This was first published on Alison Chisnell’s advent blog in 2013. I re-read it recently and decided to re-post it for this Christmas. Maybe I’ll update it next year…
And so it begins, the inexorable list of activities that you put in place for Christmas. You get the idea from the holidays in the past; those moments with family gone that mean you pause and reflect.
So pull up a chair for 5 minutes with me while I pause and reflect.
I remember helping to launch the Sinclair C5 electric car. That doesn’t usually sit high on my CV as it wasn’t a resounding success.
It wasn’t. It was a fun experience though with some great people who believed in what they were doing. It just liked to pause a lot on its own.
More fun was being a children’s entertainer. A 3 foot foam head, Royal Mail uniform, a stuffed cat and I became Postman Pat for children’s parties. Playing hide and seek with two dozen 5 year olds in a village hall prepares you for fatherhood. That was 20+years ago – 5 years ago I was a Santa in a Department Store grotto and remembered why Christmas is magical for children. In our desire to know we forget how innocence can cause so much delight.
I enjoyed being a butcher. Cold and hard work in a windowless room for up to 12 hours a day meant you had to be authentic – no hiding places. I’ve got good knives and good knife skills as a result and I learnt a lot about which meats offer best value. Wasn’t much fun with a girlfriend who was vegetarian at the time but has helped me become a pretty decent cook (if I don’t mind saying so myself).
Arranging housing repossessions taught me a lot about compassion and priorities. It also touched me deeply. I realised that it’s not always about the money – it’s about the life we lead. It also gave me a thick skin. Scared people react differently. It did help when I did stand up comedy for a while. A very short while – I learnt I’m not that funny.
That skill of being able to talk with complete strangers helped when I sold cars. I learnt a lot about needs and wants, why people buy and the remorse when you buy the ‘wrong’ thing. That talking skill didn’t help so much when I sold menswear; men didn’t like to shop then, let alone talk to someone while they were doing it. I learnt a lot about influence and negotiation in that role. That and how to fold jumpers.
Being a cashier was too routine for me but counting a quarter of a million quid by hand was a different experience. It changed my thoughts about money again – money as a tool. Spotting fraud livened the days, learning the extent of my trust and how far people would push it. I took my first steps in management there too; steep curves, not many plateaux.
The list above contains lots of indoor jobs.
For variety what about delivering papers and directories? Different experiences entirely. I learnt a lot about dressing for the weather. Being a pools man was interesting too. Being invited to become a regular part of people’s lives through a number of years was humbling. Being recognised by a syndicate when they won £300k a week before Christmas was especially nice – particularly with a significant tip.
Reading back through it’s an eclectic mix. A mix that doesn’t mention what I do now. Looking back, this work history seems chaotic, confused, complex. At the time it was just what I did. I’m reminded of a hundred different incidents and events, all great stories.
Stories. They’re what bind us together and ground us.
Have a good Christmas but don’t spend too long on your lists – spend time with the people who will add to your stories