The Greatest Gift Of All

Surprised to receive a Christmas card from my former colleague Fred this afternoon in the mail. If you live in the United Kingdom I am sure you also have been receiving your correspondence later in the day from Her Majesty’s Mail Service. Pre-pandemic we would receive our mail usually around 11am but now we get the odd envelope (or two) stuffed into our letterbox after 2pm.

I worked with Fred when we both contract analysts for Intel Corporation in Swindon. In fact, 3,775 days (or 124 months) from today was when I was first subjected to one of many office pranks, as I shared a cubicle with Mr P all those years ago. If you are really interested you can search for ‘office prank’ tag.

In those intervening nine years since I left the microchip manufacturer, Fred himself has had an interesting career path in various roles, working for a variety of companies across a range of industries. Can I embarrass him by stating the fact that this is the first time he has ever sent me a Christmas card? Too late – I have to a worldwide audience. Even though we worked together during Christmas 2010. So it took the birth of his daughter and then a global pandemic for him to finally feel the compassion to reach out via snail mail.

Included with the festive greeting card was what appeared to be a photocard. A closer inspection, I discovered it was my profile photo taken in the summer of 2018 (while I still worked for CA) and a fake Intel blue badge. This was the holy grail Fred and I had both coveted. We had both taken the contract role at Teleperformance on the understanding that in time our roles would be converted to FTEs on Intel’s payroll. For various reasons, this did not happen. In fact, one of our colleagues in the commercial department who we worked closely with took over four years to reach the goal of achieving blue badge status. I always ask myself the question was it worth it?

A running joke was Fred’s inability to master the pronunciation of my surname. Actually thinking back it was not actually Fred but an external consultant based in South Africa, whom we had both met on multiple times on his visits to the Swindon Head Office. The consultant just was not able to say my surname correctly even after multiple attempts to correct him and therefore Fred just jumped on this for his entertainment to help ease him through the working day. This used to be particularly annoying when we were both on teleconferences together and Fred was left with the role of introducing me to other senior members of the company. Now I believe it is quite straightforward, only three syllables. However, to this day I am surprised and shocked how badly people can pronounce a surname of a mere six characters. There are more difficult surnames out there I am sure.

FTE Badge

Do you ever consider what if? What if I had stayed at a job or in a relationship. At one stage in late 2010, my wife and I (fiance at the time) were considering purchasing a property in Swindon and settling in the Wiltshire town as I worked there and the 120 mile a day commute was becoming both expensive and unbearable. For whatever reason, our plans fell through and we decided to stay within the Royal County of Berkshire instead. The rest they say is history, but part of me does wonder what could have been. As the lyrics go from a song that topped the UK charts in 1999…

Your Choices Are Half Chance; So Are Everybody Else’s


  • Ben Reply

    It took the world slowing down to see what matters beyond the grind.
    Wondering “what if” is a good way of challenging your own expectations

    • teg Reply

      Suppose Ben we are all caught up in some version of the rat race and it does take the impact of a global pandemic for us to all stop and take stock. Being forced into lockdown does have some quirky benefits, more time with family, bonding with my son, organising my home life and improving the overall work-life balance… how about yourself? Jumping between roles during this difficult time is not without its own challenges… I suppose I should have done more blogging.

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