Update and Comments: 29 October 2019

Could someone possibly tell me what has caused this year to be only half as long as previous years? It seems just the other day that I was decorating my Christmas tree in time for the 2018 festive season, and now it’s almost that time yet again. I am beginning to think that there is an invisible and very devious time thief lurking out there, conniving and scheming to steal that very precious commodity from those of us who really could use a few extra months each year just to catch up on ourselves!

When a year begins with huge amounts of heavy rain resulting in a lounge having its own version of Niagara Falls, then I suppose it stands to reason that the rest of the year could be somewhat challenging. Roof and ceiling repairs, replacing a door, then small appliances deciding to give up the ghost, all played their part this year. Then last week my faithful laptop just made up its mind to go AWOL. No indication that it was suffering from stress, was overworked and under paid, and generally feeling frustrated and needing a long holiday. It just bit the dust, so to speak. It might have been a sign of loyalty if I had been given some kind of warning – but, no! Just a blank, non- responding screen.

Unfortunately, when one is totally dependent upon one’s computer, a quick decision needs to be made, and time is of the essence. Therefore, I am now getting my head around a new laptop with a more up to date version of Windows, and I hope that I haven’t lost too much of my writing due to the changeover. From now on, I think that the Cloud needs to become my new best friend. Cannot bear the thought of hours of work disappearing into thin air ever again!

All the above chit chat is just a way of letting you know that I am still here, in body if not always in mind, and back to bashing away on my brand new keyboard.

Until next time, it’s my hope that none of you are spooked out this Halloween!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Resignation

Dear Michael and Jane

It is with a great deal of regret and sadness that I am sending you this letter. We have been housemates now for roughly 4 years and I have got to the stage where, to coin a much used phrase, enough is enough. I am quitting as from today.

For all these years I have had your safety and needs at the forefront of my mind. I have never been able to do all the things that I really wanted to do, but only what you allowed. So many rules to obey and when I disobeyed them I was made to feel like an absolute loser, and you often threatened to get rid of me. Do you have any idea at all how that made me feel? You often made the comment that I looked upset, and maybe a bit guilty? Well, I actually did often feel hurt by your words and rough treatment of me, but all I was able to do was convey my feelings with my body language without saying a single word in my own defence.

You have been able to go out for expensive meals and have trips to the theatre whenever you felt like it, knowing that I was looking after your fancy house with all its precious antiques. I never ever broke a single item, and everything was always in perfect condition when you got home. You rarely even bothered thanking me for my loyalty, let alone having to stay awake until late at night until you both stumbled in, often reeking of alcohol. I must say that I was very glad when, several months ago, after your last run in with the traffic police, that you started using Uber to go out in the evenings. I used to worry as to what would happen to me should you be involved in a serious accident and not come home. I know it sounds very selfish, but we have been very much dependent on each other these past 4 years or so.

Anyway, as I said just now, enough is enough and I am leaving. At this stage I have not made up my mind exactly how I am going to move on with my life, but running away seems to be the best option. I am going to wait until I have had my breakfast tomorrow and, when you open the gate to bring in the rubbish bin, I am going to make a dash for it. I have made good friends with the woman who runs the local doggy grooming parlour, and she and her workers are very fond of me. I know that they will help me to find another job. They are sure to be prepared to give me a good recommendation, should it be required. They have always been suspicious of the way you two have treated me – almost like a poor, mentally deficient relative.

So, come what may, this letter is to tell you that you both need to look at your selfish behaviour and, before it is too late, make serious changes. Even at this stage things could be improved, but it’s all up to you. I have done my best to be hard working and honest, and I have never attacked you or made a mess in the house. I have been faithful, loving and courteous to your ghastly relatives with their ill-bred brats. I so often wanted to nip their overweight backsides, and really had to force myself to be well controlled when they visited you. You can be very grateful that I didn’t savage either of you two either, and believe me there have been many times when I would willingly have taken a big chunk out of you both. Especially when you sit on the couch, watching a rugby match, drinking beer and munching away on delicious biltong and offering me not a single solitary piece. Greedy devils that you are!

Well, you will find this letter once I have left, and hopefully you will come to your senses, see just what you have lost, and perhaps we can come to some or other amicable arrangement for the future. However, this is all up to you – the ball is totally in your court! Maybe you could consider buying me a couple of new ones if I do agree to any new terms and conditions which I feel may improve my life should I return to your home.

Anyway, you may find me at the parlour, unless I have already found a new home.

Regards

Mickey the Mutt

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Direct Sales – Chapter 5

How to project a professional image to your customers.
Your Appearance does matter !

Now that you have embarked upon your new career, you need to feel confident and in control. This may take quite a bit of time and practice, especially if your background has not necessitated your meeting new people on a regular basis. It can be rather daunting to wake up in the morning knowing that you are going to have to make a serious effort to generate some business in order to start making money.

One of the most important tips which I was given very early in my sales career was to make sure that you are dressed and ready for the day before you start getting in touch with anyone in connection with your job. You cannot focus on projecting a business-like manner on the phone if you are still dressed in last night’s pyjamas.

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Dress for Success is the motto you should try to keep in your mind at all times. Get up, get showered, have a bite to eat and then dress in a presentable manner, especially if you are going out to meet clients. Even if you are planning on spending the day at your desk doing phone calling, it is not a good idea to wear scruffy old gardening clothes. Obviously you don’t dress in the same way as when you go out, but you still need to feel business-like.

Whenever you leave the home, remember that you never know whom you are going to bump into whether at the shops, outside your children’s school or in the doctor’s waiting room etc. Try to get into the habit of always looking neat and presentable, and wear that identifying badge of yours at all times. You will be surprised at how often people will ask you about your line of business, purely because they have seen your name badge.

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Can you imagine how embarrassing it could be if you rushed out to buy a loaf of bread at lunchtime, wearing a scruffy, paint splattered tee shirt and shabby shorts, only to bump into a new customer of yours who has just spent a large amount of money purchasing some of your products? Not a good image to project at all! I am not saying that you have to wear business clothes when you are at the coast on a family vacation, but in the normal scheme of things, think before you leave home and ask yourself whether you are looking  neat enough for any eventuality.

Another tip which I found useful was to make a note of the clothes which you wear when you go to a customer’s home, either for a product demonstration for her friends, or a one on one advice session.   Even on a rather limited budget, you should be able to mix and match just a few attractive items of clothing, so you don’t appear to be wearing a monotonous uniform.  Of course, it could well be that the company you represent has a designated dress code in a specific style and colour which you are expected to wear.  Otherwise, it’s wise to try to look as though you have a varied selection of business clothes.

Personal hygiene is critical, and one should always be aware of the fact that last night’s garlic loaded dinner is not conducive to comfortable interactions with anyone the following day, let alone customers.  If you happen to be a smoker then this can also become a problem when dealing with the public. Nothing is worse for a non-smoker than to have the smell of tobacco wafting into your space from either a cigarette or a smoker’s clothing. Being vigilant regarding one’s total appearance as well as one’s breath are all part and parcel of being able to feel confident in one’s job. Having breath fresheners, deodorant as well as touch up make-up products with you at all times, especially when you are expecting to be away from home for several hours, all help you to feel more relaxed and confident in your dealings with the public.

Communication

You may not be very comfortable with using your telephone to conduct your business but, practice can make perfect!  There is nothing more irritating than phoning someone and that person answers with “hello”. The correct manner for answering a call should be to identify either yourself or the company for which you work.  “Jane Smith speaking. How can I help you” or “Brown’s Engineering, Jane speaking”, is so much more professional and the caller then knows they have contacted the right person or company. Working for yourself in direct sales, it will be your name which you use when phoning out or answering a call.

Never assume that the person you are calling will remember you. It is far better to identify yourself to the person on the other end of the phone, for example in this way: “hello Mary, this is Jane Smith, your representative for …….”. They will in time recognise your voice, but it is presumptuous to expect people to instantly know who you are especially if it is some time since you last spoke to them.

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Another good tip is to “put a smile in your voice” when either dialling out or answering an incoming call. Nothing is more off-putting than a gruff or decidedly unfriendly voice on the other end of the line. I personally have known a woman for many years and, if I didn’t know her as well as I do, I would immediately put down the phone without speaking to her. She answers with a very rude and unfriendly “hello!” and only mellows once she knows who she is speaking to. She is most definitely not a candidate for dealing with the public in general!

If you are unsure of how you sound on the phone, then record yourself speaking and play it back. This way you can change your tone and, if it helps, look in a mirror while you smile and talk on the phone. The way in which you are able to communicate comfortably with your customers is also a reflection of your professionalism.  Once again, old adage applies: Practice makes perfect!

Remember to record a voice message on your telephones, the landline as well as your mobile and regularly check your messages. It is so bad mannered to ignore a message and people never cease to be surprised when you actually call them back! This world we are living in has forgotten what it is to be polite and if your break the mould by being courteous it will pay dividends in the long run. You will be known as being reliable and polite and, above all, professional.

We all need to feel special

I may have mentioned in a previous chapter the importance of keeping notes regarding your customers. Either by using the old style index filing system or utilising your smart phone, you can have many snippets of information about people who buy from you which is sure to impress them when you refer to them. Things such as birthdays, anniversaries, a child’s illness, a husband having some sort of crisis – all these facts can be mentioned in a caring way when next you speak to the customer. They will often be amazed that you have bothered to remember what they told you, and that you  are not only interested in them buying more products from you but that you value them as people and not just customers.

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A small gift at Christmas with a note thanking a customer for their loyalty during the year will not only be well received but will usually cement the relationship with them, and they are likely to recommend you to their friends and relatives in the future. Sometimes it helps to actually use an old style desk diary each year in order to jot down memory joggers such as the customer’s birthday and also to remind you at Christmastime of the small gift you gave them the previous year. You don’t want to be perceived as the kind of salesperson who gives a gift as an afterthought with no memory of having given the identical item the previous year! Suddenly your professionalism could take a nasty knock!

Punctuality is also critical in making people feel that they are valued. If you make an appointment with a customer make sure that you are organized and get to your destination on time. If you are delayed by a crisis, then it is critical that you let the other person know that you have a problem and how you plan to remedy it. Time is important to everyone and when someone makes a habit of arriving late, it is a sign of disrespect and shows that you are not professional in your field.  Curved balls are a part of everyday life, and no-one will be angry with you if you get your car out of the garage and realise that you have a flat tyre. As long as you contact the person you are scheduled to see, then you have done the right thing. If you just arrive an hour late without any indication that you have been delayed, and expect to be well received, the truth is that you will have burnt your bridges as far as building trust and being perceived as a reliable sales representative.

One last thing in this chapter which I would like to mention is the importance of keeping your word. Nothing is worse than insincerity and making false promises. Think before you commit and make sure that you have noted down (in your desk diary or on your phone) what it is you have promised to do – and do it! There is just way too much insincerity in the world today, and when people go back on their word it is very easy for the person who was promised something to feel rejected and unworthy.  After all, these tips are all about remembering that we all like to feel special.

“What I adore is supreme professionalism. I’m bored
by writers who can write only when it’s raining.

– Noel Coward

Update and Comments: 22 September 2019

No excuse at all is acceptable for the fact that for the past few weeks there has been virtually nothing posted on my blog. I could blame it on the excitement of having celebrated a birthday with all the messages and phone-calls which accompanied that day in the calendar, but that would be a bit of a feeble excuse. After all, it should be second nature, after many years of multi- tasking, to be able to sit down and write something relatively intelligent in order to let people know that I still exist.

Living in Johannesburg, South Africa, unlike other parts of the world, we really only have two seasons – winter and summer. Although we talk about the first day of Spring being the first of September, it has often turned out to be one of the coldest winter days instead of heralding warm, balmy temperatures. This year was no exception, and it reminded me of being in my last year of high school when we were invited to visit an old age home in the town in which I lived at the time. We were asked to wear summer dresses and bring small bunches of flowers to give to the old people. It turned out to be a really bitterly cold day and we all felt as though we were going to die of exposure!

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We have a plant known as Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow which blooms in September each year. It has a beautiful strong fragrance which reaches your nostrils as soon as you come through the front gate. The sad thing is that it should have been named Here Today and Gone Tomorrow because, as soon as the temperature soars, like today, the flowers  as well as the fragrance fades and the plant is soon no longer a thing of beauty but a rather sad, dried out has-been.  That is what happens when you only have the two seasons. Living in Italy years ago it was so good for the soul to see how new buds and leaves grew slowly every day as Spring days followed those of Winter. In Jo’burg, if you blink you miss the transition from stark, bare winter branches to trees covered in an abundance of fully formed summer foliage!

One must not jump to the conclusion that everything here is faster than in other parts of the world –most certainly not! That is a bone of contention for many of us who have had to try to learn patience or expire! Africa is Africa and some things still take place according to African time!  As relaxed as it could be to do things in slow motion, it doesn’t bode well when one is reliant on modern technology in order to run a business.  Enough said! The sun is shining, the weather is hot, the birds are chirping and I am back in writing mode!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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So much wasted time

We often bear grudges and carry hurts and slights for years, and I don’t think there is anyone who, if they are totally honest with themselves, can say that they have never borne a grudge against either a family member who has upset them, or a friend or colleague who they feel has let them down in one way or another. It takes courage and a real desire to put matters straight, to actually make the first move and try to normalise the relationship. Not always easy, especially if the other party has decided that they are quite happy with the current status quo. Even if one makes the first move to make amends, it isn’t always a straight forward situation. Often the other party refuses to co-operate and to communicate at all.  After several attempts there is often no other option than to try to put the matter behind you and to move on, but not always as easy as that. Depending on the relationship that exists between the two parties, it can sometimes drag one down emotionally on a regular basis. All of us really do have an innate desire to be liked, if not loved, and failing this can be very upsetting, or even depressing.

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Looking at other peoples’ scenarios, it is often divorce situations which culminate in grudges and hurts. To have to fight with an ex-partner for maintenance for one’s children can often result in feelings of anger, hurt as well as deep resentment. These feelings are often very obvious to the children of the broken relationship, resulting in unhappy situations for everyone involved. It is never easy to hide hurt and anger and it is often grudgingly that one parent allows the children to spend time with the other. Children soon latch on to the vibes prevalent in a broken relationship and are very adept at using the situation to their own advantage and playing one parent off against the other.

Obviously the ideal scenario would be for both mother and father to remain on good terms with one another, but this seems to be the exception and certainly not the rule. In many cases infidelity has caused the divorce in the first instance, so it would be highly unlikely for there to be too much love lost between the ex partners. Jealousy regarding the comfortable financial status of the errant partner compared to that of the “injured” party,  or the fact that the new spouse is more attractive or more qualified than the ex, can be a constant cause of pain and hurt.  The situation often becomes even worse when the new partner becomes pregnant and there is suddenly a half brother or sister to further complicate matters.

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We most certainly do not live in an ideal world and humans are human because they are creatures with feelings which often are very difficult to disguise. We do not, unlike our canine friends, give unconditional love and ask only for food and shelter. However, having said that, one can look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and he identified man’s first need as being the satisfaction of hunger and thirst i.e. survival. Secondly, the need for shelter and money. So, in that regard, we actually are not unlike our canine friends. However, once our basic needs are satisfied we are driven by other motivating factors such as the need to be loved, accepted and respected by others etc., until, finally, we are able to strive for self- actualisation – not a need which many of us actually achieve.

Just reading what I have written, I would like to reiterate by saying once again that possibly the only real unconditional love we will ever experience in life is that which comes from our four legged friends. They don’t bear grudges, sulk (well not often, anyway), or keep on harping on about past grievances. They seem to have an incredible ability to forgive and forget! If only we could be as simplistic in our relationships then our lives might be so much less challenging.

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Mary

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary
Tell me why your legs are hairy?
Don’t you even stop and think
Or are you always at the sink
Washing dishes, making food
Looking after all your brood?
The man you married
Whom the kids call Dad
Deserves to remember
The wife he once had;
Instead of that he sees a drag-
Moaning and groaning
An untidy old bag.
Now get your act together
Regardless of the weather.
Go look in the mirror and what do you see-
I know you’ll say “is that really me?”

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Now off to the salon to get your hair cut.
No arguments please and don’t say “but”.
Do as you are told and move it Mary,
You can’t carry on with legs so hairy.
So make the time when you get back
To take a hot bath and use a face pack.
Then get those legs groomed before he comes home.
If you don’t make an effort
His eyes are going to roam.
No-one deserves to have a sloppy wife,
And he will start to make comments
Which will cut you like a knife.

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So you know the kids are playing
At your neighbours for the day,
So take my advice and do not delay.
Make yourself gorgeous before the day is done
And you may be surprised and be the lucky one,
Whose husband is delighted when he comes in through the door.
This is the person he had fun with years before.
The children will be proud to call you their Mum
And you my dear Mary – well the good times they will come!

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Service with a smile – the ups and downs of running a pub/restaurant – Part 1.

Part 1

There are so many memories, both good and sometimes not so good, which I hope will make interesting reading for anyone who frequents pubs and restaurants.  Knowing what goes on behind the scenes whilst you are tucking into that succulent steak and taking a sip from a glass of really good wine could surprise you if you ever found out! However, some secrets are best kept secret to protect innocent people involved!

After having tired of the many years of being witness to the constant presence of in-house politics in the corporate world, my other half decided that it was time for us to have our own business and to take control over our lives. Little did we realise that having control, when dealing with the public at large, is more a dream than a reality. However, we were excited to try something quite new and, after a great deal of research, decided that to go the franchise route would offer us a much better chance of succeeding in our venture than trying to go it alone.

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man,
by which 
so much happiness is produced as by
a good tavern.
” – Samuel Johnson

Due to many stumbling blocks along the way to our getting our business up and running, we finally opened our doors (under the watchful eye of several members of the franchise head office staff) a few weeks before Christmas. What an opening it proved to be. From the moment the locals knew we were in operation, it was absolute pandemonium. Despite all of us, owners and managers, front of house staff, as well as the entire kitchen complement, having received fairly in-depth training from the franchisor, the reality of providing quick, efficient service to the masses was daunting to say the least! None of us had time to eat anything at all whilst on duty during the first few weeks. Our uniforms started hanging off us due to weight loss but we were too busy rushing around to even notice!

The pub we bought had an Irish theme and catered for 75 people in the restaurant area. There were also tables in the bar area where one could eat as well. Therefore, it stands to reason that for brand new owners and staff it was no mean feat to keep demanding patrons happy all the time. Despite having had a trial evening where friends and family had been invited to test our capabilities in preparing meals and giving the appropriate service, the first few days of business were totally crazy. The most relaxed members of our entire staff were the barmen as they had taken to their job like ducks to water, or drunks to drink! They were young, enthusiastic and great with the public.

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We had really hit the jackpot by finding ourselves a true Irishman several weeks before we opened and we employed him as our head barman due to his previous experience and outgoing personality. He was confident in handling a busy bar and he proved to be an absolute bonus for the few months in which he worked for us. He left in a bit of a hurry under some sort of a cloud, by all account but it was probably due to domestic problems. He was in his early twenties and had a great affinity for a certain four letter word whilst telling you where to go! This came out of Gordon’s mouth regularly in a broad Belfast accent. He was working in a pub and not a church or a school so there was no need to censor the barman.  The piece de resistance was the fact that he taught one of our young Black kitchen staff to parrot his expression. Every evening as Jonathan left to catch the staff transport, Gordon would ask him to repeat his favourite saying.  The reaction of the patrons when they heard a Black guy swearing in an Irish accent had to be seen to be believed.

The kitchen staff were under great pressure in those early days but all things considered the mistakes were few and far between. The food which came out of our kitchen was first class and relatively speedily prepared. There are many amusing incidents which I would love to share with you which involved our kitchen workers, but this I will leave for a later post.

Our young waiters had all just recently left school and there were some amusing incidents (in hindsight, and not at the time). A few weeks into running the business a rather irate woman called me over to her table to complain about one of my waiters who had sworn at her. I asked who had served her and she told me who it was – the only boy we had as yet employed (girls were the favoured choice of the franchisor – but we soon changed the dynamics to suit our needs). I called the youngster over and, away from prying eyes, I asked him what had happened. It turned out that the woman had asked him what was in the pie of the day? Being new to the menu as well as the job he answered “shit, I don’t know!” We all found it amusing – pity the miserable old bat couldn’t see the humour! Anyway, afterwards we tried to ensure that all the young staff actually had a good idea of the contents of each day’s special pie!

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We were put on a spot by our replacement bank manager to give his blonde and rather dumb daughter a part time waitressing job. Suffice to say she didn’t last very long as she just could not learn at all. The best memory I have of her was the busy Sunday lunch when one of the waiters was frantically looking for the chicken schnitzel which the kitchen staff had prepared ready for delivery to the customer. It had disappeared from the relevant preparation station. However, there was an abandoned ostrich fillet starter standing all alone in the cold prep section. We soon found out what had happened. The dizzy blonde had grabbed the schnitzel and taken it to the customer who had ordered the ostrich starter, who in turn hadn’t said a word and proceeded to devour it. When the waitress was told what she had done, her reply was, “well, I knew it was some kind of a bird!”

So many memories, but that is all for now! Will be back with another batch of memories of those busy days (and nights too!).

“I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they  wake up
in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going
to feel all day.” – Jack Lemmon