Monday, 23 December 2013

Nigella, Joanne, witnesses, privacy and the Watkins case.

This week has been, in some ways, very depressing. I met Nigella fleetingly at a book signing more than a decade ago. She was kind and gracious. So what if she had the odd spliff? Her children are teenagers,it would have done little more harm than a glass of wine. But what makes me angry is the way women have been treated in the news this week. Nigella's been hung out to dry, Jo Nikita Mzadjelic has been questioned and interrogated in a way which treated her like some kind of evil doer. Nigella had had to face the same problems but at least she's had some back up. She is not perpetrator, she's a very cool looking victim. It makes me really

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Joanne Mjadzelics, forget Pretty Woman, this is the real hooker with a heart of gold.

Not written for ages, but I wanted to write something about the Ian Watkins case as I've been so affected by it

I don't want to go into the details of the horrific case, they've been done to death.  One of the mothers and her little boy lived about ten minutes drive from me and is less than a year older than my son and it chills me to the bone that this was happening so close to me.

But in the midst of the most awful, depraved, evil behaviour there's somebody who gives me hope about humanity.

Joanna Mjadzelics persisted for five years to bring Watkins to justice.  In the face of ill health, threats of criminal charges, violent attacks and reams of online abuse she persisted and kept on reporting and reporting until he was finally sentenced to 35 years this Wednesday for his horrific attacks on children.

The hooker with a heart of gold is a familiar trope in our society.  Wikipedia describes her as 'an ostensibly immoral woman who demonstrates virtues absent in others'.  I guess our modern favourite is Vivian from Pretty Woman who is a heroine simply for getting her man. The tart with a heart goes right back to Mary Magdelene through Verdi's La Traviata to Dickens.  Dicken's Nancy is probably the closest to our own real life version - risking her own life to help the child Oliver.

But despite the fact that we fetishise the 'tart with the heart' or the 'hooker with a heart of gold' in literature and on film in our society it seems frighteningly possible that part of the reason Joanne Mjadzelics was ignored was because of her profession.  But who do they expect to come into contact with the kind of people who commit these crimes?  It's certainly not going to be a nun or a church going nursery school teacher.  If someone committing these dreadful acts confides in someone it's going to be the escorts or the lapdancers or the strippers of this world, which it is why it is so important that what they say is listened to and not dismissed.

Mjadzelics is attacked online for being 'vengeful' or 'wanting attention'.  Do you know what, I have no idea if she is somewhat motivated by revenge.  Perhaps she does enjoy the attention.  But if she does what should she have done?  Decided that she shouldn't report terrible abuse of children because it would make her look a bit bitter?  Let it carry on because she didn't want to be in the press?  These attacks on her are nonsense, I don't care if she has enjoyed the attention or if she has had the satisfaction of revenge - she has saved two children from horrific abuse and if she has had the kick of attention or revenge then that's just a sideshow.  I suspect she hasn't - if what she wanted was attention or revenge there would have been far easier more profitable ways for her to do that.  People ask why she went back - but many women went back to Watkins and his magnetic charm again and again.  Only one of those women was consistently reporting him even though she sometimes fell for what was clearly a hypnotic personality.

Vivian from Pretty Woman is someone many young women idolize. Forget her, Joanne Mjadzelics is the woman I would tell a daughter of mine to look up to.  Vivian might have got respect shopping on Rodeo Drive but Mjadzelics has allowed at least two children to lead lives free from the most horrendous abuse.

Joanne Mjadzelics, I salute you.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

I haven't posted for a long time and things have changed a lot.  I was really optimistic about going back to work but it was a disaster to begin with.

My return was handled really badly, my supervisor had been made redudant while I was on mat leave. Coincidentally just after she had returned from her own maternity leave.  So I had a new boss who didn't know my work. All the computer systems and a lot of the procedures had changed. And I needed a lot of retraining. And here is where the problems started.

The person set the task of retraining me was the person who had covered for me while I was away.  Our boss worked out of the office and as well as retraining me my bosses only method of assessing my work was by asking my replacement how she thought I was doing.

Now, we were doing the same role at a time when redundancies were being made.  You might think that a manager might realize that perhaps an employee who might be seen as a competitor might not be the best person to put in this role, particularly as she was not senior to me and really had no right to be assessing my work.  My training was slap dash and basic, important bits were missed out, I felt like I couldn't ask questions as I was met with an aggressive response.  The replacement would tell me that I was completing pieces of work correctly so I would continue doing them in the same way, unaware that they weren't being done right.  And all the while she would be complaining to my boss that I was making mistakes when she knew I hadn't been trained how to do them correctly in the first place.  The job was disorganized, I was doing a mishmash of random things and had no idea what the remit of my job was supposed to be any more and it seemed to change day to day.

It escalated to the point of bullying, it was a horrible atmosphere.  The replacement would ring my boss in front of me and complain about me while I was only a couple of desks away so clearly in earshot.  As was of course the intention.  It was like being back at school, their was school girlish atmosphere in the department with whispers happening in the corner, dirty looks, giggles when you walked past, private jokes and conversations over the instant messenger.  When I tried to ask the replacement about work she would be laughing at messages taking the piss out of what I was saying sent by a colleague who sat nearby.   I felt humiliated and insulted.  It was all on the level of 4th year junior.  The type of thing you sometimes get when there is no manager in the office. I got to the point where I didn't want to go into work anymore and felt sick walking through the car park not knowing what was going to happen each day.  I received hardly any of my bonus and it seemed that my targets for the bonus were also assessed on the say so of the replacement.

Eventually I was called into a meeting with my manager.  I was informed that I was now almost incapable of doing my job (no complaints before mat leave) and was being put into special measures.  I was given a list of tasks and informed that even a single small mistake would lead to the start of disciplinary proceedings.  It felt like they were trying to get rid of me and felt incredibly unfair.  I felt like the stress of knowing one mistake, no matter how minor, could lead to the chop, would make me even more likely to make mistakes.

I was wrong though, this 'improvement plan' was my salvation.  The vital thing was that my progress was now being assessed directly through my manager and he was clearly telling me what he expected me to do.  As soon as I was working like this and my work was no longer being assessed by the replacement I started performing really well.  My manager was pleased, I started feeling good about working in the department because I felt my manager had actually put something in place that made sense, was fair and allowed me to have the tools to perform well.  I left for holiday at the start of July feeling really positive about work and confident everything was going to work out well and I could fit back in well.

Misplaced confidence it seems, when I returned I was called in an hour after I got back and told I was being made redundant.  The blow was softened as I discovered I had been awarded all my bonus for the previous period and it was nothing to do with my performance.  In addition my manager who I now had the greatest respect for had been made redundant too. 

It's all a bit, hmmm, as every woman who has returned to the company seems to have been made redundant within a few months of their return.  And I can't say I'm going to miss my colleagues, I'm glad to see the back of most of them.  But I've been given an okay pay off which will keep the wolf from the door for a few months but I am back to square one again.

So I've decided to write about it again.  I've been to a few interviews and I think there's some material there, there's definitely been some weird and wonderful stuff going on with my job search.

So anyway, I'm back. It's almost like I never went away!