Work life ‘balance’ during the holidays


It’s the holidays so I’m trying to fit in some life alongside work and it’s not going wholly to plan.

The other day daughter one had to get to a job interview in London. It was all under control. I was going to take the others to Westfield and wait for her there. So we parked near the station, leaving the customary three minutes late. Only son led the way to the tube, pausing to consider the wonder of a feather en route. “I hope I remember to pick that up on the way back,” he said. Only son never forgets anything and our house is full of sticks and nature objects so I was quite confident he would remember. We got to the tube. “Line suspended,” it announced. Oh dear. Daughter one looked slightly panicked. We were already behind schedule. “I’ll drive you there if you check the A-Z,” I said. We marched back to the car, stopping briefly to pick up the feather.

Daughter one got out the A-Z. “How on earth does this thing work?” she asked, before taking out her phone and seeking Google maps. As luck would have it I chose the wrong route to London. We got stuck behind a tractor and then a whole line of traffic. Daughter one’s phone connection temporarily disappeared as she tried to email the job people to say she might be late. The connection returned as we headed onto the North Circular. “It says we’ll be there in 21 minutes,” she said happily. “We’ll be early.” Oops. Daughter one missed a turning. We were on the way to Docklands. “It’s recalculating. We’ll be there in 27 minutes,” she said. I wondered if the prediction took any account of London traffic.

Fortunately, London traffic was not too bad that day and we located the street where her interview was scheduled. She had five minutes to get to it. I parked the car, only to find that it was on one of those new-fangled car parking machines which require you to pay by phone. The man beside me who was trying to dial in gave up after 10 minutes. The phone bot told me to download the app or stay on the line. I chose to stay on the line, mainly because I was in the middle of the road and didn’t have a pen on me to write down the url. I had to register and put in my card details and all sorts. The phone cut out halfway through. I tried again.

I entered a wrong digit for the numberplate. There is no delete button on the phone. I redialled. I entered a wrong digit because I coiuldn’t hear what they were saying on the phone due to passing traffic. After about 15 minutes I managed to register and pay. During this time I was standing holding my dedit card and phone in the middle of a street, a prime target for any passing muggers, and I had to leave the kids in the car. I wonder sometimes whether the people who design these things really think the whole thing through. This is, of course, why diversity matters. They need someone on the team who actually has to use this stuff in a hurry.

We searched for daughter one’s interview venue. She had said it was at number 119. The road stopped at 35. There was no sign of daughter one. Five minutes later she was sauntering down the road, interview over. The interview was actually in the next-door street.

We retired to a Pret a manger and spent a small fortune on sandwiches, mainly so we could use the toilet. Daughter three took an eon to choose a meatball wrap only to find it was stuffed with cheese. Daughter three hates cheese. She filled up with crisps and we returned home, having viewed my old office which daughter one had visited as a baby and which is now a pile of rubble and the old News International building, now converted into the obligatory luxury flats.

I told the kids all about the history of Cable Street. Daughter one had a glance at estate agent prices. She may need several jobs to afford even to rent a shoebox in London. We headed home and I worked all evening to compensate. An afternoon out of sorts, but I’m not sure if it falls into the magazine soft-focus image of work life balance.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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