The endless cardboard challenge…

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So I live in a cul de sac… any traffic is usually a neighbour or, these days, a delivery van. There used to be a social club at the very end of the road, but after a night of huge violence (father & son had a huge physical fight, honestly, madness) it closed. So anyone on the road is easily identifiable as either a friend or visitor!

Now this also means that there is little that the neighbours don’t notice… usual arrival times back to the house and these days… karate suits at home. The weeks that we spent awkwardly clapping the NHS at the door was smack bang in the middle of a class. So there we were, waving at each other, for the most part not really knowing each other and of course I’m in the Karate suit.

The arrival of the skip was a clear give away that I was starting to renovate the house and it took only a few days before random people started to “skip dive” right in my front garden. I didn’t know it was a thing, but my neighbour who is a builder tells me that there seems to be a hidden network of guys who think that they are moments away from a big win. Over the course of a couple of weeks a steady stream of 1-3 guys would show up, one in particular even brought a tricked out bicycle that allowed him to carry more! When I say more I’m talking about off cuts of metal and half empty paint cans…

It became obvious towards the end of the summer that we were headed back into lockdown and that I now needed another project to focus on. I had worked on the stairs which was a mammoth task and after weeks of work it was in a state that was almost passable. But looking into the winter, I really needed something new.

In my world (People, HR, Talent) I was starting to see the emergence of “background envy” and worse commentary on home office set ups. Quite simply we were getting an insight into what is quite personal settings that we would never have seen before the lockdowns. Initially, probably like a lot of people, I was not prepared any of this and so set myself up at the end of the dinning table with my camera looking into a space where I also used the space to train. Now before all this, no one would have seen this area, I have chi-ishi, weights, a rowing machine and with a wide camera angle parts of the kitchen would also be within sight.

So where am I going with this, since the good people in Zoom and Google (other platforms are available) introduced background blurring I’ve seen more and more people comment about where people are based. In fact, in the course of my own work, I’ve had a manager raise a concern regarding a comment that was made to another employee, suggesting that the person was in a less than salubrious setting. Now this was made in jest but to my mind was simply not acceptable. I think we are going to see more and more issues surrounding this in the future.

So after a particular active weekend where I had received a lot of good in cardboard boxes I joined a video call. Now I mentioned that my space was used for training, the backdrop includes a “Bob” and at the side of the kitchen I was breaking down the boxes for recycling. What followed was an innocent comment from someone who called out the “state” of my working area.

Thus project renovation was born. I don’t mind people knowing things about what I do in my spare time, but it’s not open for commentary and definitely not open for scrutiny. So I decided to create a space that, arguably I should have done earlier in lockdown but there we go, now was the time. Once I put the wheels in motion however, things started to change, in my mind at least. I thought that this was going to be a project born out of anger, in fact once I got started the creative juices started flowing. Now I wanted something different.

The strange thing is that I felt embarrassed, that somehow my house didn’t live up to the set up of other people. Now you can dismiss this as some sort of misguided over emotional reaction, but I can’t un-feel what I felt.

So project renovation.

Anyone who has stayed in the front room upstairs will know that the room needed some TLC. Whilst the rest of the house had been redecorated, two rooms remained in need of some love. The entire road knew something was up when skip #2 arrived. I meant business. The first casualty… the 1950s built in wardrobes that just had to come out. Whom ever built these… OMG such a mix of good and terrible woodwork, a mixture of screws, nails and glue held the thing together and I have to admit, ripping them out was fairly therapeutic. It took 2 days in total to gut the room and even the bed was put to rest, cut to pieces and burned on the fire pit.

Cheese plant wallpaper…it was a thing…

Over the next 2 weeks things started to take shape, walls were painted, ceilings were plastered and finally the 1960s dimpling disappeared. Then the decisions, colours, trim and overall scheme. Then the best part, the suggestion of a mural. Now I grew up in the late 70s/80s when the use of badly printed, not quite matching wallpaper was a standard. Think massive cheese plant print. But there was merit to this idea and so I was in. This was the turning point of the project. Now I had something viable. Now I started to think about the possible and an idea emerged. I love to travel… a map!

Now that I had the idea, we were set. Now I just needed to make it all happen. The number of delivery vans increased and with it the pile of cardboard. After 2 weeks, I had a new office. Not only that, I had somewhere to study and because I also wanted the cats to be comfortable, they had new toys to play/sleep upon.

It’s wrong that I’ve gone to all this trouble to create a more “professional” image, but I’m glad that I have. I remain very interested to see how this plays out over the next few years… we are probably always now going to have a hybrid working model so I foresee many new challenges to solve.

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