What happened is we took a two-week holiday to Holly’s mum’s apartment in Tenerife. The accommodation was free (thanks Lyn) and the flights were paid for in advance, but even so we went feeling very poor.
It’s a wonderful place to go for a holiday. The weather was near-perfect. Every day we went to the beach to build castles and sea defenses with flags and moats, and played in the pool. Dylan made us all jump in, holding hands, time and time again. He made lots of friends with the lovely Spanish children who played in the pool and shared their toys and swam like fish. I wrote Little Horrors and read more than half of Adam Levin’s brilliant epic The Instructions. We ate well and watched the Saints day parade down the main street of Puerto Santiago from the Chinese Restaurant where they know us (well, Dylan) well from previous visits, and then we watched the fireworks. And I made very good use of a prepaid international SIM card that I’d had hanging around since I was made redundant.
What happened is I started writing to companies and offering to work for free (for the experience) with no real success. I started using LinkedIn to connect with various Directors and Heads of Internal Communications, and writing to them directly—which got me an interview with the newly formed TSB bank in Bristol and lead me to briefly consider working part time in Aberdeen. I also registered to various websites, including Nationwide’s, to receive job alerts. It’s pretty demoralizing when people don’t want you to work for free.
Shortly before we went to Tenerife, I received an email from Nationwide, inviting me to apply for a role as Corporate Communications Business Partner. My instincts told me to ignore the job because (a) it was exactly the job I was after and (b) it was well paid. Eventually I applied to make up the numbers on my job centre report, and thought nothing more of it.
What happened is I received an answerphone message while we were in Tenerife from Nationwide. I called back and was invited to interview for the job. I laughed about it with Holly. We got home on the Wednesday and on the Friday, I went to my cousin’s wedding in Milton Keynes. On Saturday morning, my brother-in-law drove me down to Woolacombe for the middle two days of a four-day stag weekend, and we had an excellent time getting drunk outside a pub on the beach while the stag party were bowling in a nearby town. On the Monday morning, I researched Nationwide on the internet and saw that they’d been in the news for technical, financial reasons involving phrases like Basel III and leverage ratios. These are things I understand because of my previous job. I drove to Swindon that lunchtime, articulating my pitch – my one shot – in my head on the journey, and arrived for my interview a quarter of an hour late.
The following day, the interviewer called to tell me they wouldn’t be making any appointments until the end of November. She asked if I could start straight away on a temporary basis while they completed the recruitment process.
What happened is I wanted to laugh and cry and whoop for joy all at the same time.
I started work 24 September 2013, shortly after Dylan started going to nursery three days a week. I coordinated the internal announcements of the interim financial results and the launch of Core Capital Deferred Shares, and received rounds of applause for both. That’s never happened to me before. I like the job and the team. I miss Dylan like crazy but he’s busy all week and we make up for lost time in the evenings. I like the fact that I’m working again. I’m setting a good example for him. I guess we’re both embarking on brave, new adventures.
On Sundays, I took to cooking two big meals: a roast, which we ate with Dylan (it turns out he’s mad for my junior toad-in-the-holes, which he calls ‘toad-on-the-whole’), and a casserole in the slow cooker. Between the left-over meat and veg from the roast, and the casserole, we had good, real food to get us through the week without too much effort. The best thing I’ve made in the slow cooker is Jamie Oliver’s Cowboy Chili. Google it, try it, and I’m sure you’ll agree that other chilis don’t quite cut it in comparison.
What happened is I set up appointments with four of the local schools and Holly went to their open days. All four schools are good but three of them stand out and these are the ones we’ve put on the application form. In September 2014, my little boy, who used to wear nappies and crawl backwards and call his dummy a ‘Dodo’ is going to go to school. And he’s really excited about it.
What happened is they offered me the job, on a six month temp to perm basis, and I started on 9 December. Christmas was back on.
Christmas 2013 was about ice skating outdoors with Dylan at the mall. I push him around on an orange seal, literally racing around as fast as I can go, until I need to turn sharply to avoid a collision. The orange seal and me go left, and Dylan slides sideways across the ice on his shoulder. It was also about the office pantomime. Lyn drops Dylan off at Nationwide House and we head to the restaurant to watch a suspect performance of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, performed by a three man theatre company. Between that, the balloon animals, the visit to Santa and the (real) reindeer we find outside when we leave the office, it’s Christmas come early for the boy but for me it’s just a really long day at work. On the way home, I say ‘Thank you for letting me watch the pantomime with you, Dylan,’ and he says ‘That’s okay Daddy.’ I guess this means we’re going again next year.
If I still have a job. Oh God I hope I still have a job.
A couple of weeks later, Dylan is onstage at the Salvation Army hall, dressed as a sheep, to play his part in the Nativity. He’s the youngest member of the troupe. The other children are shy but Dylan is in his element. He sings loud and out of key and dances with abandon. He practices his tumble tots moves on his chair and parades around with his cotton wool ears pulled down over his eyes. And I bet there isn’t one adult in the audience who hasn’t noticed this angel dressed in sheep’s clothing, who is bringing innocence and joy and quite a lot of style to the original Christmas story.
That's my boy.x