Saturday, 30 June 2007

the imperfect art of the interview

since i took up residence in the uk, i have spent most of my time as one of the unemployed. not that this is an unusual state of affairs for me! due to the circumstances into which i was born, i was expected to be a stay at home mom,believe me.... i was happy to comply, when it comes to going out to work...there ain't a liberated bone in my female body. so, my beloved man went out and sweated at the coal face whilst i looked after the children and "did" coffee with my similarly inclined friends.

when the children were in high school and varsity, i did indeed sojourn in the world of the entrepreneur for a couple of years .... but that, is another story!

i arrived in the uk with nine years experience in banking ... experience gained back in the good old days when banks were banks ... yeah the golden olden days...before bank employees were expected to be super sales people, achieving targets and generally conning joe public into buying "products" he neither needs nor wants.Two years experience in the management of video stores, selling, buying, marketing, advertising and counseling. ah, nearly forgot, kept the books for manfred's consultancy. not that i would dare claim to have any experience as a "book keeper", i ran a tight ship, everything always balanced, every detail noted, sales, purchases,salaries, taxes, vat ...
i produced my own system, our accountant was a patient man and he adapted to my system!

so .... i step off the plane, i need to work ... the uk is not a cheap place to live and south african rands do not translate well into british pounds.
now i am fifty eight years old and i understand a thing or two about myself. i am what might be known as personable, i have been described as charming. truth is, i am in love with the human race, their subtleties, their nuances. my fellow humans simply fascinate me, every life a journey, every journey a possible book.

i was married for thirty six years to a man who excelled in the field of human relations, he was a master of the art of the interview, an unbeatable negotiator, an all round smart cookie when it came to understanding the human, i have picked up a few tips when it comes to being interviewed! of course there is also the fact that each business has certain needs and requirements and similar businesses will ask similar questions at an interview. anyone with a smidgen of common sense can give them whatever they are looking for. so... if i do not aim too high in the job market and apply for positions within the scope of my education, experience and abilities, if i am granted an interview ... nine times out of ten i will be offered the position. lest my reader decides that i am unbearably smug and big headed, i should point out that as i have very little work experience or education and my abilities tend to fall within the realm of the phantasmal (other than the fine art of blether, at which i am a master!), i tend to set my sights really low...

i have moved around a fair amount since i landed on the shores of old blighty. resulting in some frequency when it comes to my attending interviews. i now find tidy little homilies tripping off my tongue, such as " no, that would not be a problem, i have wide ranging abilities and experience in many fields". ..."i enjoy dealing with difficult customers"..."my people skills are excellent" ..."team work inspires me" ..."i enjoy people contact"
and "they" believe every word... omg!

when posed the question " is there a type of person you have difficulty communicating with", i once admitted to the manager who was interviewing me that i had some problems with very shy people as i was shy myself. he stopped scribbling notes and looked straight into my once big, blue eyes ... "i don't believe that at all, not for one minute!" my mask is a wonderful protector, totally impenetrable to the casual interviewer. he still offered me the position, even though he believed i was an incorrigible liar. i learned that being completely honest whilst being interviewed is not always necessary!

the art of the interview from the view point of the "interviewee"...(whoops that word looks incredibly wrong, let's try again)... from the view point of the person being interviewed...ah, much better...yeah, what was i saying?

The art of successfully concluding a job interview is... dress smartly, arrive on time, try and look intelligent, if within the realm of the possible...looking gorgeous helps. smile, laugh, put your interviewer at ease, they are often tense and nervous! relax, enjoy yourself, minimize you faults and exaggerate your strengths.once you know what "they" want .... give it to 'em! the ignominy of being unemployed and poverty stricken is no longer necessary. employ the imperfect art of the interview and become master your destiny.,

Thursday, 28 June 2007

who am i ..... and other options

this morning the rain falls softly over saltcoats. not an unusual occurance, after all this is scotland. would the beautiful green hills and glens of scotland be as green without the soft and soaking rain. here in ayrshire would the cattle be as sleek and content without the rain to nourish the rich, luscious grass they feed on. in south africa our cattle farmers need to own vast tracts of land, thousands of acres. the veld is sparse and grows green for a very short season before the heat sucks the moisture from it. south african cattle spend their days grazing, our ayrshire cattle graze for a while and are then able to lie down, chew their cud and relax. so... the hills of scotland are green because of the high rainfall.the farms of home.. the freestate, the highveld, are most often dry and brown because of the heat and limited rainfall. i love the green lushness of scotland and yet i often long for the arid browns of my home country.

i am the product of my past, my future will be the product of my present.
unless .... i suffer a brain injury. i might then forget who i am, i might become someone else entirely.
i have always considered my mind to be me,a separate entity which survives within my physical body, a merging of emotions, mental activity, memories and spiritual experience, the place where i live. i feel myself, as do many others, to be situated in the middle of my forehead,, between and a little above my eyebrows. my brain i consider a part of my physical being, as indeed it often do i say "my leg aches" or "my brain is tired" as if they were in some way separate from me. on the other hand, it is fairly common to say "i am exhausted", "i can't take this anymore",....
who am i?

am i an amalgam, combining the physical, hormonal, electrical impulses of a functioning body. is each cell a separate entity, a world of its own, functioning in concert with other cells to form "me". are all my emotions the reaction of stirring or even misfiring hormones, are my thoughts really just random electrical impulses, whirring around my physical brain?

our planet, our mother made up of many different elements, she abounds with diversity and yet when seen from space, she appears as a whole, as a single planet. viewed from a distance, with no prior knowledge, would a visitor have any inkling of the teeming life which exists on her surface, within her seas and below her outer crust.perhaps not, yet we are all part of our planet, we exist as part of a system, a finely tuned and functioning system. we (meaning "man" or humankind) like to view ourselves as the masters of earth, we imagine we are in control and that the other beings which share our space are somehow less than us. hohum... just because we serendipitously managed to evolve with an opposing thumb and learned to scavenge, thus supplying ourselves with the protein required to grow our brains, which in turn enabled us to manufacture tools and weapons to kill other animals ... more protein, less time spent in the endless gathering of seeds, berries and nuts, more time to think and grow our brains, our intellect. in our arrogance we often find it difficult to remember that our earth works in a complex chain reaction, each element depending upon another for survival. we are all... animal and vegetable, born of this planet, we feed off her and in death the nutrition of our bodies is returned to her hungry earth.
as far as we are aware, only humankind is self aware in that we know we have a limited shelf life, we are aware that at some time ... we will die. as far as we are aware! the more we learn, the more we realize how little we know. we humans are presently merely scratching on the sandy shores of the sea of knowledge.

the question remains ... who am i.
the answer is obvious, i do not know. i was born, i am sentient, i live ... i eat, i sleep, i reproduce. i see, i hear, i feel. i remember and i forget. i love and i am loved. i will die and be absent from this world i now inhabit.
who am i?
i must learn to walk soft and think deep. i must understand the insignificance of the question in the wider sense of life. i am not unimportant to the world, i am as necessary as each cell in the human body.

i am one of many and yet of a kind.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

on dreams and schemes and ...reaching critical mass

i really should know better than to open my big mouth ... or...concerning the case in hand ...

"watch what you type eryll! if you really must have deep thoughts, keep 'em where they belong, safely tucked up behind your eyes."

thought for the day - "try not to tempt the universe into providing another lesson". because damn it, even a hint of "i have learned my lesson well" is an absolute open sesame to the gods of chance!

today i am child rampant, my inner child, firmly in control. believe me, this is not a pleasant state of affairs ... especially for me. i am in hair tossing, foot stamping mode, with my mental age reduced to somewhere round three years old.
why? you ask ...why, indeed? i am a fifty eight year old grandmother, i should definitely have "that child" firmly in hand by now.

i will always be the first to admit, that in my not so humble opinion, i believe i am one of the smartest people i know. on the scale of "wonderful" i am able... with ease, to rate myself as a definite nine! i enjoy having my own way, c'mon, be honest, don't we all.
is there really anyone in the known universe who sits around thinking ... "i am so happy that everyone else is having it their way, i am so delighted that absolutely nothing is going my way, i am such a finished human spirit that i require naught for myself."
yeah right!
so ... to return to my main issue, perhaps i am a little arrogant and opinionated ... who is not? at least i have the honest gall to admit it!

the parable of the kid and the sweet shop.

for the past while, i have been like the kid standing outside a candy shop, nose pressed against the glass. her young heart filled with a burning desire to gain access and be allowed to partake of all the good things within said sweet shop....
at first the child knows that if she wishes hard enough, she will magically find herself inside. time passes and the realization begins to dawn ..."no matter how long i stand here, no matter how hard i wish, free access to this candy shop is just not going to happen".yet, still she waits, with a small hope in her heart, a tiny flame of hope which refuses to be doused. one day, out of the blue, the owner of the candy store taps her on the shoulder. "hey kid, guess what, tomorrow is your lucky day, tomorrow all your dream comes true. the god of chance has whispered in my ear, he has told me that if i make your dream come true i will be a very contented man. there are just a few things i need to do first, the shop must be tidied, new stock ordered and the books balanced." the child runs home, to let her friends and family know the good news. "life is fair, if you wish hard enough and you wait patiently and you never give up hope, you will be rewarded with the keys to the sweet shop".
yeah right!
that night the child could hardly sleep, she was so excited, her mind sang with plans for the future. when she awoke in the morning she was afraid, she wondered if it had all just been a dream. but no, there in her in box was a message from the owner of the candy store, confirming the reality... seven hours later, the phone rang. the child was overjoyed to hear the voice of the sweet shop owner!
alas ...
the sweet shop owner had spent the past hour chatting with his accountant. the accountant had whispered in his ear "ignore the advice of the god of chance. if you allow this possible future to unfold you will be poor and miserable in your old age, this is not a sensible plan. no person with a smidgen of good sense would allow a kid free access to a candy store!"
bet you know where this parable is heading ....

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

relative chaos ... and other random thoughts

turning points, forks in the road, places where our journey through life hesitates. a waiting, watchful pause, or perhaps a sudden flurry of activity and excitement. sometimes we choose the new path, at times, there is no option, the fates give us an almighty shove.

i was fortunate, i was born into a big, wonderful, tactile family.i grew up surrounded by caring, thinking family members. my family is big on intellect and empathy, they are also articulate and argumentative. . .
we ate our meals at table and learned the art of debate and discussion. my mother offered us a deep spiritual well, respect for others, protect the weak, never give up. my father, an english gentleman, taught us to think, to reason and to develop "a stiff upper lip" for when life threw us a curved ball
like any normal family we fought, sulked, had hissy fits and at times suffered greatly from the delusion that we were hard done by. my mother was a fiery woman who had very little trouble keeping her large family under control.. my father was balanced and gentle....unless we upset which case...beware!

my path through childhood and into adolescence was fairly smooth, an easy journey. when i was seventeen i met manfred, my love, my best friend, my soul mate. shortly after my eighteenth birthday we married. manfred was an old soul, he had the necessary strength of character and patience to deal with my young self. we had three children and life was good, manfred was successful in his career, i was happy to be a stay at home mom. my path was still smooth. i was able to stride through life without paying too much attention. i believed life was an organized effort, chaos happened to those who allowed it into their lives.

until i turned forty six!
i am a firm believer that we choose the life we will live before we are born. we set ourselves a path with choices in order to learn and grow spiritually. there are no wrong choices, only forks in the road, each one offering a different lesson. some paths perhaps easier and others more difficult but all leading to growth if we accept and learn. so quite why i chose to gift myself this wonderful, magical life with so few major problems until the year i turned forty six i am not sure. a gentle time perhaps to prepare me for the relative chaos which was about to tornado itself into my life....

1994 and i was thrust into chaos. the universe hurled lesson after lesson at me. i, who had been so proud of my control, my almost perfect and very organized life, found myself submerged in a quagmire of prejudices were thrust into my face, i was forced to look, to learn and to understand the truth about myself. i suffered tragedy and loss until i was forced to admit. life is not fair, life is not organized, i have no control... life is a journey of relative chaos...
in hindsight i have come to understand that each tragedy, every loss, forced me onto a different path from that which i (in my arrogance) would have chosen. i had a life map and the universe threw it out and offered me only chaos.i have bobbed like a cork on the ocean of life, borne by the winds and currents of chaos in action.

have i learned anything? more than i would ever have thought possible. i was so self satisfied i did not even understand that there was a question!without knowledge of the question, i had no need to search for an answer. i have learned that we are free to plan, to organize, to believe that we are in control of our journey through life. i have come to understand that belief is not the same as "the actual".we live in a wonderful world, filled with beauty, we walk and grow amongst others who have their own plans for the future, their own dose of chaos to learn from. i have learned that the important lesson of the chaos is that while we have no control over those circumstances with which we are presented, in acceptance we can influence our reactions. our emotions and reactions, are ours alone. they are the armor provided for our entry into the physical world. in acceptance of "the actual" we gather control of our emotions, we choose how to act, how to react. we allow ourselves to hate or love, to fight or forgive. we choose to smile at a stranger, to feel called to give to those who have less, those caught unaware in the whirlpool of chaos. life is a learning experience and we will learn to ask "why not me" instead of the self pitying wail of "why me"?

so yes, we exist in a world of chaos, we live in this physical world to enable us to learn to understand our own emotions, our shallows and our depths, our strengths and our weaknesses. we will follow our path and the principal of relative chaos will guide us towards wisdom.

Monday, 25 June 2007

the return of the muse

the return of the muse...

in the usual course of events i receive text messages from two people.
there is my dear friend shona, who possesses (perhaps) the fastest thumbs in the world! shona messages me in a shona type shorthand .... considerably easier to understand than her wonderful broad scots accent! we worked together as carers in the small village of ballantrae and she keeps me up to date on the village comings and goings. shona also texts me absolutely filthy jokes ... which i enjoy immensely and delete instantly ... lest the thought police find such filth on my poor innocent mobile!

my muse (who lives across the pond) and i, were want to communicate via phone, email, text and even the occasional hand written letter! of course, since i managed to lose my muse i have had to learn to exist without the warm comfort of our deliciously entwined communications. now... my muse is a writer of enormous talent, she weaves a tale with the precision of a master.her books are always researched with immaculate care, her descriptive talents stir the imagination and entice the mind...but ... when it came to texting ....she was a word miser!i would receive very short, cryptic messages, such as "go away" or "call" or even a number. the numbers sometimes caused me a little confusion as they could either be ... new york time at which i should call, or .... a new number where i should call.

saturday night at roughly 22.50, i was winding down and preparing to take to my bed when my mobile incoming text message! i thought my heart would stop, i momentarily forgot to breath. could it possibly be my muse, who else would text me at this late hour. i managed to unlock my mobile without deleting the message (my grateful thanks to the saint who watches over those of us with "fumble fingers"). it was indeed an instruction from my lost muse, "call at 18.00"! well actually, if i mean to keep to the facts, the message actually read "call me at 6."... now anyone, who has spent two and a half years of their life loving and being inspired by a muse from new york would instantly know this meant... wait until eleven your time and then phone me, look sharp about it ...i may be prepared to talk to you!

hope, that long lost emotion, stirred ...restlessly unsure. i grab a cigarette and fly out of the kitchen door. i smoke outside, i pace while i smoke, my heart rhythm is definitely rattled. i pace and check the time, never have ten minutes extended themselves in such a frustrating manner. 23.00 and i dial.

i feel the sun shine, warm upon my shoulders. i hear the music of birdsong, i glory in the stars which light the heavens... my muse is back, all is once more well in my world .....

Saturday, 23 June 2007

the seagulls of saltcoat

i was born and bred in africa, the southern tip, home of the zulu, the boer and the exported, or should that be imported english (suppose it depends which side of the equator one finds oneself).

we have seagulls in south africa, beautiful, big, white birds with cruel (aye, slightly poetic, but, correctly descriptive none the less) beaks. beaks obviously designed for spearing fish. south african seagulls tend to live by the sea and spend their days either bobbing on the waves or flying and diving in search of fish.

not so the seagulls of saltcoats... these are urbanized gulls, these street wise birds seem to prefer the suburbs. they float and swoop above the rows of terrace houses, they screech and scream, they argue incessantly ... with each other and any other living, moving being.( see links below for interesting info re the unfriendly habits of ayrshire seagulls) they adorn the rows of chimney pots, watching the world go by from these lofty perches.

come lunchtime and the local high school students make their way to the nearest chippy, indulging in snacks such as deep fried pizza and deep fried burger. perhaps i should mention the scottish desire and love for foods ....deep fried in batter. for instance a specialty treat is deep fried mars bar, what a wonderful world ... the interesting facts that one will never know, unless one actually resides in a country. i digress, we were discussing seagulls, not the quaint eating habits of the average greater scot!

well before the magic hour, the gulls start to congregate above their local chippy ...whooping and swooping. now, our average local student will seldom finish their meal and in their sullen teenage way, they find throwing their left overs in the bin, well ... bourgeois!unwanted chips, pizza crusts and uneaten bread rolls are tossed with careless abandon as they meander back to school. the seagulls swoop, professional scavengers, ready for lunch. grabbing, fighting, and protesting noisily. whatever happened to fishing for your lunch?

great numbers of these raucous seabirds fly inland, where they seek out farms where a tractor is ploughing or the good ayrshire grass is being harvested for the lean winter months. they settle across the fields like a living white throw, presumably feasting on tasty treats such as slugs and worms.i have even witnessed one of my local seagulls, killing and tearing apart a smaller bird. ah ... jonathan livingstone seagull, where is the air of mystery and romance which once surrounded have taken a huge dive in my bird popularity rating. you are now destined to live out my days right down there with the crow inveterate nest robber and baby bird eater.....

is there a question, and more important ... is there an answer.have seagulls resident near towns always lived this way. if they have ... why? is the big white bird lazy ...scavenging from the detritus of man an easy option or ...was it a matter of adapt or die, do our polluted oceans grow empty, overtaken with chemical effluent? have we so over fished the seas? have these magnificent white birds left the water and the joy of the graceful dive because of man? man and his technology, man and his pursuit, his desire, his worship for the god of profit....taking from the ocean , more than his share.

p.s. i am ashamed to find the thought of a seagull eating a baby bird, so much more offensive than the idea of a seagull eating a fish!

Friday, 22 June 2007

frustrated writer

writer, because i write, frustrated because nobody reads me. i am not in print, i am unpublished... not that i have put much effort into attempting to be published. as well as being frustrated and a writer, i am also exceedingly lazy.

i wrote as a teenager, anxiety ridden and spotty , if i must be honest ... not that spotty, definitely anxiety ridden! i mean, us girls grow boobs and whilst your average girl may be delighted to shop for her first bra, i was not. then there are the fluctuating hormones, the raging, the crying. your parents change overnight, they become impossible, there is no understanding them. so yes, i wrote, morbid poetry jotted down on scraps of paper, revealing my tortured soul. lost now, those words... real life happened, hormones settled and i moved on, into a life of happy domesticity in the suburbs .... now that is another story!

november 2004, i met my muse and i started to write. even my innate idleness did not prevent the unending outpouring, the word smith was unleashed and there was no turning back.

recently, i have lost my muse. not in the "putting the muse down somewhere and forgetting where" no, no ... more in the "the muse cried ...enough! i need to lose you" vein. naturally rather hard for me to understand, but, looking at it from the point of view of my muse...
living and loving an impatient, arrogant poet. a word spinner who exists between the darkness of despair and the euphoria of the merely manic. who knows, might be exhausting. myself i would have thought ... interesting, exciting, exceptional... ah well. as tracey from big brother uk 2007 would say " deal wif' it!"

without a muse... is there such a word as "museless"? there should be, i find myself in that very situation. what to do with the word overflow ... blog it man! i may write truth or fiction, poetry or prose, i may write of my past, my present or my future. i may write of my insights, my inspirations, my joys and my tragedies. but blog it i will and send it out into the ether of the internet for you to read. you will be my muse ...

for your edification and hopefully...your delight. allow me to introduce myself...

my life

i sleep i wake
i give i take
i ask i know
i learn i grow
i search i find
i'm cruel i'm kind
i laugh i cry
i wonder why
i see i hear
i sometimes fear
i love i hate
i accept my fate
i follow my road
i carry my load

i search the stars
i love fast cars
i notice beauty
i do my duty
i help the weak
i am not meek
i run i walk
i love to talk
i sometimes pray
i praise each day
i save i spend
i borrow i lend
i'm proud i'm humble
i sometimes grumble

the universe has gifted me a life of gentle recklessness
it flows and ebbs and i have learned to accept
pain when i must
and joy with gratitude
my life has always provided
love and acceptance
in overflowing abundance
friends and family
surround me with the energy of their love and protection
and for this loving bounty
i am endlessly thankful
for in the love of others i find my own strength