6th February 2011
I’m sure that anyone with even a passing interest in World Affairs will have been watching the unfolding events in Egypt with some concern. I have a number of friends in Cairo and have been there many times. Seeing places I know very well filled with tanks and battling citizens makes my hair stand on end. I thank God that all my friends seem to be safe and unharmed, but what of the future?
Some people have asked me how I cope with negative comments on my videos. I used to get a bit hurt at the beginning, but I’ve learned the rules of the game and I’d like to share them with you…
- Learn to differentiate in your own mind the difference between a “Negative Comment” and “Constructive Criticism”. The latter of these two are genuinely helpful comments on how to improve and some of these have caused me to change the way I cook. I now cook okra (bhindi) very differently following the helpful comments of some people on my first Bhindi Bhaji recipe.
- Negative comments on my channel fall mostly into a few simple categories. They are usually either a) personal comments about me, b) personal, ill-informed or just plain racist comments related to my faith, or c) the pointless comment, for example “This is not how to cook (whatever)”. The last comment doesn’t help anyone and I usually reply with the the comment “Yes it is”. It’s funny how rarely people respond to that!
- To deal with comments in the other two categories requires you to get into the minds of the people making them. Most accounts on YT are anonymous and therefore people feel at liberty to say what they like to whoever they like. In real life they would never behave like that. For these people YT provides a relief valve for the frustrations of their daily lives. They hope to get a reaction from me, thereby giving them a feeling of power over me. Put simply, they are looking for a fight!
- If the comment is personal I don’t react, but instead I ask them why they make the comment. I had an interesting exchange with a Serbian guy who finally realised that he was getting nowhere with me and he went away. Sometimes I can make use of the comment in a running joke – the “crap glasses” came from someone who told me to get new glasses!
- If I feel the comment is ill-informed I try to educate them. The interesting thing is that when people feel that they are losing an argument they will often change the subject to an argument they think they can win, or simply start making personal and abusive comments about me. See above!
- Probably the most important rule of all on my channel. Making comments on my videos is a privilege and not a right. I am aware that my channel is enjoyed by children, so if someone is unnecessarily offensive and vulgar in their comments I have no hesitation in using the “Block” feature in YT. It doesn’t stop those people watching my videos, but it does stop them making further comments. Ultimately, I have the power!
- I lied. The most important rule is not to take things personally, even if the comments are personal. If you react in a bad way the other person has achieved their objective and will continue to comment in an effort to assert more power over you. Even though I feel in my own mind that the person is an idiot I will never call them that. Sometimes the temptation is very strong, but I have learned a lot of self-control which is helping me in other aspects of my personal life too. Someone much wiser than I once said that you can’t change what happens to you in life, but you can change how you feel about it.
- And finally, sometimes I don’t even feel the need to comment myself. I know that others will do that for me!
The bottom line is that if you put yourself into the public eye there will be people who like what you do and others who don’t. I don’t doubt Gordon Ramsey’s or Jamie Oliver’s abilities as chefs, for example, but I just don’t like them! Nor do I like X-factor or Strictly Come Dancing, or any of these Celebrity-Reality-TV-thingies, but many other people do. Fair enough.
I get a lot of comments and private emails which are very positive and supportive for what I do and I say a big thank you to you. This is what keeps me going. As long as I know that there are people out there who enjoy my work then I’ll keep on keepin’ on!
13th February 2011
Once upon a time, not so long ago, a trip to Warsaw would mean a walk from the office to the airport and a 2 hour flight on LOT Polish airlines. Those days are gone, both the walk from the office to the airport, but more importantly the flights on LOT. There are some things to be eternally grateful for… To get to Warsaw now I have a 90 minute drive to Birmingham airport with a change of planes in Zurich. Sure, it’s a longer travel time but I can fly Swiss airlines instead which means I get a free slab of chocolate as the plane comes in for its final approach to land. Four flights = four free chocky bars.
This week’s mission was a little daunting. My team is running a project to relocate the office in Warsaw and the locals are deeply, deeply unhappy. The normal processes we use in such projects to keep the natives on-side were thwarted by local management and now they are paying the price. As the old saying goes, you reap what you sow. Time for Titli the Moan-buster to fly in and inject some positivity into a few key people!
It’s not easy, sitting there, listening to managers go on and on and on about how their world is coming to an end and their daily commute will be a disaster and they don’t know how their staff will get their kids to the nursery and the new office location is the worst in the whole of Poland and neither they nor their staff can possibly work in an open-space office and their new desk will be pointing the wrong way and, and, and…
And after about an hour, when they have finally finished, I pause. I replay all their problems back to them and tell them that I can understand their concerns. I tell them that unfortunately we are too far advanced with the project to go backwards so we are where we are. Then I ask the crucial, game-changing question: “So what can you do to make this project a less negative experience for your staff, and how can I help?”
On my first night back in Warsaw I ate in the hotel restaurant. Ferdy’s Brasserie at the Radisson serves pleasant meals with some good non-meat options. I ordered cabbage and mushroom pierogi – a sort of small fried stuffed pancake thing – and downed them heartily. On reflection I should have stopped after the plateful of pierogi but a large tuna steak with steamed vegetables arrived. Delicious? Yes. Filling? Yes. Too much? Phwoooooooo!
Upon discovering that I was in Warsaw a kind soul suggested I try one of two restaurants for my second evening. After a draining day in the office and with a heavy cold wreaking havoc in my head and chest I thought it better to skip dinner and have an early night. Maybe next time…
I left Warsaw feeling that I’d made some progress. I arrived back at Birmingham, collected a hire car and drove home just as darkness was falling. On the way I picked up my Mother who is recovering from an operation to replace a shoulder joint. She is fine, but with one arm in a sling it obviously restricts what she can do.
These restrictions extend to eating. For example, there is no point in cooking something like a big juicy steak which requires extensive use of a knife. So I’m having to plan meals carefully and make sure they are “fork-friendly”. For example, I made a rather nice Cottage Pie the other night, and I must share with you a little twist I did. I’ve had a very large sweet potato in my kitchen for a few weeks, so I made the bottom layer of the pie with ordinary mashed potato, then the layer of meat filling, and then topped it off with a layer of mashed sweet potato. I declare this variation of Cottage Pie…. Delicious! If you don’t believe me, try it sometime.
Spring is just around the corner. I spent a few hours yesterday in the garden removing dead vegetation and pruning the cherry tree. One of the fun things about moving into a new house with a garden is that you don’t really know what plants are there. Some of them are obvious, like the Japanese Quince bushes from which I made quince jelly. But the soil can hide many surprises. Last week I noticed some delightful snowdrops scattered around the garden. Crocus are also appearing and something looking like hyacinth are starting to sprout. Soon, God willing, the garden will start to take on some colour!
25th February 2011
Sometimes I wish the World would slow down a little bit so that I could get done all the things that I need to do!
The last two weeks have been hectic and I’m feeling more than a little drained. I guess it all started about 10 days ago when I dropped my mother off back home. She has been staying with us after the operation on her shoulder. This three-and-a-half hour round trip was followed the day after by a long drive up to Liverpool airport in the early morning to catch a flight to Geneva. Most of my travel is business-related, but this time… it was PERSONAL!
I arrived in Geneva, picked up my French car which is still parked in the underground garage at the Geneva office, and drove out to my home in France. I firmly believed that this would be the last time I would see this house; the following day I would go to the Notaire’s office and sign all the necessary papers for the sale. It was emotional. That’s all I can say.
That night I stayed with my friend Jen and her family again. I must get Jen’s secret recipe for her marinated and grilled salmon! Pineapple cake was also served complete with a long story about the cake itself. It had started out as a Pound Cake which had gone slightly wrong somehow during the batter stage – the solution was felt to be to add pineapple into it (don’t ask!). The final result was good enough for me to eat a slice for dinner as well as a hearty slice for breakfast the following day.
The meeting at the Notaire’s lasted just over an hour and the paperwork was duly signed. I agreed to pay one more visit to the house with the new owners to explain how everything works – the alarm, the heating, the cooker, etc, etc. I must have got all my sadness out of my system the day before as I felt quite OK walking around the place for the last time.. Maybe a lot of my sadness was for the emptiness of the house, and now I know it will be occupied and loved again.
I flew back to Liverpool late afternoon and drove home in time to fall into bed at the same time as Man.
Last weekend was filled with what the French call “bricolage” – DIY to you and me. I rearranged some internal walls of the house to create a larger wardrobe in the main bedroom. For 2 whole days I was removing walls and cutting plasterboard. The house looked like a large bag of Charley had exploded in it and my attempts to hoover it up were met with complaints from the vacuum cleaner. Twice it cut out and twice I had to remove and clean the assorted filters inside it. I lived for much of the weekend on cheese on toast.
The enlarged space for the wardrobe
Where once there was a door...
This week I was back in Germany for a “team meeting”. In reality this involves early morning starts, late finishes and lots of “blah blah blah” in between. My boss had allowed me to invite two of my own team, for which I was very grateful. I really wouldn’t have enjoyed spending two and a half days as the only woman amongst 14 other men. Especially male engineers. Don’t get me wrong; for most of my professional life I have inhabited a male-dominated sphere. I like men. I even married one of them. But there is just something about a lot of male engineers all together – a certain je ne sais quoi – that I can tolerate for only so many hours a day. I don’t know what the collective noun for male engineers actually is, but in my humble opinion it should be a Tedium of Engineers.
I have now removed my tongue from my cheek. I arrived home again late last night with mother in tow. There is more DIY to do, but this weekend I’ll be back in my kitchen again!