From the start of the academic school year until we collapse on Boxing day I’m stressed. There is no point denying the fact that I probably go a bit mad and I may even admit, begrudgingly, that I’m a tinsy-winsy bit difficult to live with? It all starts with the back-to-school rush; new shoes – why do 90% of the world leave it until the last minute? Trying on uniforms only to find they are totally outgrown. The sports kit has almost always been eaten by the dog or disappeared into the washing machine’s engine. Then there’s the money hit; lunches, snacks, train passes, fees, new Lamy pens – do they really need to spend £20 on a pen? It all comes at once.
On the work front, September is theoretically a joy. I breathe a sigh of relief that I can, at last, get back into a sensible routine and do my job with a little more efficiency than I have during my juggling holiday weeks. But somehow everyone else has the same idea and it all comes to a head together; there are no end of deadlines, everyone wants to write that article or get a comment for that book or put on that networking lunch, achieve that target, launch that new range, open that new store. It’s shocking how productive and efficient the world is in September.
This month (on a work level) I have been asked to give 5 speeches, invited to 4 lunches, we are theoretically supposed to be opening 3 stores, we complete on our new head office in South Wales, we have our retail managers meeting in London and two weeks of training new teams. Plus the usual photo shoots, collection launches, range planning and generally getting on with working with my team to run the company.
On the networking front I was today at a very grand lunch given by the Express newspapers’ Chairman. Having been flattered into accepting (months ago when I had temporarily forgotten how frantic this month is) I was treated to a lavish lunch in the company of Rt Hon David Willetts MP plus editors of all the Express group papers. There were even a couple of other business people there to make up the numbers. Shockingly about 4 of the guests in this very exclusive lunch had failed to turn up on the day (despite being on the guest list circulated a few days earlier). I’m not quite sure what the point of the event was, but two things struck me: The poor old Tory minister was given an ear-full from one of the Express editors and made impressive attempts to defend his party. Another odd occurrence was the fact that the Chairman SMOKED between courses. I was gob smacked. There we were, talking about how to get growth going again in the UK, when suddenly I was engulfed in billowing blue smoke. Quite extraordinary, but actually whilst I’m pretty anti-smoking myself and I’d far rather a gust of fresh air or Chanel No 5 – I also thought “Good on you man”. Of course I politely ignored the ultimate social faux pas. Not the fact he was smoking in his office, but that he rudely ‘forgot’ to offer them round. In fact the experience reminded me of a time many years ago, when I was a 15 year old holiday job waitress at a private dinner party attended by Princess Margaret. I did my very best not to pour the salmon into her fragrant lap – especially tricky when I was surprised to see her not only smoking between courses but after the cigarette was stubbed out carefully applying new lipstick with mirror whilst her flustered neighbours tried to keep up polite conversation.
So we try to manage and get on with as much as possible and I make sure I don’t miss the ‘parents’ evenings’, ‘meet the new teachers’ days or ‘plan your child’s future’ seminars. I try not to let my colleagues at JoJo down and try to get all my chores and targets out of the way. Sadly I have to prioritise a few of the PR opportunities (public speaking, interviews, lunches, etc). And very, very sadly have to miss the exciting invitations to dance the night away in Ibiza. Yes, that’s right – I’ve just decided that I can’t make an entrepreneurs get together hosted by the lovely Richard from Innocent. A night of hedonistic pleasure I’m sure but it will have to be passed over since this is a month of prioritising the important things in life. Sniff, sniff.
But when it comes to making these important decisions on what to do and what to drop, I have decided that Monday nights are going to be sacred. From now on NOTHING will get in the way of my Monday nights at home. Both my boys are learning French and I do love a good French film; my favourites; Metro, Diva, La Haine, etc. So being the devious mother that I am, I have decided that my boys MUST have TV supper with me and MUST watch a French film to further their education (and keep their mother sane till Boxing day).