when you get to my age you lose the ability to search the box effectively and end up just pulling every name out until you get the right one.

It can be easy to put people in boxes (metaphorically-speaking obviously – physically doing so is actually quite hard, so don’t try it, you’ll put your back out). 

It’s even fairly natural to put people into these metaphorical boxes as it helps us to deal with them psychologically.

Though it is natural to categorise people, and can even be useful, there is an obvious down-side; the problem with putting people in boxes is that they don’t all belong in there. 

Also, in reality there is no such thing as a “type of person”.  I mean seriously, humans are so complex that even a Venn-diagram couldn’t accurately categorise a single Space Cowboy without looking like someone had gone mad with a Spirograph.

One of the reasons that you rarely get people in boxes together in real life is because we really are all so very different and unique (…and tricky to get into boxes, as I pointed out earlier).

Even worse, it seems that recently many people are inclined to do more than put people into boxes in their heads, they put them into bins.  Which is a thing I would strongly recommend you should NEVER do.

The world is currently full of groups that have designated themselves and others as US and THEM, some are political, some religious, some fandoms, some gendered, some racial.  Being alive is not a team sport so this should NOT be happening.

One thing most people can agree on is that the world is a big crazy mess at the moment, but I promise you, the way forward is not to pick teams, it’s to try to understand each other. 

I’m not saying people aren’t stupid; I’m saying calling them stupid won’t educate them.  If you want to change stupid, you need to have a conversation where you truly listen, recognise the stupid on your own side (because there WILL be some) and then try and move forward together.

If you look at history there is only one result of declaring a set of people as THEM, and it’s not a good one.  Before I go on, I need to also clarify that I’m not just talking about one benevolent group of people mis-labelled as THEM, I’m talking about ANYONE labelled as THEM.

Here’s the important bit, that giant box (or bin) of THEM only exists in someone’s head, nowhere else.  I’m not saying there aren’t people out there who might be at home in that box but I am saying that the numbers are wrong, because nowhere is there genuinely a large box of THEM. 

As much as it might pain us to realise this, humans are simply one large, messed up, argumentative, crazy crate of US.