Things I have done that you really should try not to

“Where’s this weeks blog post?” my friend Sarah moaned on Facebook this morning.

“Eh?” I thought.

“Yes,” chimed in another friend “I like my little read of your blog each week, seems odd without it.”

Lumme!  I have An Audience.  OK two people is not a big audience but we writers are permitted to exaggerate for artistic effect.

The truth is prosaic.  I have been somewhat busy this week – gradually rennovating Kew Towers (or at least supervising a man who does), trying to get the heating and washing machine fixed and trailing all my washing over to my sister’s utility room.  My sister is rich, she has a utility room (be still my beating heart).  Also arranging Daniel’s 13th birthday celebrations whilst steadfastly ignoring that I am soon to have a teenager, which barely seems possible in a woman of my minimal age.  This is in my “spare” time.  The day job currently consists of juggling existing clients (from home amongst the sawdust and drill noises) and repositioning the business to move back to my first love.  No, not Philip Williams but training and coaching.  New marketing material and website require actual content to put in it, which aforementioned friend Sarah who is developing the website for me has steadfastly refused to write for me.

My current efforts at a marketing pitch involve something along the lines of “Buy financial training and mentoring from me, I’m quite good at it”.  It may need a little polishing.

So I thought maybe, as I was short of time to blog-think, I could mine an old source of inspiration from my previous training/coaching days to stick with the repositioning theme.  I could title it “Things I have done that you really should try not to”.

A very long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (OK Wokingham) I was training manager for one of the big accountancy firms with about 50 students under my tyrannical control.  I managed their professional training, gave tutorials on adding up to people who had done ancient history degrees and delivered in-house management training courses across the country as part of the national training team.  I loved my job.  But it wasn’t all plain sailing because the job came with students.  And not all students are created equal.  Many of the big accountancy firms have now changed their approach and you sit your exams in big blocks with full-time training courses, but back in the olden days when I was a gel, you did your studying whilst working and sat regular mock exams to make sure you were keeping up before the final full time six week course leading to your professional exams.  We contracted out the final six week course to a training company as it just wasn’t practical for me to be teaching full time for six weeks, six times a year (as a minimum).

One of our students (let’s call him Eustace) was failing all his mock exams and I couldn’t understand why – he had a very similar academic background to me, science and maths A level’s, science-y/maths-y degree subject and decent grades.  But he was failing every exam.  I decided to speak to the guy who ran the training centre we used and who was also their head lecturer and knew Eustace.  Let’s call him…Phil.

I rang Phil and his wife Carol, who was also their office manager, picked up the phone.

“Hi Carol, is Phil in I want to talk about Eustace” I said jauntily.

“Hang on he’s just walking past, I’ll put him on” she confirmed.

“Hello?”

“Hi, I need to talk to you about Eustace.  I don’t know what the problem is but I’d like your opinion before I speak to him.  He’s failing EVERYTHING!  How does a man with a good degree in a science subject manage to fail straight forward maths tests?  I don’t understand it, I mean I’ve had English graduates who were better at maths!” I carried on wittering for a while longer until I became aware that the normal jovial and opinionated Phil was silent.  In fact it didn’t sound as if there was anyone on the phone at all.

The narrative at this point moves to my friend Penelope who also worked for Phil as a lecturer.

“It was very odd.  Carol was on the phone to you and grabbed Eustace as he walked past. “Sue wants to talk to you” she said and Eustace stood in the office with the phone to his ear not saying anything.  Then after a while, he very carefully placed the phone handset on the desk and backed away looking at it –

“I don’t think she wants to speak to me” he explained

We all looked at the handset from which we could all quite clearly hear your voice buzzing though not exactly what you were saying.  No-one did anything or said anything, we just stood and watched your voice coming from the phone for several minutes.  After a little while, it tailed off and there was silence and we could hear “Hello?  Phil?”

This was the point at which Carol picked up the phone and tentatively said to me – 

“You did want to talk to Eustace, didn’t you?”

This happened nearly 30 years ago and still has the ability to bring me out in a cold sweat.  Eustace and I never spoke of the incident and I left the company not long afterwards.  Leaving to go to a new job was an extreme way to avoid having to speak to him but hey. it worked for me.  Particularly because moving jobs gave me a fine subsequent career in the marketing world so perhaps I should publicly say thank you to Eustace for the first time.

And I hope you eventually passed your exams.

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