Thursday, December 17, 2009

My boss ... and the doggy-hotel

I got to Birmingham in good time and it was an excellent meeting. In the evening my lovely boss stood up to give my assistant (who is also leaving the company - sob, boo, hiss) her leaving present and say a few words ... actually some really nice words - I felt so proud of her. Then another colleague stood up to make a speech about my boss leaving and gave her our leaving gift. As is customary, my Line Manager replied to say thank you ... said a few words, and was doing quite well until she said, "and I am so proud of all of you" and her voice broke. My eyes were swimming in tears and I was blinking lots to try and stop the tears escaping onto my face, and kind of managed.

Then it was time. Time to smash the pot. Sue knew that I had asked people attending the funeral to donate money to Bullying UK if they preferred not to buy flowers ... and introduced a new tradition at our bi-monthly meetings ... we'd play some games in the evenings at these meetings (mini-golf, wii-fit, shove ha'penny etc) which essentially meant that the whole team ended up putting most of their spare change in the pot. She told me it was a way to commemorate Cliff throughout the first year and raise some money for a charity that represented something very dear to him. Cliff hated bullies. He despised them. If you've read my earlier posts, you'll understand why.

My boss Sue happens to be THE best line manager I have EVER worked with. That's quite a statement when you consider that I am 45 years old. She might be my boss and I respect her, however, she also happens to have become my friend. We share the same sense of humour and she's proved to be such a good coach and mentor ... I can't really write a precis of what I have learned from working with her and shan't attempt to ... suffice to say that I shall miss her IMMENSELY. Conversely, I'm happy for her because she will get to spend more time at home in her new role. Sue came to Cliff's funeral, she protected me when I returned to work, as fiercely as a lioness protects her cubs. She intuitively knew what I was capable of, gently pulling in the reins when I was eager to run before I could crawl (because running equated escapism, especially in the early days). The foundation that she laid for me at work seeped into my home world too and I can honestly say that without her, I would not be in the "place" I am in today. I trust her implicitly. Exactly one week and one year after Cliff died, she is leaving ... I'm sad, but happy for her. And I shall keep in touch. How can I not? There is no way to thank somebody for helping you to retain your sanity when I teetered on the borderline for those few months. From a purely selfish viewpoint, I am sad to let her go, but perhaps strong enough ... thanks to her. Some people might say that what she did went with the territory, i.e. it was her job. Believe me, they are wrong. She did far more for me.

And so ... it was time to smash the pot. Sue brought along her husband's hammer for the occasion ... I had contemplated bringing along one of Cliff's hammers to smash it open, but knew that it would probably make me even more emotional, however appropriate it might have been.

Sue said a few words whilst cuddling me ... about how I was in a very different place a (almost) year ago - and I think that she remembered that time vividly, as I did ... and started crying. I joined her. We were both trying to speak but were too choked, so I broke the spell, saying, "oh come on, let's just smash the fucking pot," which was received by a lot of relieved laughter.

I took the hammer. I could see him in my mind's eye. I thought about how he would have smashed it. He was so clever with his hands. Oh god, I could SEE his hands. And I turned that pot at a tangent and tapped it with the hammer. It broke clean open. No bits went flying, despite the fact I could see (especially the men) everyone tensing up for flying pieces of shrapnel. I was determined not to bawl and focused on gathering up the money, whilst sitting on the floor like a 3 year old. Kate came over and sat on the floor with me and helped me put it all in a bag. Then Sue raised her glass, "Here's to Cliff," and we all toasted him together. It was very emotional ... but it was a very comforting thing for me to do. It made me proud of him. It made me proud of the team.

I love my team.

And, it transpires that we raised £120 (thanks to Sue's daughter Kizzie who kindly counted up the money) which will rise to £240 when my Company matches the fund-raising effort. In Cliff's name. To help kids who are bullied ... something he knew all about ... and when he grew into a big mo-fo he never forgot how it felt.
And I get to keep the "coin" that is found in each pot when you buy it.

He'd protect animals, kids, women, old people ... anyone who was bullied by anyone. Just one example of this was when we'd popped into our local shop and we overheard a man telling the female assistant, "if you take this further (shoplifting) I'll smash your face in." Clearly he hadn't noticed us in the back of the store, but he certainly heard Cliff growling, "not while I'm in here you won't." I walked up to the assistant and asked if she was ok and told her we weren't leaving until they (the low-life and his side-kicks) did. I can remember her shaking like a leaf and I reassured her that no one would touch her. They didn't. They left. In fact, the bully was shaking when he left - LOL.


After the meeting, I got home safely, despite the snow blizzard. The house didn't feel like home without the dogs. I kept thinking about Lynette ... and kept crying.

Today, I was so excited because I was going to the doggy-hotel to pick them up, and left work early to enable me to do so. En route, I stopped at Pets R Us to buy a dog-cage and two new leads and got to the kennels at 17h15. It was locked. Lights out. I called their number. No answer. Decided to erect dog cage in back of car. Couldn't get it out of the box. Threw a tantrum. Big style. There was bits of cardboard flying everywhere. Finally got it out of the box. Erected the cage fairly easily. Cage wouldn't fit in the fucking car. Threw another tantrum. Flat-packed cage. Put it in the back of the car. Erected it again. Sorted. Sweet Jesus. Checked phone. No reply from kennel owner. Lit a Marlboro Lite and started crying.

Then someone tapped on the passenger window to find me sobbing. It was the owner. She said she was terrified because she thought, "perhaps some gypsies were rooting about" (it is PITCH black there - but since when do gypsies case a property in a BMW with the main beam headlights shining). I told her that I was widowed this year and had got there 10 minutes late (got closing time wrong) and was upset because I couldn't pick them up. She asked me if mine was the long-haired Jack Russell and the deaf dog? Yes they are. OK, let's get them.

We go in and Barney can hear my voice and starts barking for me. All the other dogs, including Fred, in his inimitable tone-deaf bark, join in the unearthly chorus. We are shouting at each other above the din. I've realized that I don't have any cash and she doesn't take any form of plastic. She agrees I can pop in with the cash after work tomorrow, and reassures me that Fred and Barney have been happy there, although Fred has peed all over the two new toys that I bought for their holiday. She shuts the middle cage door and lets our two dogs out. They run over and start licking my fingers through the cage door and I start crying again. She tells me that she isn't worrying about me owing her any money. Then she tells another dog, sporting an extremely doleful expression, that she will be back in a minute to put his coat back on because his Mum said he had to wear it in case it got cold. And she does.

And I know that next time I go away, whether for business or pleasure, I won't cry, nor will I worry. And they won't fret either. Because now they understand that I come back for them.

But it's good to have them home.

And that makes me think about Lynette again.

Which makes me cry again.

I just want this fucking year to be gone.


  1. What a great read. I can just see (and hear) you trying to get the blasted dog cage put together. How lucky you were that the owner came back and got your doggies for you.

    I didn't quite understand about the pot of money, except it was in Cliff's memory and going to a charity against bullying? It was a great idea anyway--whereever it came from.

    Hoping you get through the Holidays okay--just don't expect yourself to be calm and collected and cry if you want to--it is all right!!!

  2. i love this. it reads like a script or a diary entry. as Jude says, i can hear you cursing the dog cage. i'm so glad you're back, that you got through it and have such wonderful friends around you. so fortunate to have had your lioness to protect you and be there for you. you deserve such support. i'm happy Fred and Barney are back with you. i know you missed them as much as they missed you. and yeah, i want 2009 over and done with, except then it will be one year anniversaries. crap. i'm glad you're home safe.

  3. Boo,

    Sounds like you just went through quite an emotional ride, and if I read it right, all in a day. It's comforting for me to know that I'm not the only one that loses it once in awhile.

    You know, sanity is not all it's cracked up to be. Speaking of cracked up, I love the charity you picked in Cliff's memory. I'm all for standing up for the underdogs of this world. Actually, underdogs sounds so horrible, doesn't it.

    Anyway, what a blessing you boss has been. And what a blessing it is to recognize wonderful relationships.

    Welcome home!

  4. thanks all!

    Jude - at each team meeting we held this year, we played games and the losers had to put money in the pot (pictured) and at the last meeting I had to smash the pot open to see how much money we'd collected.

    I am relieved to be home and have dogs back, even tho I got snowed in!!!

  5. OMG Boo - what an emotional ride - I am so glad the kennel owner came and you got the doggies. These dark days of winter are so hard and layered on top of the grief crap - holding you, holding you, holding you. Do whatever the hell you want - just try to be gentle with you. Love and Hugs - Suzann

  6. thanks S ... I think being snowed in had its positive side ... it enabled me to recover!