A new venture to start a new week: I’m on the 07.20 train out of Crewe for London Euston, only it’s already running 10 minutes late, which does not bode well (especially remembering last Friday’s homeward 18.33 which arrived one and a half hours late at Crewe). I don’t commute as such, but living in rural south Cheshire with a client base spread far and wide, I do a lot of travelling. I prefer the train as I can work, and I believe firmly in the essential value of an efficient public transport system. In theory, it uses my time to good effect, but since last October………

The trip to London today is to attend an induction day for new non-executive Board appointees to a range of government Agencies: I’m a new girl. It would be a tube strike day! I fear I may need to walk from Euston to Victoria and back again after. Anyway, I can use the train journey to read the briefing papers for the day – having already digested the 1998 White Paper on Integrated Transport on last week’s train journeys.

Well, the train did all right - only a few minutes late arriving. And in contrast to the tales of woe from other appointees once we all arrived at the DETR, I just stepped onto a tube train and was at Victoria almost an hour early. Life is full of surprises. I used the time to make some useful calls from the mobile phone, something of a necessity for such a mobile life-style.

The day’s business was fascinating and I perceive a real learning curve to climb to come up to speed and make a real contribution to my new Board for the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA). Now I’m homeward bound; the Victoria Line served me equally well in returning to Euston, and I just made the 16.33 train home, amazingly earlier than I’d anticipated. I’ve concluded some notes about the day, and then honed an article I’ve written about one aspect of my work for a local newspaper’s business pages. I have a briefcase full of paperwork, including development of the first draft of a CV for a client, but I feel suddenly very sleepy: must be the hectic weekend looking after house-guests catching up with me. Think I’ll just…zzz.

Tuesday: it’s 08.30 and I’ve just hung out the week’s washing. Now I’m in my office ready to work. As a self-employed consultant focusing on personal and professional development for my clients, my base is a small, bright and rather tidy office which opens out from a north-facing conservatory at the back of my home. The large window looks down the garden and across open fields, and today the sun is sparkling (get thee behind me Satan, tempting me to go out and play!). I try to be office-based on alternative weeks, but am not always able to stick to that, and I seem to be travelling more and more these days. Hmm, I must practise what I preach and make sure I keep a healthy balance in my lifestyle.

I have been conducting two surveys for one of my clients. They hope to build up a view over time of course provision from the engineering academic community, and there are two areas of course provision to examine. I have done the data crunching and structured the documents, and this is the week that I’ve set aside to write both reports, with a deadline to post them by close of play on Thursday. Yesterday’s jaunt into London has eaten into the time allocated. Crack on and see what happens.

Well, so far so good. Just had a sandwich lunch, but must now concentrate for some hours on moving forward a project for another client. This is an initiative, funded by the Gatsby Charitable Trust, to provide bursaries to engineers who need a programme of technical and leadership development to qualify for registration as Incorporated Engineers. I am the Project Co-ordinator. We are currently in the process of assessing applications and I’m planning the short-listing meeting. A date is set for two weeks’ time, and at the moment I have additional information arriving from individuals in support of their applications. If I don’t put in some time on this now the paperwork will get out of hand.

It’s 17.30 and I’m settling in to do a couple more hours on the reports before my partner arrives home from a day out with one of his clients (yes, he is also a self-employed consultant, specialising in business development). Then we need to eat - or should we go to the gym?

Wednesday 08.15. No, we didn’t get to the gym; partner was later home than expected; trouble on the M6. We were both jaded, so we just ate and talked about the day’s business and forward plans, and he proof-read my first draft of the first report. I now have to acknowledge to myself that both reports are not going to be complete by tomorrow evening’s last post. Press on now and talk with the client as soon as his office opens.

The time is 18.45. The client beat me to it this morning, calling to talk about progress. He agreed to a compromise: complete one report today to post first thing tomorrow and the second by the end of the day on Friday. That would suit his needs and I can achieve it realistically. What a relief! Now I’ve finished report number one, the final version is printed and the copies bound and enveloped with a covering letter. So tonight we are off to the gym, partner to work-out, me for a long swim. I’m stiff and mind-dead from all the computer work, my lap-top is not too good for this sort of work although ideal for when I’m travelling about. In January we agreed a new computer policy for 2001, but I’ve been too busy to research new hardware and put the plan into action. Now where have I heard that before?

Thursday. Up early and I’m already in the office, going through small but urgent tasks so that my mind can then concentrate on the second report. It includes sending a get-well card to a client who had to cancel a recent coaching meeting due to illness. I make a note to call her once she is back to work to arrange to meet. And now on with the report. I must go to the post office when it opens and send the package for guaranteed next day delivery.

It’s 14.00. I’m eating a sandwich, and writing this whilst watching two young men carry sections of the new garden shed down the length of the garden and out of sight behind the shrubbery. We ordered an 8 x 10 foot shed to be made by a small local firm, and they are erecting it on the base which my partner and I laid a couple of weekends ago. We’ve only been in the house since last summer, and since then the garage has been full the usual paraphernalia. We now need the space to bring the classic car home (currently wintering in Mum’s garage, along with LOTS of second hand spares). It’s my partner’s beloved Old Lady, a 1957 Sunbeam Talbot . We enjoy taking her out on sedate summer rallies, and I exercise my navigation skills. A technical background (I started my working life as a mechanical engineer) always comes in handy. All this is to explain the need for a larger than average garden shed to store the garage contents. I’ll just give the young men a cup of tea and press on with the report, trying not to be distracted by the growth of the shed.

I’ve just stopped for the day early: at 5 pm. We are going to the RSA at Dean Clough, Halifax, for an evening lecture and dinner. The evening is entitled "Spanning the Millennium Years", which intrigued me. Now I’m thinking that I haven’t the time to go, but partner says it will do me good to lift my head for a while and get things into perspective, and I know he is right.

Friday 08.00. What an inspiring evening it was! The two speakers were Sir Stuart Hampson and Sir Ernest Hall. Sir Stuart spoke about the organisational ethos of the John Lewis Partnership, where the "employees" are the owners or partners of the business. People come first – partners and customers. It is a pity that more organisations aren’t such positive places to work and grow in.

Sir Ernest took as his thesis the importance of giving individuals the confidence to be able to achieve anything they want in life. He believes that most of us at an early age erect tightly constraining barriers which prevent us reaching our full potential, from being told that we "can’t do" this, that or the other. He feels that throughout their lives, people must be encouraged and supported, told that they are doing well, not slapped down and told they are stupid or discouraged from trying new things.

I sat there feeling really positive, knowing that much of my work involves supporting individuals to strive towards their full potential. I feel as if I am in the right place at the right time. The dinner afterwards was a good opportunity to network and learn from new acquaintances. And the downside of the evening? Ah, yes…bed at 01.15, after a moonlit drive home over the Pennines from Halifax.
But now I’m keen to complete the home stretch on the final report! 18.20 and I’ve hardly stopped all day; sandwich lunch after a brisk walk up to the post box, just to get my circulation going, to post cheque for neglected gas bill.

One glitch early afternoon: had a phone call from a colleague on the Gatsby project to say that he cannot now make the scheduled short-list meeting. We need a full complement of four, so back to the diaries. It can’t wait till Monday, so I quickly sent e-mails to the panellists giving a range of possible new dates and asking for urgent replies. I then phoned the Royal Mail and they confirmed that my report package was delivered safely this morning.

And back to the report. I’ve finished. My partner arrived back from a client meeting middle of the day, just in time to proof-read the draft document. So I made final changes and printed the report and all its annexes, and now the bound copies are with a letter parcelled up ready to take to the post office first thing in the morning. I’ve just time to check that there are no time-bombs left over from the week before going for a relaxing swim to wind down for the weekend.

My partner tells me that he stopped off briefly to visit our neighbour from the previous home, a wonderful lady now in her 80s, and he told her all about our RSA evening. It struck a chord with her, and she related to him that one of her teachers all those years ago had a routine way of dealing with any child who said "can’t" to a challenge. Teacher’s maxim was "Take the "T" off it. Make it "CAN"". Doesn’t that just say it all, Sir Ernest?

We are planning a lazy weekend. I’m away on business for much of the next week, so we have designated Sunday as our Valentine’s Day and are going to Liverpool to explore the Tate Gallery at the Albert Docks as a treat.

Help, I’ve found the time-bomb: that uncompleted CV for the client. The swim will have to wait for another hour!

© Diane Davy 2001

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