Nearly seven years I’ve had this business. This website’s been in place for four of them. And yet this is only my third blog. And one of the previous two was pretty much using the words of one of my clients. Not a particularly good effort, that, is it?
But as we find ourselves in lockdown during the Coronavirus crisis many of us are finding time to do things that we hadn’t got around to for a while. In lots of cases this involves D.I.Y., sorting out clothes, gardening, baking or binge-watching box sets. In my case, however, I loathe D.I.Y., I don’t have enough clothes to be worrying about sorting any of them out, I haven’t got a garden, I don’t eat cakes any more, and there is only so much television one can watch. So I thought I’d address the obvious absence of any news updates on this particular website. I’ll try to be more – ahem – diligent in the coming days and weeks.
For those of you unfamiliar with me, or what I do, there is info on me elsewhere on this website, but essentially my name is Mike Fatkin, and after a career in sport and doing a Masters in HR Management I now run my own HR and management company. I’m based in Cardiff and I have two daughters, who both live in Pontypridd.
My natural writing style is verbose. Anyone who has worked with me or who knows me will be only too aware of that. And that will represent something of a challenge here, as these blogs need to be shorter, sharper and punchier. I’ll pick a topic each time and ramble on a bit. Everyone else is doing it, after all. Either that or the dreaded podcast, of which there seem to be millions these days. I can, however, do so safe in the knowledge that my book – yes, a book, an amateur and non-famous person attempt at an autobiography, all 137,000 words of it – has been completed while we’ve all been mandated to ‘stay home, protect the NHS and save lives’ (repeating mantras and logos does work, doesn’t it?). I will write about that experience another time.
So what have I done since all this started? Well, I’ve been grateful to the two clients for whom work has carried on – the Professional Players’ Federation and the Tom Maynard Trust. I only do occasional days for both, but it has managed to give me some sort of work focus, at least for the first few weeks, and I appreciate their support. Two other clients – GRM Windows and SBL Carston Accountants, based in Pontyclun and Cardiff respectively – have work that was ‘in progress’ and which I will be able to go back to but as this involves working with their employees on performance reviews and because all their staff are either furloughed or working from home, that work is largely on the backburner until restrictions are lifted, though I am in contact with both and ready to help where asked.
Six weeks ago, I doubt that anyone will have heard of the word ‘furlough.’ Yet here we are with many millions of people now off work until the restrictions are lifted. For anyone operating in the world of HR it has meant a real crash course in understanding employee and employer rights in this sort of situation. As we are told 10,000 times a day, the circumstances are ‘unprecedented.’ So many HR folk have had to learn about what workers and businesses are and aren’t entitled to do. I don’t think I have ever been so grateful for the internet. My regular go-tos have been Matt Allwright of the BBC on general matters, the fantastic Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert on pretty much everything work-related and, of course, the indispensable C.I.P.D.. I don’t have the challenge of being an HR employee or HR manager working right in the thick of it but even keeping up to speed from a distance has been a challenge.
What have I enjoyed? A daily walk has been a comfort, especially as I don’t have a garden to escape to. As a voracious reader I have also enjoyed the opportunity to plough through new books without any feeling that I ought to be doing something else. The same with jigsaws, which have been dug out of the loft and worked through of an evening, and I’ve even started learning the harmonica.
The online catch-ups with family and different groups of friends have been, well, different. It is a somewhat forced way of staying in touch, and no substitute for the real thing, but needs must and all that. As a creature of routine, though, the lockdown hasn’t presented any major challenges. What work I can do is done after the morning walk, with music on much of the day. The threat of loneliness is always there, but I can counter that by remaining busy doing different things. Social media, if used in the right way, is really helpful, though I must admit that all those lower grade ‘celebrities’ posting films of themselves in their designer kitchens has me scrambling for the off button. And I don’t want to listen to people telling me I should be spending my time more usefully, learning Afro-asiatic languages, the exposition and recapitulation patterns of Haydn’s London symphonies, or about Le Corbusier’s villa-period architecture.
What do I miss? Randomly, I miss not being able to see my granddaughter Willow (just over a year old), but the family have kept me in touch via Zoom. I miss not being able to go for coffee of a morning, or catch up for a drink with friends, or browse in a bookshop, be it in Cardiff or Hay-on-Wye, which I visit several times a year. I miss being able to watch my beloved Arsenal and, more importantly, moan about how awful they’ve been; I also miss the chance to watch Glamorgan play. Who knows when the simple opportunity to watch Michael Hogan mark out his run as he begins the process of working over an opponent while I’m sat in a stand pretty much on my own with only a book for company will come around again? Makes me all wistful just thinking about it.
And I’ve definitely missed the barber’s. My hair in lockdown is very much shaggy dog, with a fringe Claudia Winkelman would die for and a mullet that Chris Waddle would have disowned. I dare not take my kitchen scissors to it, and we could have weeks of this still to go. It’ll be as long as Rapunzel’s before too long.
One thing I have decided in lockdown: I need to post stuff more often, work-related or not. I’ll think of a different topic and post something new next week.
‘Stay safe’ is the new farewell…
PS The photo has nothing to do with the post. No. Me Neither.