Success – a case study

Close by Schiphol Airport  the Dutch Microsoft offices are located. Very swanky, uber-design and I was there to meet my friend for lunch before flying off to London-town.

 He picked me up from the foyer where there is no reception but a welcoming team of host and hostesses, it was all very impressive.  They offered me coffee (and a bottle of water when I went back.) The work stations and meeting rooms weren’t called that: they all had very pretentious names like creative space or something. All very modern in design and admittingly looking comfortable for creative thinking. So think sofas, glass rooms in a garden, big designer chairs etc.  The tiny coffee table by our sofa was a meer 800 euros. It served well for the drinks from the coffee bar where you could order any coffee you could possibly think of: including all the vanilla to butterscotch shots.

Over lunch we talked about him, about me, how our lives turned out. He was surprised that I was still struggling with trying to find my feet, even though I speedtracked my way through school and university, grad and post-grad. He stayed back a year and is after several switches from degrees still working on his BA dissertation ( it has taken him 7 years ) but he is now working flexible hours for Microsoft and loving it.

I said that I might just have had a lot of luck in the beginning, but he was having none of it: ” The fact that I am here at Microsoft now, has nothing to do with luck – I worked for it.” 

Indeed he did, so on the way back I decided to look  at what is he doing:

1. Focussing on a goal.  Even though that goal might not be what others want your goal to be. He has had his own company in computer thingitybobs, which he started in secondary school, this he then developed and though it might have distracted him from academic work, it was no doubt a stepping stone to his new job. In very short: he created opportunities for himself by keeping an eye on the ball.

2. He knows how to make a situation work for him by thinking outside the box: remember the paper rounds kids used to do to make money? He did that too, hated it and decided to try to become the distributor. He succeeded and so didn’t have to do the actual paperround but handed out the papers to other kids who did it for him.

3. He is a Fixer. If ever there is a problem, there is a challenge. He will try to fix it. Even if it means reading up on the subject. If it interests him, and a challenge usually does, he can do it. Worst case scenario: he can find someone else who can fix it for him.

4. Networking.  Because this guy knows how to talk and how to walk the talk. He is easy going and can talk to all kinds of people.  He has a broad interest and by pursuing them he knows a lot of different people.  He also know how to ask for a favour and people are happy to help as he’s always willing to do them one in return.

5. Being reasonably selfish. His girlfriend has graduated ages ago, she’s got a lovely job too and they bought a house together. She is a very patient soul but I’m sure she would like him to graduate because she told me ( when he was in the room, I’m not just sh*t-stirring here!). I’m sure he wants the same… but for now he still focuses on other things. He seems a man on a mission and no one can stop him, not even his girlfriend of 10 years. Bless her soul.

There you have it: the very basics of what it takes to succeed. You need a goal and focus, creative thinking, rising to the challenge, being around like minded and helpful people, and not giving a flying f*ck about what anyone else thinks.

Simples. Now print and apply to life.

Friday Feeling

Feeling slightly dehydrated (obviously not hungover) -tick.

Bacon sandwich and two pints of water  for breakfast- tick

Feeling sliiiightly smug because you still made it into work despite panicking you still had to pack this morning whilst feeling dehydrated, and managing to  bring your passport- tick

Plug in camera battery to charge- tick

General chaos and non work in the office – tick

Spontaneous phone calls to parents to wish them a nice holiday -tick

Quick trip to Oxford street for birthday surprises -tick

Team lunch with lovely conversation that makes you laugh out loud – tick

E-mail marked URGENT by CEO to you which you pick up after two our lunch …turns out to be about the birthday she signed and left on your desk pheew- tick

Boring work-call to make, but no one picking up- tick

Print out e-ticket to Amsterdam – tick

Going out later for surprise birthday office party grocery shopping- tick

Leaving early to catch a flight to see an old friend – tick.

Returning to the office because you forgot the charged camera battery- tick

Remembering to enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend -tick

Have a nice one!

No need for (knights in shining) armour

Do you wear a helmet when you cycle?

My very politically incorrect answer is: No. 

I am sure it will be one of those things like seatbelts, no one before the ’90s really wore their seatbelt did they?  I know it is important to shield your head in case of a crash but sometimes it seems that modern life has just become a little safety mad. The other day I saw some kids on the pavement with their little scooters and a helmet bigger than their scooters. I am all up for safety but the kids were On The Pavement. Yes they were quite little but that also meant: they weren’t going anywhere fast. The steering and foot-paddling co-ordination had yet to reached total fruition: if they had to wear helmets going so slowly on scooters, they should wear helmets when they walk. ( Try walking along with a three year old, all of a sudden you realise they aren’t actually dragging their feet: they are actually that small that their steps are just tiny!) 

I understand that I do not have children and can thus not even start to imagine the massive fears that come with parenthood, but is that not a burden for us to bear and not project on our little darlings? Teach them to be careful crossing the road, not to go along with strangers, not to inject heroin in their eye-balls but can we please let them explore the world without full

When he saw the girls holding their rocks, he knew the sword and helmet weren't going to safe him.


Medieval armour: how will they be able to move?  Yes they will cut themselves and bruise themselves and fall over sometimes. We did. We survived. Surely the most important thing is to get back up again. You have one body, you should  take care of it but as with any other tool you cannot expect it to come out of 80 years unscathed.

We had knee-pads and even wrist-bands at one point but my sister did hit her head once whilst rollerblading. Hole in her head. Oops.  Then again: I once cracked my chin in school.  I was five and thought I loved him. Note: I was also just standing. Not actually running with untied shoe-laces or on the wet swimming-pool tiles, not hanging of a tree with one arm. He threw a massive pillow to me on the playground…from behind. It floored me and taking me by surprise I fell chin first on the playground stones. There were tears, there were stitches resulting in a teeny tiny visible scar.

More tragically perhaps: love was most definitely over.

For a society that worries so much about physical accidents, you have to admit that there are still no helmets to prevent a broken heart.  This invention would make you a millionaire as it wouldn’t just be for kids either: the older you get, the more these things seem to hurt. So how do you heal that what you cannot see? Ironically the answer might be: love. If it’s love that breaks it, it’s love that makes it. Love love love…and a spoonful of time. Soak it up, give it time and unlike those pesky physical fractures in life: what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  x


Perhaps it’s something only mainland Europeans have a weakness for and only those of a certain age even but ironically it is a bit like Marmite, love it or hate it: the Eurovision Songfestival.

Ah back in the day (and I am talking the nineties here though I presume the ABBA years must have been pretty good too – alas too young!) you had people with an act who could sing.

Ok, maybe not but the songs were good.

Ok maybe not all, but the Irish songs always were and they actually had to stop winning to avoid Greece- style economic tragedies.

So maybe it wasn’t all good, but it had a certain je ne sais quoi (SEE WHAT I DID THERE? IT’S FRENCH!)

It was camp, my favourite year is the year of the Israeli transvestite…what’s her name now?  Was it Dana? (Answers on a postcard please!)

In any case it didn’t have  the non-broadcasted semi-finals that they seemed to have resigned to in the last decade.  Not sure why , though I am guessing the extension of the European Union has something to do with it a show with 40 songs would be a little much even for the die-hard Eurovision fan. In the non-broadcasted semi-finals the small countries battle it out to be seen all over Europe for one night. Germany, France, UK, Spain ( they pay enough to get into the final) and Norway ( as it is hosting) are exempt.  I don’t really understand why the UK is still bothering: they never win and now Terry Wogan is not presenting it anymore there is no reason to watch it, let alone participate. Even we as a family  in the Netherlands would watch the event on the BBC some years as Wogan was a bit of a legend in his presenting style.

Back in the day when a stylist was sent out with a fiver to get some foil.

Wogan who resigned because he thought the contest had become more an East European Songfestival and political fest than an a music event. Of course he is right: France will never give the UK the full amount of points if any, Cyprus has the backing of Greece not Turkey or the other way around, most of the Balkan states will pat each other on the back and the Scandinavian countries will do the same but less obvious. I don’t know how this televoting thing works, but who cares: if we used to just watch the part of the voting now I would suggest to sit back and enjoy the ride up until the voting; knowing that the bigger the camper the better.

I just had a look on the official Eurovision website and whether it is the recession or whether the budget just hasn’t changed since the ’70s hayday the videos look just a little bare… But perhaps that is me, maybe I remember it bigger and camper (than a row of tents) like when you go to a place from your childhood and it just looks smaller. I had a look at the UK entry and bless yous – don’t worry you won’t have to organise the Olympics and the Songfestival in times of coalition. (The Belgian entry is of course named Tom) The Netherlands have sent the genuinely lovely Sieneke who at the age of 18 had never left her parental home to go abroad. I think that it’s great for her to take this opportunity and just do it, because even though the song is not my  kind of music: the girl can sing!

So good luck to all the contestants and all the other people who are not too busy washing their hair on the 29th of May. Sorry that is mean: Enjoy It and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

The Book Thief

This weekend, in the gorgeous sunshine and recovering from various birthday parties I read The Book Thief.

It is a beautiful story that just sucked me in. Set in World War Two, it is told by Death himself. (Though I guess it is never said it is a He.) It tells about Liesel a girl who comes to live with her foster parents in 1939 in Molchen Germany. It takes us through the early years of the war and in particular the events that happen in Liesel’s young life.

Death continues to comment on proceedings and puts her story into context as the all-knowing narrator. It really is a simple story, concentrating on a personal tragedy in worldwide chaos. Yet because of it’s angle and the fact that it is such a beautiful story, you almost forget the immense horror this is all set against.

A small part is about a girl who discovers book and discovers words and all the things she can do with them. First there is the struggle that turns into the pleasure of reading and writing. The reading to others, the writing initially for herself but told to us, her story to others.

The power of words.

Some people write for themselves – like I do, despite this public platform I consider it still very much for my own pleasure; some write very much for others… like a girl called Emma. Emma was a very talented girl who I got to know during my theatre course. She seemed fearless and effortless cool in that laid back Canadian way of hers. A natural beauty and a very kind soul. I did not know her very well but I had the pleasure of working with her and seeing her perform. Then of course there was her writing/ her blog, as said by her sister in the eulogy, for others, for us. She shared with us the events in her life spiced with her own sense of humour, and apparently she would often describe a day to her family as The Best Day of Her Life. It was her writing that made me smile on the days that I did not know what to do with my new graduate/unemployed status. I did not comment, but I very much smiled.

I cannot, nor do I want to, claim the intense sadness that her family and close friends must feel even now three years later. Thus I will not give a link to her page, I just wanted to give her a little shout-out: that on the anniversary of her death, she is certainly not forgotten.

As the narrator of The Book Thief states on the first page:

“You are going to die.”

But he/she/it also declares on the last pages:

” [The best souls] rise up and say ‘I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.’ ”

It seems reassuring, but also gives the reason why the best people always seem to go too soon: they might be ready but the souls left behind will have to always miss their inspiring company for the rest of our way.

Office Oddities

Where do all the teaspoons go? Or the glasses for that matter?

Toilet etiquette: Do we say hello? Do we just nod?  Can we talk shop? Conversation whilst in different cubicles – is that acceptable? Do we hold bins open for each other?

Phone conversations in the hallway doesn’t automatically mean you are having a private conversation, especially not if you decide to shout down the phone.

Why are the awkward silences in the kitchen, mug in hand, queuing for the hot water or looking for the only teaspoon, filled with:

” Pfff it’s Monday again.” / ” Is it only Tuesday?” /” Wednesday, half-way through the week!”/ ” You know Thursdays are the new Fridays.” / ” Thank God it’s Friday!”

I understand lunch hour for practicality sake, but do we really get hungry at the same time? Should anyone be allowed to tell you when to eat and when not to eat? Isn’t that a human right or something?

Human rights, common decency: why can’t anyone just clear up the piece of paper/ pen or bag that has fallen on to the floor? Though no one seems to like their job (see  two lines above) we become sticklers to our job description when it comes to any common sense exercise.

Senior, junior, deputy etc a mix of people, despite the age / rank/ experience /gender differences, we are still all adults- right?

What does one answer when asked what they are doing this evening/ or the weekend?  Do we really want to know whether our colleagues are cross-dressing, clubbing seals or organising an evening of crochet for the neighbourhood ? Plus why do we have to defend ourselves when we have nothing planned: ” Oh just a quiet one…which is really nice and what I needed really… I’ve been so busy lately.”

Talking about being busy: why, come 5pm, we all start to sigh that we have to go to the gym tonight? Surely no one has to go to the gym, usually you pay money for a membership and thus choose to go to the gym. It is not an obligation and announcing that you are going to the gym in said sacrificing manner doesn’t make you a 21st Century martyr or hero. Go and enjoy it or don’t go and embrace it. Not that hard.

Everyone seems to read the “Cake In Kitchen” group e-mail but not the  “Update your timesheet” group e-mail.

How much do you donate to collection? Can you pass if you don’t want to/ cannot contribute? Who puts in those token coppers? Where do they come from?

Drink after work… can we still take someone seriously when they have been sick in their handbag and then fallen face first on the pavement- despite them being really good at their job? Or is it a bonding experience, does that give them character and can we see them as a human being rather than a colleague?

Lunch time drink  falls into same category really. A glass or a bottle, who pays or do you split? What about groups and unevenly priced dishes? Who’s in whose team, where do you draw the line when having  a team-lunch?

What does somebody’s taste in music tell about them? There is a reason why I don’t play mine!

I wonder if anyone ever wakes up as a child thinking: one day when I grow up I’m going to be an account manager.

Facebook friends – also a cross-over between social and work life. You can’t really ignore a friend request… but it comes with the added complication:

how often can you acceptably update… or write a blog!?

Dream Seer

Maybe it is because my sister is staying in my bed, but I have been having really weird dreams lately.

I have had two about my cousin’s unborn baby, which in itself is not weird as I will see her at the end of the month hopefully.

Plus months ago, I had a dream about my cousin being pregnant when they  had just found out… Freaky. Whenever my grandmother used to dream about her sisters we had to contact them  (in Indonesia and Australia) just in case… In case of what? I’m not sure but it seems that our family seems strangely connected.

A dream about my sister having cut herself with a razor blade in her face gushing blood everywhere, occurred around the same time she actually cut her leg with a razor blade and it didn’t stop bleeding all over the bathroom. At home. A North Sea away.  Similarly when I phoned my sister before going to Antwerp, she had a feeling something would go horribly wrong. Flash forward 12 hours and I smack my mouth into a glass door. Luckily she didn’t tell me before, I might have had issues getting on the Eurostar.

My mum once phoned me because my late grandmother send her a text message in her dream (! I know straight connection to heaven…) to call me and see if I was ok. She only told me days after because she didn’t want to freak me out. Of course I told her everything was fine, though looking back on it, I think that night I was heartbroken, possibly intoxicated and after massive argument left by boyfriend- at-the time in the middle of London. Should have seen then it was not going to work out between us. ( Sorry mum, sometimes it is better to tell you months after so not to freak you out!)

 You cannot do too much about these things anyway can you? I always remember the tale of the lady who was told she would die on a certain day. So she stayed in, locked the doors, turned all the electricity off waiting to ride it out. She sat down in her armchair and a photo frame fell on her head and killed her. 

Hey Ho. Anyway…

Not wanting to end on an unhappy note though, and returning to the beginning:

It seems I am trying to find out the unborn baby’s name through my dreams haha! A few suggestions have been given, so I’ll let you know when she is born!