Do you do Secret Santa in your organisation? Well, take care. This weekend, I've been wondering how much to read into my gifts and I reckon there's a direct correlation between the alleged gifts and my performance at work. First, there were the years of my vainly trying to learn German, where I was given phrase books, children's picture dictionaries and - imagine! - a German recipe book for dog food. (This made me quite hundemüde just to look at it). The last few years have seen me forlornly open 'de-stressing bath oil', 'a wire head massager' and, at a particularly low point, a 'how to relax' self-help book.  All of which, you might think, have been cast aside before the New Year arrived.

Not so. Perhaps as a result of my colleagues concerned generosity, life seems to have improved. My German is still sehr schlecht, but this year, I must have been much more relaxed - slipping in fact - as I've been given a beautifully-designed time-managment aid, thinly disguised as a cooking timer. Being more of a Jamie Oliver or Nigel Slater type cook myself, where food is chucked into an oven until 'it looks done', I won't be taking it home. I thought it could be put to much better use if I set it at regular intervals in the office next year - maybe ten minutes before meetings are due to start, or 15 minutes before the taxi arrives - to keep me, and everyone else, on schedule. I think it is probably from HR, or maybe the Finance Manager - as it was cheaper than a time-management course.

But she (whoever she was) did sugar the pill and for that I am eternally grateful. I am, in one humble coaster, freed from my Catholic guilt and allowed to eat more chocolate. Could be a fatter 2013 as well.

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