Woza Friday! This has been a week of 5 a.m. starts and 12 and13 hour days. My last business call on Tuesday night ended around 10 pm. Last night Rob and I got home at 8 from a talk on sustainability at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, by Mervyn King, author of the eponymous reports on corporate governance, chair of the Global Reporting Initiative, and former Supreme Court judge. This morning it is a breakfast meeting at Scuzi, followed by a full day of meetings at the office. I am not complaining. This is good, it means that things are happening.
Monday kicked off (this is 2010, FIFA World Cup, hey) with a breakfast meeting at Scuzi in Parkview with the very model of a modern director general, arising from which I offered to draft a note on reviewing the national plan for something or other. From there to our fortnightly management team meeting at the office – usually a dull, protracted affair (I have long since given up trying to make the case for shorter meetings, and desist from calculating the costs in terms of lost person-hours and productivity) but on this occasion enlivened by an actual debate, on the plans of our new Business in Society unit, and our ongoing work on energy and climate – where, for the last two years, I have been chipping away at my popularity ratings by pointing out that we are falling behind in the debate, we are following rather than leading the action, we have events but no strategy. A long story all of its own, but this is not the place to go into it….
Tuesday was the most scattered day of all, although, as I shall explain, a golden thread of logic and planning ran through it all and indeed, through the week as a whole. Up early, to get some work done on my computer, and then, first thing, it was off to Hyde Park for a battery of photos, for my Canadian permanent residence application. From there I drove to my attorney’s in Linksfield, to pick up the divorce order and the papers transferring ownership of the Emmarentia house – except that, when I got there, I was informed, with some embarrassment, that the courier had just left with the wrong papers, i.e. mine, and was on his way to Pretoria – and out of contact. Minor snafu. Snafu, for those of you who need the translation, stands for ‘situation normal, all fucked up.’ Back to Sandton, to pick up my police clearance certificate, again for the Canadian application. From there it was a short hop to the new Morningside shopping centre, to meet up at a little café called Tasha’s, with Rob and my old colleague Ros, for an early lunch and a good chat. Ros left my organisation back in 2005 and has been consulting ever since, doing some of her work on colleges through one of the Big Four consulting firms; in this respect, she has been the trailblazer, heading out on a path that I am now, with growing enthusiasm and only a modicum of trepidation, about to embark on. We had much to talk about. So too did Rob; Ros has a deep love of the arts, and contacts, and had some useful ideas which Rob will follow up when she comes back in August to Johannesburg.
Rob leaves in under a week – let me not go there right now, except to say that she is leaving at exactly the wrong time (when would be the ‘right’ time, I wonder?!), just as the house is settling into a zone of comfort and welcoming, peace and happiness, a place for two little people to build two happy little lives together….
… As I was saying, Tuesday was a little busy. In the middle of lunch with Ros and Rob there was a call from my optometrist, saying that my new spectacles were ready. Two pairs (the joys of middle age!) – one pair of multi-focus specs for general use; a second multi-focus pair for office work – tuned, in other words, for switching between reading a book and scanning the computer monitor. Eish! But lekker stylish I think – Rob thinks the general purpose pair, frameless, with blue arms (what is the correct technical term?) looks way stylish with my grey hair. Anyway, of course I stopped off to pick them up and have them cleaned and fitted, and to part with some hard-earned cash, too, needless to say. From there to the office in Parktown, for a meeting, then a dash back to Sandton, down a busy M1, to meet up with my personal banker, to sign and submit the loan application that, assuming it is approved, will allow me to pay out Eileen and get started on the major repairs at Emmarentia. I also set up what used to be called a stop order, but now is known as a scheduled payment – my young and quite charming banker, Olga, gave me a tolerant smile when I said that I guessed my calling it a stop order betrayed my age – for monthly maintenance for Eileen. And then, on my way home, finally, I realised that I just might make it to the chic little salon where, on Saturday, I had ordered a small round table, chrome base, and three little black and chrome chairs, for my home office. I called ahead, and a few minutes past five I was loaded up and on my way home at last.
Wednesday was a day of wall to wall meetings, and of blood sacrifice. Thursday a day of writing, a 10 page note for the DG on reviewing the national plan (one does not broach state secrets on the internet, so I shall say no more). Friday, more meetings. – But, blood sacrifice?! you might ask, incredulously. In this day and age? Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but I have my rights: as a fully paid up, card-carrying member of the Order of Lily-Livered Cowards, I have the right to squeal and complain when there are needles to be stuck into my shrinking veins. Wednesday, in short, was also the day of the Canadian Medical, a physical tour de horizon carried out with such relentless speed and efficiency that you could almost hear the cash register ringing, by a fast-talking, wisecracking Jewish doctor, played by Groucho Marx. Ears, eyes, throat; height and weight; family jewels; and then, after I had confessed my fears, the heartless humour of the medical doctor: “nurse, where are those rusty sharpies, the ones we picked up cheap in Zimbabwe?” Only two vials of my blood, one for the HIV/Aids test; the other for purposes unknown – perhaps to test the alcohol in my blood. Perspiring, I took the needle like a man, and half an hour later, was my normal self again. Off across the road, to the radiographer for chest x-rays (too many Cohibas?), and then, at last, I was free to go.
In further developments, as we like to say, I have had gratifying discussions with a potential client of my future consulting business: an offer of a directorship, an invitation to sit on a high-level technical review team which will review and quality assure all work before it goes out the door; and a generous consulting rate for any work that I do. As Helena, my life coach, has said, the market is already indicating that there is a demand for my services – and it is reassuring to see some concrete evidence that this is so….
I mentioned earlier that there was a golden thread running through all of this frenetic rush and activity. It is simply this: all these small activities are the sign and measure of the big things that are moving forward: my Canadian permanent residence application; cleaning up after the divorce; financing the restoration of the Emmarentia house; generating the new work for my current employer that will help to keep me employed when I leave to go on contract; the beginnings of new business as an independent consultant. Life it seems does not merely begin, it really starts happening at 56.
In consideration of which, a blood sacrifice, no matter how small and symbolic, may, after all, be entirely appropriate.