Milan

Got back from Italy on Thursday night but haven’t had chance to post about it yet! Decided on Tuesday night that I’d get an early night given I had to be up at 4am. So I went to bed at 8pm. And woke up at 9.40pm. Not good. You know when you start thinking about things and can’t get them out your head? Well my brain was going twenty to the dozen. I think I must have dozed off again at some point, but I was still wandering the house at 1am, so I wasn’t overly refreshed by the time I started getting ready for work. Mum gave me a lift to the airport cause we didn’t trust a taxi driver to find my address on time.

It was an easy journey to the airport, as you’d expect at that time in the morning. I was beginning to get nervous about the trip though, cause it’s all a relatively new experience for me. Not only was it what I would call my first proper trip abroad but it was the first time in seven or eight years (excluding the work night out) that I’ve stayed in a hotel. The Biology field trip at college was a hostel with four of us in the room and twenty sharing two showers, so that doesn’t count.

Baring in mind that I normally feel sick when I’m really tired, that and my nervousness was making me feel like real crap! I arrived at the airport at about 5.50am and Paul wasn’t there so I wandered aimlessly for a bit, read the free paper and then decided to look for him. He was upstairs so we just kind of checked in and went for a drink. My memory of airports from going to Malta with school when I was 14 was that they were kind of complicated, but now they seem more like a station just with a few more security checks.

We got on the plane which was quite small. I was kind of expecting a bigger one and so was Paul. He was telling me all about different types of planes and I tried to sound interested but I’m not really fussed about that kind of thing. I was more worried about not being sick on my boss! I like cars but even that I don’t need to know all the facts and figures!

We were given seats by the emergency exit which was nice of them – a bit more legroom. Only I was sat there reading a paper mid-flight trying desperately not to touch any part of the door for fear of it flying open at 37000 feet! As soon as the plain started moving I was feeling travel sickness creep in too. When breakfast came round I took it cause I didn’t want to be showing weakness but only ate a half of it. I decided the best policy was to starve myself for a bit.

We finally landed which was a relief and I walked out into a sunny but cold Milan. It was so nice! We missed a train by literally a few seconds which set us back by about 30 minutes. I was feeling better though – not 100% but better.

The taxi ride from the train to the office was possibly one of the scariest experiences of my life. Driving seems to be a matter of getting to the place you want to be in the shortest possible time. A road isn’t a road per se, but merely a piece of hard ground where you drive your car. There don’t appear to be any defined lines – if your car fits the gap then go there, whether you are moving at 80kph in the city centre or positioning yourself at traffic lights. And make sure you’re in the gap first at all costs. I decided that if I ever had to drive myself in Milan, I would have a scooter or the biggest, tallest, widest, heaviest and oldest heap of junk that can still move forward. I’m not even sure it’s road rage as we in the UK would think of it. It’s just an impatience I think. The only problem they normally have with other drivers is if they aren’t moving fast enough.

We got to the office in one piece and, suprisingly, we hadn’t had any bumps. I got introduced to a few people with immaculate English which got me kind of embarrassed cause of how limited my Italian was / is. And we got taken down for some lunch too as it was about 12.30. Argh! OK Mike, keep it together, you don’t have to travel for a few hours. But all the food is pasta and meat. And pasta of course is massively carbohydrate and quite heavy. I just ordered what Paul got, except for the meat, which turned out to be horse. Good choice Mike!

Meetings that afternoon were fairly constructive. Then me went out for tea. The hotel was amazingly nice compared to the rubbish we stayed in in Manchester about three weeks earlier. I met Paul in the bar after checking in and dumping some stuff in my room. I asked for a Coke and they brought me a lager. Still feel not perfect. I got the line “Oh well, you’ll drink it anyway won’t you?”. Erm, OK. (I don’t really drink by the way for a few reasons, one of which is that I don’t like the stuff). Then I was introduced to my European boss. I’m a bit confused about the hierarchy at work. Everyone seems to have a few people they report to but apart from me being at the bottom I don’t know what’s going on really. He said “Oh, you started in HR didn’t you? I’ve heard a lot about you!” As you do in such situations, I made light of it, uttering that that sounded ominous. I don’t know how he’d have known that so I’m interested to know he’d been talking to about me.

I got taken on a brief tour of the city. I saw the Cathedral and a few other things, including the bull whose bollocks you spin round on on your heel for good luck! Then we went to this really nice restaurant but I decided to go really English and order the thing I’d heard of. It was the safe option. But it was so much better than what we get over here! I was got a glass of sparkling wine without me knowing so again I had to drink it. But then they thought I just normally drank alcohol so kept on giving me more. I drank more that night then I’ve drunk in possibly the last four years put together.

I got back to the hotel at around 11.30. I’d had about 2 hours sleep in the last 40 so crashed straight away. Woke up feeling like I had sandpaper in my throat. All I had to drink was alcohol and coffee for the last day! I knocked back glass upon glass of tap water before breakfast! Getting ready was a pain cause the only mirror was in the bathroom and by the time you’d been in the shower it had all steamed up. I accepted the fact it was going to be a bad hair day and moved on! I was absolutely starving and feeling better so I had quite a large breakfast of fruit, yoghurt and cake! Get in!

It certainly makes a difference getting up to a bright day. Here it’s just dark throughout the winter, and it had been raining and blowing a gale. Milan was cold but sunny and it was really nice. The offices were clean and bright and it was great just to be able to talk to people. I do so much work on my own and our office is just artificial light and dark red carpet and upholstery. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad environment to work in but, for me, it doesn’t allow you to work at your best and being so open plan with four different departments in the one office, it lacks the intimacy that allows you to get to know your direct colleagues better. That Thursday was the first day in a long long time that I can remember being able to really get going. My brain was clicking into a kind of gear which I had briefly utilised for spells at uni and I was in the mood where I was prepared to take control of things and be myself rather than just pottering.

I had a few meetings that day. One was with a member of their Packaging department. I’d briefly met these two girls the day before and they didn’t look like they knew an ugly stick existed let alone got anywhere near it! The meeting was really tough! Stefania was absolutely sound. Her English wasn’t perfect but it was still really good. Paul kind of let me take control of that meeting. Whether he saw I was enjoying myself and let me or whether it was just unconscious on his part I don’t know. There was certainly a lot more laughing and smiling in that meeting than all the others. My only worry afterwards was that I’d maybe been a bit obvious! Oops! Maybe I was a bit eager too when their manager asked if they could contact me with problems! There was talk of me doing some training which would be good. Although I can’t see it happening.

So yeah, we finished up on Thursday and got the flight home. Much better this flight! I did two SuDokus while Paul calculated fuel economy of a plane and then explained it to me. We were also in Club class this time so we got proper tea even though I just fancied a sandwich! I waited in the Terminal a bit for my lift to arrive but this weird guy was zigzagging across it so I went and stood outside in the cold.

It was a good trip. I think I’ll go back as a tourist at some point. I reached a level there that I thought I wouldn’t hit again, and that’s not exaggerating. Milan is a strange place. It’s covered in graffiti, yet has the fine sculpting of its older, more famous buildings. It has run down, derelict buildings in the city centre off setting the designer shops. And it has such a range of old and new apartment blocks. It really seems to spread across the decades. Then you have the taxi drivers compared to the people I work with. The climate. And the amazing coffee! Even the stuff out their machines in the offices is amazing!

I’m going to learn some Italian I think. Just enough to have a general “How are you?” conversation would be good.

The trip taught me something. I’ve always been someone who won’t change dependant on the company I’m in. But I learned that sometimes you have to adapt. It’s kind of like a room. You have the room and it’ll always be the same in structure, but if you want to play snooker in there then you’ll need a snooker table. If you want to entertain, you’ll need a proper table. Maybe you’ll change the colour of the walls, put up some curtains. You have your principles but sometimes you need to change your methods. I guess in a way it’s just respect for your situation. Maybe I’m too laid back so I need to balance this with some forcefulness. I know I lack forcefulness. I don’t lack conviction or confidence in myself, just sometimes it’s easier to let things happen. Respect in a way I haven’t thought of before.

I had a lot of work to be getting on with on Friday so I got that done as much as I could. This weekend has been normal. I did win the best part of £15 on the Euro Millions which was good. It wasn’t £70million, but…

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