Thursday, 10 February 2011

Content to Let

It occurred to me today that it's been about 3 years since I had a migraine.  It also occurred to me that I've been a letting agent for about the same amount of time.  The worst migraines I've ever had?  Sunday evenings while I worked as a recruitment consultant to the building trade.  Enough said.

When I came back from Turkey in 2006 I knew that I liked working in the management and sales of bricks and mortar (and that I liked the ruthless, conniving builders behind them less).  I fell into recruiting by accident (read was lured in by the promise of job stability and a good wage) but happily surfaced relatively unscathed in January 2008.  From there I went on to enjoy the hapless rigours of the temporary accommodation section of Edinburgh City Council for a long slow 4 months.  Over that period I felt myself a goddess of efficiency, a waif, a 'do-er' and a very young thing.  Alas, while relatively content to chase old Housing Benefit debts in said department, I was evidently just too gregarious and dedicated for them and they gave my post to someone on a sabbatical from a sabbatical in the depths of the City Chambers (after asking me to write a manual on how to do whatever it was that I actually did during my time there as an agency housing officer).

Each heavily affronted - I declined to write them a training manual in my efficient ways - the Council and I parted ways at midday on a Wednesday afternoon in April.  The sun was out and between my bus stop and my front door I happened across my 96 year old Great Grandfather catching some rays in his garden.  I stopped and we had a blether.  It was an afternoon of peace and tranquility (after a little bit of a rant, I allow) and heralded good things to come.  I spent Thursday morning sending off CVs, had an interview that afternoon, a second interview on Friday morning (where I mostly talked about motorbikes???) and started work with a city letting agency on the Monday.

It was a tight knit, busy firm.  Something of a trial by fire but I found my niche.  The people that work in property are sterling types.  They are largely efficient because they have to be: inevitably managing too many properties on too few staff.  They are cheerful because a sense of humour is mandatory when your job is to perpetually balance the needs of two separate clients groups with conflicting demands.  Finally, they are friendly.  I've since changed letting firm since those first forays into lettings and some of the firmest standing friendships I have are with the people I met in the first company.  From the second firm there are strong foundations and very many entertaining personalities. 

It's important to like the people you work with; it makes your day pass faster; you can share and resolve work issues more easily.  Most of us spend more waking hours with our colleagues than we do with our loved-ones.  Till that balance is redressed I say go forth and be cheerful at your work.  You might brighten up a colleague's day or you just might make a new friend.  If you wake up in the morning and all you can think is 'I really don't want to go to work today', then get a new job and trust me, Baz Luhrmann styleee, when I say it does not have to be that way. 

Recently I took the plunge and sat some exams that allow me to become a member of ARLA (and so I can get a permanent position eventually with either company 2 or some other place where new friends wait to be found).  ARLA may mean nothing to you, but they're the big dogs in my world of work.  I got an 87% average across 4 papers and yes, I am just a little bit pleased about it because it confirms everything you read in the papers: letting agents are not perfect by definition.

Not perfect, maybe.  Not always the skilled mediators we are expected to be.  But we're H.A.P.P.Y.  And you?

Monday, 7 February 2011

Vitamin D Deprived Bonkerdom

I'm very pleased to report that MC is almost fully recovered from the surgery to his spine which he underwent in October last year.  He has his mobility back and doesn't suffer the pins-and-needles and other nasty issues he had post his run in with a car whilst cycling to work in 2009.  Now, previous to said surgery he was something of an endorphin addict, training six days a week and competing strongly in Jiu Jitsu.  For the moment, he's allowed to swim, though I know he's desperate to get back to the mats.

Eager to be supportive (swimming isn't really his thing) and keen for motivational assistance to improve my own endorphin levels, I agreed to early morning swims on set days of the week.  And we've been doing quite well (with the exception of exam week through which I was nailed to a desk).  This morning however, the alarm went off at six o'clock to a backdrop of rain hammering on the window.  It was pitch black.  Never before has Monday morning sounded so inhospitable and miserable.  We murmured in unison that we'd swim tomorrow and promptly cowered in our cosy nest of duvet and went back to sleep.

It's damn near impossible to get into any kind of healthy living when your brain is telling you to hibernate and carb-load all the time.  In discussion on topic with the fine ladies at work recently we unanimously agreed that none of us had ever felt the effects of such a miserable and cold winter, to such a degree, in a very long time.  To my Antipodean friend, how oh how can you stand it?  Extortionate visa renewal?  I'd be packing a one way ticket back down under while dragging the man kicking and screaming in my suitcase!

SADS is a very real prospect for us Scots, what with our 2 point 5 seasons and 8 months of perpetual grey skies per year.  MC and I are heading to Canada to meet and spend time with his relatives in May, and then we're off to Turkey in September to spend some time at my Mum's place.  I've never looked forward to vacations, and summer in general, more.  Even if our Scottish summer is wet, our 18 hours of daylight will be a welcome sight for sore eyes.

When the alarm goes off at 6am tomorrow I'm going to visualise the radiating, warm-to-the-bone feeling that comes with basking in vitamin D (casperified in sunscreen, obviously).  Then, I'm going to get out of bed and go get fit with MC.  When those holidays arrive, I'm going to be fighting fit and ready for them. When the holidays are done and winter looms again, I'm buying a SAD alarm clock to help me get out my scratcher.

Alternative suggestions for winter survival on a postcard from a warm place, please.          

Sunday, 6 February 2011

A Journey to Content: A Cross-Continental Relationship

Growing up I believed that the children of divorce fell into two categories: those that abhorred marriage and swore off it, and those that wanted desperately to create their own unbroken family to heal their childhood.  I fell into category one for a long time.

I remember my Grandmother advising me at 16 that you had to be married before you had children.  I argued against the proposed merits of the quintessential 'bit of paper' and she fought back on the premise that unless you had that 'bit of paper' then you didn't have the man tied down to his responsibilities.  I tartly replied (much to my horror in retrospect because it was unnecessarily hurtful, no matter how accurate) that the 'bit of paper' didn't do a damn bit of good in tying down any of the men in our family.

Broken homes are something of a legacy on both sides of the gene pool.  I knew I wanted to have children one day (my ideal age range being remorselessly shunted back with every passing year) but I didn't want to get married.  I didn't know that many people 'happily married' growing up and as I reached adulthood most of those had degenerated into hateful and bitter partings.  The remaining ones fell spectacularly to pieces during my academic exploits.  Couple this with a string of relationships that died in the dust of my own and by my mid-twenties the anti-marital principles were firmly cemented.

So, with a chip on my shoulder and not a penny to my name, I found myself single in 2009 surrounded by friends who were happily cohabiting, getting married or having babies.  In an office of 20-odd staff, I was the only singleton.  Third-wheel was fast becoming my middle name.  There or there abouts I chanced upon a website called Plenty of Fish.  I started chatting regularly to a Canadian here in Edinburgh on a working visa.  He would not be looking for a relationship, it would be 'safe' and it would be fun to hang out with someone not perpetually answering the phone/texts from their other halves while sharing a G&T with me.

The single Canadian happened to be far too cute to hold to the 'friend' category.  For the first time I was with someone who let me be myself in all my unabashed bonkers glory.  Someone who knew from the outset that I was a carb-addict with wobbly bits and a self-confessed bookish geeky fiend.  Someone who could smile adoringly at me if I had a melt-down and laugh at my ranting antics and my ability to lose my use of the English vocabulary half way through a sentence.  Someone who would take me home and feed me a pint of water before bed when I'd indulged in a whole three glasses of wine.  But this was someone who was living here on a visa and our romance was tinged with some uphill struggles; stress, money, accommodation, leave to remain etc.  My thoughts on HM's immigration control doesn't bear touching on here but I hold to my belief that International Relations in general would prosper from a bit of humanity in the Borders Agency. 

Cut to August 2010 and I walked down the aisle (in an honest-to-God wedding dress with train and a tiara of all things) to the side of my best friend, my partner in the Immaturity Pack, my husband: My Canadian.

Have I swung unintentionally into category two of divorce offspring?  I don't think so.  I have come to think that my issue is not necessarily with marriage.  Issues seem to arise from who you marry and at what stage in your lives you take that step.  Furthermore I do not fear divorce: divorce is not inherently evil.  Relationships break down for a multitude of reasons and for some people trapped without love, commitment and contentment, divorce can be an amazing if turbulent adventure to real happiness.  I know some happily married couples, and some unhappy ones.  Happiness is not intrinsically related to the relationship status of the individuals involved.  I'm under no illusion that I can 'fix' my familial history by writing my own chapter.  But being with My Canadian (MC) brings me a great sense of contentment and I want for nothing much (excepting a lottery win, maybe).  Marriage is the vehicle that allows MC and I to continue our adventures together.

Like many a blonde before me, it just took me a while to find the car.  


Blogging. Not on my new year resolutions list...

When I facebooked my list of New Year Resolutions this year, learning to blog wasn't one of them.  However, having achieved one of my resolutions so early in the year (to pass some professional exams in the hope of furthering my career) I thought I'd have a bash at something new (and I'm feeling a bit lost in the absence of the need to be studying all the time).

I kept a journal from the age of 14 until well into my 20s.  I'd go back and re-read sections over the years until finally at the age of about 25 I threw them all in the trash (carefully shredding up each page in the process).  I used to use journals for bleating about all the things that I wanted and didn't have; all the things I wanted to be but couldn't quite achieve and generally to moan about my jobs/employers/feckless love interests.  At 25 the previous year's journal was so desperately unhappy and so full of bad decisions and choices in the run up to and aftermath of my Grandmother's death, that I gave up documenting my pathetic meanderings on the premise of actually making a life for myself rather than lamenting it.

Three and a half years, and a few more hurdles of bad judgement and indecision later, and I'm sitting on a dreich Sunday morning battling out my reasoning for starting a blog.  Firstly, yesterday I bought a new journal and secondly, I've started reading blogs of note, and those of my friends, and been enjoying them immensely.  Blogging is not tantamount to keeping a journal.  Blogging is a way to assess how you process the world around you in a way that may be interesting to others.  A way of sharing experiences and thoughts so as to enrich your life, as opposed to critically assessing your own actions and bonkerdom: a process way too easy to fall into when writing for your own eyes only.  I see this then as a way to keep a journal and maintain a sense of zen.

At 28 then, I am the married woman I swore I would never be, a letting agent rather than a critically acclaimed author, a karaoke diva and not a world famous singer, a slightly pudgy non-athletic gym enthusiast and a soon to be joint-home-owner.  I have not attained plan A and won the lottery yet, but I am content.   And bonkers.

Well, I do so worry about people who strive for normality - they're the ones you really have to watch!