Open-air interviews


It seems odd to keep on keeping on in the present global circumstances, but school pick-ups and drop-offs come and go and there’s an almost surreal sense that things are just going on as normal while we wait for whatever happens next.

That means going on with the semi-ridiculous situations that can sometimes occur when trying to ‘balance’ work and family life. The other day I had arranged a work call at 4.30, safe in the knowledge I would be home from the school run and on the landline. Until…daughter one announced that she had to go to an old people’s home to talk to people as part of her IB course and wouldn’t be out till 4.45pm. Now she could have gone on the train and tube to get home, but that costs a fortune and I had no cash on me so I decided that the best solution would be to conduct the interview in a car park near her school. Easy peasy.

Except…I was late leaving for school pick-up and left my phone behind. No problem, I thought. Daughters two and three have phones. I will use theirs. I took everyone to the co-op and got them some bread to keep them going and parked in the car park. I whacked on the Queen CD. “I’ve got no bars, mum,” said daughter three. I looked at daughter two in hope, knowing that she only ever tells me she is out of credit when she has been out of credit for weeks. “Daughter one is ringing,” she announced excitedly. What? Where was daughter one? Maybe the old people’s home thing was off and she was still at school.

“I can’t swipe. The screen has frozen,” moaned daughter two. This did not bode well for my interview. Plus where on Earth was daughter one and was she ok? Eventually daughter two unfroze her screen by restarting her phone and she rang daughter one back. “She’s just on her way to the car park. The OAPs didn’t want to talk to anyone today because they are too tired,” reported daughter two. Straight after she hung up her phone froze again. I decided that daughter three’s phone was the best option.

“I will walk around the car park and find some bars,” I said. I sat on a wall just opposite the car and got half a bar. Hurrah. Balancing a piece of paper on my knee I started the interview. “The reception on my mobile is not very good where I am,” said the interviewee. “Can I ring you back on the landline?” Not really. As I could hear them ok I decided to plough on. Of course, at that precise moment several cars came into the car park and drove around the bit where I was. One stopped and two men got out and started having a conversation. The car park is normally very quiet. Typical.

Daughter one loomed and got into the car. I kept going with the interview. I am a professional after all. I have done interviews in cupboards, in the garden, in the bathroom, in the toilets at the school disco…Nothing now phases me. I am able to focus in the middle of utter chaos. I was coming to the end of the interview when I noticed the windows of the car had steamed up and only son appeared to be shouting something and being attacked by daughter two. Uh oh. I did some emergency signals which were intended to portray the message ‘are you alright?’. Only son smiled and looked like he was stifling a giggle. I finished the interview.

It was at that point that daughter one noticed that I was wearing her coat. Daughter one hates me wearing her coat, but I don’t have a warm one and she has three from the local charity shops. “Take it off,” she ordered when we got home. She proceeded to wear it all night in a bid to reclaim it as her own. She thinks she has made her point, but as I’m working from home and I don’t want to waste heating money, I’m wearing it now. Sometimes as a parent you have to be a little bit subversive.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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