Weeknotes S03E14: Wipeout

Watch in wonder as his sleeping pattern disintegrates!

We made it folks. This is it. The solstice. The days will get longer from here and the night will retreat.

I have violently overdone it this week. Come with me on this journey of self-discovery.

On Monday I started the last week with my current team. Next week I’ll go back to my old team, which used to be my old team. My current team is my old team; that is to say, the team that was old before my old team was my current team.

I hope that’s clear.

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The day was fairly intense work, and in the evening I had a date. It seemed to go well. I also spent a lot of energy on being nervous before and after, so that did not set me up well for the rest of the week.

On Tuesday there was:

  • a special meeting with our programme directors
  • one of my team’s Christmas lunches
  • drinks with colleagues
  • drinks with friends
  • another date (I am really, really not very clever)

So by Wednesday I was fairly broken. I therefore did what any normal person would do and joined the final One Team Gov breakfast at 0830 and mentored some individuals at codebar until 2100.

Obviously. Obviously this was the sensible thing to do.

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I woke up on Thursday tired in every bone. I turned off all my alarms. I fed the cat in a fugue state. I fell back into bed and slept for another two hours and still woke up groggy. I went back to bed at 7 and slept until 11, when my growling stomach and growling cat combined to wake me up. I made the latest cheesy pasta that’s ever been made, ate almost all of it, fell immediately back into bed and woke today feeling, if not refreshed, at least human.

There is a lesson for me here, and that lesson has been learned so many times that I’m embarrassed that I still don’t know when to chill the fork out.

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With that being said, good things have happened; are happening; will happening. I went on a date with another human. I’ve been pairing a lot with someone at work and we wrote some cool code and fixed some problems.

I went over to the London Borough of Hackney and facilitated a swardley mapping workshop. I really enjoy facilitating and giving other people the tools to build their strategy effectively. All the attendees said kind things and since I never retweet praise I’m going to put it here. Huge thanks to Cate McLaurin for organising both a compelling workshop and absurdly good cake.

(Also, I think my somewhat-above-me boss discovered who I am on the Twitters, so that can only end well)

If you’re wondering about strategy and would like my help facilitating a workshop like this…I honestly don’t know how we’ll manage it. But I would absolutely love to, so get in touch and let’s make it happen.

I had a great meeting with my line manager where we discussed career aspirations. I’m still waiting for feedback from the Future Leaders Scheme, but in the meantime I am reasonably confident that I should be aiming for a more senior position within the next year. I’m just going to keep pushing upwards and finding new and interesting problems. As above, if you have a new and interesting problem (or even an old and interesting problem) please say hello. I like interesting problems.

Finally: it’s Christmas. This has been quite a year for me. There’s a retrospective in the works, as well as a proper write-up of the OneTeamGov breakfast that happened on Wednesday. For now though, I’ll be working all the way through the holidays. I hope you’re well, and I hope to see you soon.

A funny story

Here’s a joke:

A little while ago — a time that feels at once sharply present and mistily distant — my partner and I broke up. I’ve been commenting on Twitter since then that the director of my life has gone into full hack overdrive. Your hero walked out of his office to see that ex’s name plastered on the side of a bus, for example. Anyone watching this in the cinema would roll their eyes at the heavy-handedness of the symbolism.

We had a comfortable life, they and I. We had a cat. We had good jobs in similar industries. We were complimentary, and we were complementary. Something changed though: they were thinking about settling down; about the prospect of children; about roots.

I can’t stand the idea. I’m not interested in children, and I don’t think it would be a good thing for someone who isn’t interested in having children to have them. I don’t want that much commitment: I like being able to upend my life. I want to move to Canada for a little while, and maybe live in Europe again. So that was that.

It’s funny, though. Because now they’ve not got a partner, they’ve taken a job that could involve a lot of international travel and will propel them upwards. And me? I’ve started learning their mother tongue with a more serious bent than I ever did when we were together, and I’m interviewing for ever more senior things. We’re —honestly, you’ll laugh — we’re more attractive to each other now than ever before.

Isn’t that funny? Together, what we want is incompatible. Apart, we’re precisely what the other wants.

Like I said: it’s a joke.

I didn’t say it was funny, though.

A tragedy

Of three parts and two continents

This is a story a friend told me, and has given me permission to retell. I think there are a couple of ways to tell it, and I’m going to try them out. It’s an exercise in writing, but also an opportunity to share a very good story. I am deeply grateful to her for the opportunity to retell it.


Alice is a 20-something professional living in London. Work life is going great; all other aspects of life are in the bin. So when a friend offers her the chance to go to a party she seizes it. At the party they’ve hired a fortune teller, and although Alice is basically cynical she’s also had a couple of drinks so she steps up when the fortune teller asks who’s next.

The fortune teller is your basic Barnum effect generator, and lists off things that everyone already knows about people in their 20s in London: stressed, living in cramped quarters, looking for love.

-Everyone’s looking for love, says Alice.

-You’re going to find it, though. The fortune teller gives her a conspiratorial wink, and declares that Alice will go on holiday and be introduced to a tall, dark man by a female friend. They’ll fall in love, but –

-But?

-But there’ll be a period of separation. You’ll end up happy in the end though.

That was it. Forty quid’s worth of fortune telling, and it’s that she’ll be introduced to someone by a female friend. I don’t know if you’ve ever been introduced to your partner — I hope you have — but it’s highly likely you were introduced to them by a female friend. So Alice goes away feeling not entirely convinced. All the same, she’s going on a short break to New Zealand. Maybe there’ll be something in it after all.

She goes on the break. She meets up with some old friends, and one of them introduces her to Max. And they get along like a house on fire. The whole group goes out to lunch, but for Alice and Max the rest of the table doesn’t exist. After lunch they keep drinking, because let’s be honest: millenials fresh out of university with too much disposable income drink like there’s no tomorrow.

There’s a good chance that our tomorrows are running out anyway, so who’s to judge?

Anyway: after an afternoon of day drinking they go to a club, they drink a little more, Alice ends up at Max’s flat. Things happen. Artistic fade to black, etc.

The morning is embarrassment and hunting for clothes. In a flat in New Zealand there is a little piece of Britain; a sock that managed somehow to escape behind the dresser and is holding out for the return of its owner. A few words are exchanged and Alice flees into the glorious sunshine and the embrace of her friends. The rest of the week she puts Max out of her mind and sees the sights; goes to Hobbiton, hikes over the beautiful countryside.

At this point it’s a funny story about the clumsiness of being young and attracted to someone, when it’s easier to have sex than talk about feelings. Then Alice gets a text: Does she want to come for dinner? -Max

So she does. And it’s just the two of them, but it could have been a dinner party of every person ever born and it still would’ve just been the two of them. They had a single drink each and then, just as she was leaving, he grabbed her and kissed her.

Again: people are bad at talking about their feelings.

So they’re kissing, and in the background fireworks are going off and the earth is shaking and I hope someone’s filming this because it is literally straight out of a movie. And then they stop, and his face is flushed and her lips are tingling and he looks like he’s about to say something, and then he doesn’t. And then she gets in a taxi and goes to the airport and flies away.

On the way back she nurses a broken heart and a gin and tonic — how is it that gin at 30,000ft is so much stronger than at sea level? — and thinks about that fortune teller. How she got everything right so far, so maybe there’s a chance that she’ll be right about the last part. That there’ll be a separation, but then they’ll live happily ever after.

She thinks about this for two weeks after she comes back. For the two weeks after that she thinks about it less.

They never saw each other again.


Look, I think that fortune tellers are frauds. Nobody can predict the future because everyone can change the future. Finding a person with whom you’ve got chemistry is pretty rare, and quite frankly I suspect it happens at the wrong time for a lot of people. (Let us put aside for a moment the tragedy of there being a wrong time to find a person with whom you have immense chemistry).

Actions are easier than words. Love is more than chemistry. All the same, if you’re reading this and it remind you of a woman who might not be called Alice; if it reminds you of yourself even though your name isn’t Max, maybe you should reflect that a story about what might have been is the realm of authors. A story of how the two of you fell in love and made it work across six thousand miles of air and sea is a better story, and one that really only you can write and tell.

Maybe you should do that.