Friday, 15 July 2011

Another Friday, ahh...

It worries me, when I wake up on a Monday thinking "Drat, another Monday" and get to a Friday thinking "Oh good, it's Friday". It's the only life I'll get, after all, at least as me (as Rose MacCauley puts it so perfectly, "Whatever follows after, we shall not have this life again"), and I am wishing it away. But the summer is always the busiest time of the year at work, and this summer the "long-term short-staffed" problem is really starting to tell on everyone, too.

There is an early stage in that situation, when everyone is in agreement; we all have to knuckle down and do our bit to keep things going. One stretches a bit, takes on a bit more, finds it is feasible, finds that the pressure is still manageable; then one is asked to take on a bit more, and so is everyone else; and then a bit more again; and once again one grins and says "We can handle it, come on, folks, yo-heave-ho"... After all, there is really no alternative but to try one's best. None of us want to drop Kew in it; and no-one wants to be a slacker, even at the best of times, much less in difficult ones. But over time, as the pressure does not ease but grows incrementally, and the duration of the period for which this will go on increases, too, and the possibility of any improvement recedes steadily, one just gets, quite simply, tired. There's a point (which our team at least has reached some time ago) where there is absolutely no more slack to be taken up. Performing at full-stretch-plus for month after month starts to take its toll; and because everywhere one looks there is the same thing - over-stretched, worried people trying to hang on and do their best - one gets demoralised as well.

It is chiefly just tiredness, plain old tiredness. Compared to other places I've worked, which had much less serious staffing and financial stresses on them, there is an amazing lack of grumbling here. We all want to keep things going and not let our colleagues down. We almost all manage to keep the bigger picture in mind most of the time. But we are all so tired. And there is still no end in sight.

On a more cheerful note, the Gardens are looking wonderful, and despite some very gloomy weather forecasts last week, the Kew The Music open-air concerts were not rained on (well, about five minutes of drizzle, one evening, but otherwise dry).

I have finished re-reading "The Last of the Wine" (& cried my eyes out over it once again) and started on an entertaining murder mystery called "Anthem for Doomed Youth" by Carola Dunn. Carola was at school with my stepmum Jane, and it is enormously pleasing to know that I have this tiny connection with a real, published author.

Carola's books make no attempt to be great literature, but they are enjoyable without being potboilers. Her characters are credible and likeable, she gives one enough of the clues that there is a hope of spotting the killer, and she describes Saffron Walden, where much of this latest story is set, well enough to leave me planning a visit some time this summer. Not bad for a straightforward piece of summer reading.

The Mary Renault also left me dreaming of travel, but going to Athens is a bit more of an undertaking. Besides, at the moment Athens might be rather an odd experience, owing to the strikes and demonstrations (with which I am in sympathy, but which nonetheless I don't want to get caught up in). There's a huge magic in waking up and drawing the curtains to see the Parthenon silhouetted against the morning sky. I shall have to go back there some time soon. Maybe I could manage a long weekend over the winter?

But for now, it's Friday and it's been another tiring week, and I'm looking forward to a couple of days off, not doing anything or going anywhere. I will tidy the garden, bake a cake, and finish Carola's book.

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