Working hard but making howlers

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You can be the epitome of scatty, middle-aged, menopausal woman in the sanctuary of your own home.

If your husband and kids know what’s good for them.

You can get things mixed up and not worry too much that you’ve just put the coffee cups in the fridge and the milk in the dishwasher.

Or popped a tea-bag into your dressing gown pocket instead of a tissue (well, they sit side-by-side on the kitchen worktop), only realising your little mistake once the dressing gown has been through a 40-degree cycle and dyed an entire whites load antique beige.


Because, behind closed doors, the real you can relax and unwind into forgetful, ditsy fluffiness safe in the knowledge that you’re not being paid by performance.

Unlike in the workplace, where you still strive to be seen as a fast, efficient, finger-on-the-pulse professional who gets it right first time, every time. And, on a daily basis, hope them as pay your wages never find out about the times when you don’t.

A long thread appeared on Mumsnet last week, chronicling scores of incidents female employees would rather forget. Their career low-lights made me howl – with laughter, and recognition.

You just know that every woman you know has similar tales to tell, so I quizzed friends for theirs. One, a property letting agent, still burns with shame on recalling the day she showed a groups of students round a house while the current occupants, a startled but gracious and determined to be hospitable Korean family, were having lunch.

She batted aside their offers of food and drink and flounced through the house, students in tow, un-drawing curtains and opening cupboards and wardrobes to illustrate the pleasing amount of light and storage space.

Only when she got outside and checked her clipboard did she realise she’d got the wrong house.

Another, a school deputy head, was mid-way through telling off one of the pupils, a poor lad who could barely speak through his tears, when it dawned on her she’d got the wrong boy. To save face, she carried on to the end, and urged him never to darken her door again.

A friend who is a school’s pastoral head of year recalled two embarrassing moments: “Mimicking my boss, in a very loud, witchy voice, only to hear from the next room: “Yes Jayne, that IS what I said, thank you...” And the occasion, while making her point in a meeting, when her pen top flew off and hit the deputy head smack on his bald pate.

Me? While interviewing a businessman in the street, I delved in my handbag for another pen. Out came the biro with an unsheathed tampon attached. I am inordinately proud of the fact that I managed to keep the conversation going as the little white mouse flew up into the gap between us, the string flicking his nose before it landed at his feet.

And I could still curl up and die at the thought of a previous editor reading an email I’d forwarded to him. The top message contained a snippet of news supplied to me by a friend.

But old nosey-nokes read right to the end of the mail that had batted between she and I for days; a candid discussion about state of our haemorrhoids, post pregnancy.