When being bold pays off

Is it really true that you make your own luck in this life?  Maybe.  I just landed a job by using some initiative and making a bold move.  I have a very niche set of skills and experience which is under-valued in my present workplace, so for some time I’ve not felt as fulfilled as I could be professionally.  I’ve also been coasting on the same income for years, feeling that I should be earning more.  Had I hit some kind of career ceiling?  Was I the victim of prejudice?  No, I don’t think so.  In any case, I don’t believe that claiming victimhood is a good way of explaining a problem or a lack of progress.

I’ve been following Jordan Peterson and we have a copy of his book, 12 Rules for Life.  One thing he said about gender equality really struck a chord with me. To paraphrase, he suggests that women may be less successful in the workplace, or may not advance as far as men professionally, not because of any inherent sexism, but because they are too nice, too accepting, too reluctant to make a fuss. Ladies, could it be that we are just not assertive enough when it counts?

I took this idea on board, parked it, and got on with things. Then an ex-colleague got in touch and we met up for a drink.  He works in the exact niche field that I had to leave last year because my employer was in financial difficulty.  He said they really needed someone with my specific skills to take over some of the management and unite disparate teams.  If I applied to the MD, he said, they would employ me in a flash.  Well, that was overstating the case, but it got me thinking.  The more I considered it, the more I realised he was right.  In fact, my experience is so relevant to the product and the people that no-one would fit the role as well as me.  Sounds arrogant?  Maybe, but this is all about being bold.

The other thing in my favour was that I had actually met the MD before, at a trade show, where he was so impressed with my presentation that he expanded his range into the market as a result.  I also knew that there was a culture clash going on between departments and they needed someone with the calmness and maturity to diffuse it.  So I added ‘peacemaker’ to my CV, wrote an amazing covering letter, and sent it off.  No job was being advertised.  Bold move #1.

Then followed a couple of phone calls and an interview in the pub after work.  Soon after that, the question finally arose, what are your salary expectations?  This was a key moment, my chance to elevate myself after 25 years of continuous full-time employment and a stainless record.  I considered the salary I could reasonably be expected to be on (but wasn’t), and the salary I wanted, without being crazily out of the ball park.  And I asked for the salary I wanted.  Which is a heck of a lot more than the salary I am on now.  It was time to be bold.  I knew they wouldn’t just agree to it, they would negotiate and I’d end up somewhere in between.  Which is exactly what happened.  But it’s still a big step up for me, enough to make a huge difference to our household. And I’m going back to a sector where I’ve spent most of my career, where I have some great connections.

I start in 3 weeks.  Jordan, thank you for the inspiration.

 

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A bit of Monty Maintenance

Monty is a black smoke Maine Coon.  He has the appearance and attitude of an entitled aristocrat.  As long as I treat him in the manner to which he is accustomed, we get along just fine.  I feel strongly the privilege that Monty extends to me every day, by allowing me into his inner circle.

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Yes, you may look at me.

Occasionally we clash if I want something to happen which isn’t his idea.  The best way to deal with this, is to make him think it’s his idea in the first place.  Yes he is a cat, but he is 8kgs of toned muscle and sheer determination.

Monty’s long, silver-grey fur is prone to matting in springtime, when the excess winter coat needs to be brushed out.  If I am not clever enough to get around him, his belly fur and back trousers form solid lumps.  If not removed, they will tighten and become very uncomfortable for him.  So the race is on for me to get those lumps out before they get too bad, and to comb his fur like mad before more lumps can form.

Some years the lumpage is worse than others, and sometimes I have to give in and take him for a haircut, under sedation, at the vets.  They will shear him like a sheep and although he looks ridiculous afterwards, he is perfectly happy rocking his summer crew-cut, lump-free.

Well, we are not there yet.  There were lumps in his armpits which I managed to tease out, by taking advantage of a deep sleep and the window of opportunity it presented – about 5 minutes.

Much worse were the lumps in his back trousers.  This is a location to which access is strictly forbidden.  Even when fast asleep, Monty is alert to any rummaging in that area. He has sharp claws and he is very quick.  This is a cat who can catch a squirrel, for goodness sake.

But yesterday – a breakthrough.  Chilled out in his wool basket, drowsy with the heat, I approached with a small pair of scissors.  I was lucky with the angle and – snip!- one lump, then two.  Monty stirred, realised what I was doing, and joined in.  He reached down and removed lump number three himself.  Job done, and not a single scratch.

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Unbelievable!

I am now reasonably hoping to avoid the expensive haircut at the vets…fingers crossed!

A dog walk and a sunset walk

Here in the UK we are basking in a glorious early heatwave.  We can only hope there is more to come, and that this isn’t all the summer we are going to get this year.  British people joke about this all the time, for example, ‘I hope summer falls on a weekend’ and so on.   Well I made the most of it yesterday with two beautiful and very different walks.

I did my usual Saturday dogwalk with Meggie & Badger (or Madge as they are affectionately known).  I was thrilled to be joined by my friend and her 3 month old puppy Bluebell, out mingling with the big dogs for the first time after her vaccinations.  There are lots of regular walkers in the local park so it’s always sociable, but even more so with a new puppy.  We had a great time talking to our dogwalking friends and watching Bluebell interact.   She was so good and just wanted to play.  The other dogs were great with her and it was fascinating to watch her learn.  She was allowed off lead for a short while and she ran around madly with Meggie which was wonderful to see.  She raced after her ball but has yet to learn that she needs to bring it back – I wonder if Meggie can teach her this important rule?

Later on I accompanied the OH on a walk on the moors to catch the sunset.   It’s usually a lot colder up there and almost always windy, but we found it balmy and still.  With hardly a cloud in the sky we watched a beautiful sunset at ‘The Hut’.  This is an abandoned shepherd’s hut by a large pond in the middle of the moor, inaccessible by car.  It’s quite substantial for a hut: stone-built with two rooms and an ancient kitchen range inside.  It has a real air of mystery and makes a great focal point for pictures.

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We have done this walk loads of times in the biting cold and snow, sometimes we are almost blown backwards by the winds, so it felt quite special to be there in the fresh warm air, after such a long winter.

 

 

 

Puppy Love

A birthday lunch in the pub with my BFF and her new border collie puppy.    Bluebell is 12 weeks old and so keen to learn.  She already has ‘Sit’, ‘Down’, and ‘Paw’.  She is such a good girl….for a puppy anyway!

Fortunately my friend understands that you have to be firm right from the start, or you end up with an annoying dog that you can’t take anywhere.  When the food arrived (steak pie no less!) Bluebell wanted to get her face in it.  She was leashed to the table leg and went frantic.  We moved to the next table out of reach and ignored her.  In a couple of minutes she settled down for a snooze.

Thank goodness for dog-friendly pubs!  We were in the Three Merry Lads at Redmires, on the edge of Sheffield, not far from Stanage Edge and the beautiful Hope Valley.  The food is hearty and wholesome and the staff are lovely and patient with dogs in training.  There is even a jar of dog treats on the bar.  We will definitely be going back, to do some long walks too when Bluebell is a bit older, she will need tiring out!

 

Giant Knitting Cat Baskets are here!

…and they’ve been well and truly road-tested by all three crew members.  I think we have the seal of approval.

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It was useful to make two baskets.  One came out a bit tighter than the other, and that turned out to be the best one.  This is because, over a few days’ constant use, they stretch.  So the looser basket has ended up a bit on the floppy side, and the tighter basket is just about right.  Also, as I knitted the base more tightly, the sides appear taller.

The crew spent hours lounging around in their new beds, which enabled us to take lots of scrumptious photos of them.  My partner is a professional photographer (thesheffieldlens.com) – I am sure you can tell which are his pictures and which one is off my iphone!

I am excited to make the next batch.  I might try a different colour, or at least, a different sheep….

Giant Knitting Cat Baskets here soon!

The new yarn is on the needles, and the cat basket is in progress…

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Wow this yarn is even better than I expected.  It’s bigger and thicker than the yarn I used for the original baskets.  And it knits up fine using the needles I already have.  So I don’t have to order a load more knitting needles to be custom-made in bigger sizes.

I have amended my pattern slightly to accommodate the thicker yarn.  I was a bit worried that I hadn’t maintained an even thickness and twist on all of it.  After all, the wet felting was a bit of an experiment.  But working the yarn, it doesn’t seem to matter.  There is enough twist and felting to give it a bit of structure.  In fact, I think it performs even better than the old yarn.

 

It’s easier to get a flatter base.

It’s softer, less like rope.  More like a big, squishy soft strand.

It’s got that characteristic, fleecy scent.

The stitches are massive, with loads more visual impact.

And….the cats love it.

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It’s not finished yet, Monty.

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Make your own giant yarn

Today I wet felted the whole batch of texel wool roving, to make my own version of giant yarn.  If it works, the cat baskets are back on.  This is a very exciting prospect for me, and worth the effort.

And it took quite a bit of effort too, transforming this

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into this

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and hanging it out to dry.

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Three and a half kilos of wet wool is really heavy, as I found when I lugged it down the stairs and into the garden.  It drips a lot, so that was the best place for it.

It took me about 4 hours to process the whole batch, including a couple of false starts and working out the best approach. There is nothing online that shows you how to do this (believe me, I looked!)  So it was a matter of trial and error.  I can see how my technique improved as I went along.  I needed to achieve an even thickness of yarn whilst not disrupting the fibres too much.  From about halfway through, I was happy with the result.

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The new yarn is a lot thicker than the yarn I used before, so I will need to re-write my patterns and possibly use larger doublepins than the set I have now.  Giant wooden knitting needles are easily available, as are giant circulars, but giant doublepins are rare so will probably need to be custom-made….

I’m very excited about getting my new yarn onto some needles soon!  Watch this space…