Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Jack of all trades

Believe it or not, I haven't always been just Penny Wise.  I've had some amazing jobs in my time and I have been lucky enough to love them all.  To look at me now, most people would never imagine that I used to be able to milk a herd of 200+ cows by myself but I could and indeed did so for many years. In fact one of my proudest moments ever is still the day I calved my first cow all by myself!  It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and everyone else was at home watching the All Blacks game on TV. I wasn't interested in rugby back then so I volunteered to go and check the cows to make sure they were all OK and not having any problems as it was calving season.  I pootled off down the farm on my motorbike and cast an eye around the paddock - and then I saw her.  She was a heifer (for those not up with farming lingo it meant she hadn't calved before) and the birth of her first calf was well underway.  Unfortunately the two feet she had protruding out of the back of her were not front feet.  They were back feet, meaning the calf was breech; in other words it was the wrong way round.  Just like humans, it's not really ideal, being born head first is infinitely preferable!  Whilst plenty of cows are able to give birth this way unaided, it was apparent from all the usual signs that this one had been struggling for a while and was getting nowhere.  

It was very possible that the calf could die left for too long and the poor heifer needed help but time was of the essence and I didn't want to disturb everyone else watching the rugby!  So I figured I'd have a go at helping her myself - after all, I'd been present at enough bovine births to know what to do!  So I approached as carefully and quietly as I could and grabbed hold of the slippery protruding feet.  This did not go down well and I had to hold on like hell as the mother took off in her efforts to get away from me, pulling me along behind her!  Luckily for me it wasn't long before she gave up and settled down nicely; I don't know if she knew I was trying to help her or what but it made our mission a heck of a lot easier!  I didn't have any calving ropes with me but I did have some baling twine on the bike and I cobbled a few pieces together like I had seen done and attached one end around each leg.  And pulled and pulled.  The heifer bless her did her bit too and before long, one healthy, still very much alive baby calf plopped out onto the ground.  I'm not sure who was more amazed, the calf's mother or me!  Fortunately instinct immediately kicked in and the brand new mum began vigorously washing her new baby.  I was so proud and exhilarated and relieved all at the same time and couldn't wait to whizz home and tell everyone.  They named the cow Jack in my honour and she went on to be the best milker in the herd!

Before Simple Savings  I also worked as a reporter and newspaper typesetter which I loved as the owners trusted me completely and gave me as much creative license as I wanted.  Our little office was the hub of the local community and every day was so much fun!  Before Liam was even old enough to go to school he was competent at using Photoshop and liked nothing better than to sit on my knee playing with photos and falling about laughing as he made his victims' nostrils bigger and swapped their eyes around.  I guess it was definitely a sign of things to come as his school and uni friends can vouch!

My most rewarding job however was when I was jointly running my own business as a 'people finder'.  Bear in mind this was long before the days of Facebook and people were a lot harder to find! It started when we set up our own NZ version of UK phenomenon Friends Reunited.  Aside from the day to day running of the site we would sometimes receive the odd letter from people who were desperate to track down long lost friends and family.  My heart always went out to them and my mum and I would dabble around in public records to try and find their loved ones.  We found we were actually rather good at it and after one of our first reunion stories appeared in the Women's Weekly, we were swamped and what started as just a bit of fun soon grew to become a full time occupation. Lordy how I wish I had kept all the cases, what an amazing book it would make!  So, so many wonderful stories.  We reunited brothers with sisters, children with parents, long lost work colleagues, childhood friends - it didn't matter where they were in the world, we would go to work with what little information they could give us and we would find them.  I even found the right John Smith in England out of all the blokes there with the same name!  It wasn't always a happy ending; sometimes I would have to break the heartbreaking news to people that their birth mother or father didn't want to - or couldn't - know them. It wasn't anybody's fault, just circumstantial.  Fortunately those instances were very few and far between.

My favourite case ever was that of a beautiful woman named Terri (I'm going to change the people's names here).  She wrote to me from Australia but had grown up in NZ.  As a schoolgirl she had a brief relationship with a chap who was a few years older called Pete.  He was a bus driver and would talk to her through the fence when she was at school.  I can't remember her exact age but I think she was only 15 or 16 when she fell pregnant and of course it was a big scandal so she was hidden away and when the baby girl was born, Terri's mother pretended it was HER baby, and Terri's daughter was actually raised as her sister.  Pete did know he was a father, thanks to a chance meeting with Terri several years later, when he caught sight of her with a little girl one day on his bus route. However he never saw her again as after that Pete changed jobs and moved away and Terri relocated to Australia.

By the time she reached her late teens, Terri's daughter had realised that her 'sister' was actually her mum and whilst this understandably took some getting used to, the two of them had a close bond and she began asking Terri about her birth father, wanting to know more about him and possibly meet him.  There was just one problem - Terri could not be 100% sure of Pete's surname.  Not only was it a fairly common surname, there were several different possible spellings of it, meaning we were going to have to try and track down every version of it - even then, Terri still wasn't totally convinced that it even WAS his surname!  But once again we took what we had and after months of searching, we found him.  Pete had by this time moved to the South Island and had got married and had a family of his own but was now divorced.  I remember the day I found his handwritten reply in our PO Box - it was so exciting!  He couldn't wait to be put in touch with Terri and his new daughter and it wasn't long before Terri flew from Australia to NZ to meet him.  And one thing soon became quite clear - the old spark from their teenage years was still very much there!  Next was for Pete to travel to Australia and in the months which followed much to-ing and fro-ing was done across the Tasman until one day Terri wrote to me to tell me joyfully that Pete was moving to live with her in Australia!  An incredible story, such a lovely couple and I still think about them and wonder how they are.

There were many more wonderful cases and I would love to have kept doing it but in the end the demand became too great for two people.  Our little business was bought out and ironically I began working as Regional Manager for the very company we had originally set out to compete against - Friends Reunited.  My days were spent liaising with media and PR agencies and I got to hang out with the likes of Trade Me founder Sam Morgan and negotiate deals with scary bigwigs like the heads of Telecom. My life couldn't have been more removed from my cow-calving days!  I spent a very enjoyable two years with them before stumbling across Simple Savings by chance one day in a copy of That's Life! magazine.  As soon as I saw it I wanted to be part of it and the rest as they say is history.

So what exactly is the point of today's ramble?  Well I'm job hunting you see - now that experience is a whole separate post in itself!  This is just a bit of background before I move onto the real job hunting blog.  But it's not about 'oh look how wonderful I am, I've had all these cool jobs' - quite the opposite.  Like I said, I've loved every single job I've ever had and I'm well aware how lucky I am but it's turned me into a bit of a spoilt brat.  Since the age of 18 I have never, ever had a 'normal' job.  Even the part time job I have now has lovely varied hours.  In every job I've ever had I've done what I want when I want and have worked largely off my own initiative, without an ever-present boss breathing down my neck.  It's been bloody marvellous I can tell you and I don't want it to stop!  But unless an incredible opportunity presents itself very soon I am just going to have to suck it up and let someone be in charge of me so that I can get to where I want to be - debt free. It's something I am really struggling with (told you I was a spoilt brat) - I can't imagine doing the same job day in, day out.  I can't imagine doing a job that won't grow or change or has a rigid description.  I really have always been a Jack of all trades!  Who knows, maybe it will be good for me?  Would certainly be better for the bank balance!  But giving up my independence will be so painful!  Still, I have to actually GET a job first. And if I don't, well I have several options up my sleeve.

What IS brilliant, is that the horrible situation I've been unable to write about all these weeks seems to have been well and truly resolved.  It's going to take me a while to be able to really relax properly but a U-turn has been performed and we are back on the right track, woohoo!   


  1. I know what you mean, I could never work in a job where they timed every wee break or listened in on your calls. I've really enjoyed jobs where I was on the road travelling from appointment to appointment. I had flexibility and autonomy as long as I met deadlines, which I always met and often exceeded because I was happy and motivated. Perhaps something similar may work for you.

  2. So pleased that your "situation" has been resolved. I've kept checking in to see how you were.