The art of persuasion

Have you ever asked yourself: Why do we have mental breakdowns? I experienced a full-blown meltdown a couple of years ago. I’ve gone over it over and over again asking myself how on earth I got there. The only answer I can come up with is this: failing to take responsibility for what happened. One word: avoidance.

“I really want Google now,” I am talking my head off to my Doctor friend. “Will be bummed if I don’t. Are your sarnies selling well?”

“No. There is more bla bla here then there,” the Doctor tells me pre-occupied. “But I am negotiating to rent kitchen space. On Monday I do new trials.”

“Yeay,” I cheer him on as it does all sound promising although I am wondering why it is taking so long. Or on the other hand I keep asking myself if the Doctor has a better sense about setting up a business than I do. I’ll just observe for a while, I decide.

“Today I bake for new photos,” the Doctor goes on.

“Do people like them?” I ask him again.

“Yes they do,” the Doctor nods at me pleasantly.

“Posting photos to social media?” I want to know why he needs these photos. Is it digital marketing material, or is it content for his menus? “I bet they do.”

“Perhaps,” the Doctor avoids my curiosity.

“Do you make them happy too?” I prod further for more answers. “Can I order a sarnie with charisma?”

“I don’t know about that,” the Doctor eyes me suspiciously. “Yes when I come back as an employee as a mentalist for Google after you get the job. Going to get supplies. Back in half an hour.”

“Oooooh I m not sure I want you to come back,” I smile sweetly peering into my webcam to gauge his every reaction. “It’s always great seeing you and talking to you. Love having you around. Like really love the feeling. It’s comforting, soothing, nice, motivating. But dangerous too. And there’s Debbie and your sarnies. But would love to taste a sarnie with charisma. I really want that too. With or without Google. I want Google too though. And to become very, very rich.”

“What do you think will happen to you if you become very rich?” the Doctor turns to face me head on in the camera. He had been pottering around his study before this turn of conversation. “Are you ready for those problems?”

“I might lose touch with reality again?” I ask a little worried. “I would like to create businesses. Travel the world. Sponsor charity work, maybe start one myself.”

“You need to be more clear than that,” the Doctor points out to me.

“I will continue working as a consultant part time in my own consultancy agency,” I start out doing my utmost best to be very specific this time. “I will hire and educate young people in digital marketing. Heleen will be my office manager. I will also start up my Center for Inspiration, branches in Keerbergen, Mechelen and Brussels. Bring meditation to busy stressed out people. I will also open a shop selling designer clothes for kids. I will travel during school vacations with my three kids and the au-pair. We will tour South America. Also Asia, Japan, Bali, Vietnam. Stuff like that. And Scandinavia. We’ll blog about it too. And create immense Instagram following. I will start a charity for kids. Bring digital education, a center where kids can turn to: get food, clothes and comfort. Starting in Belgium and then other places along my travels. Maybe also teach them to make sarnies. I will sell my house and buy a new one, bigger, more modern, more center Keerbergen so my kids can go to school by bike. I will also do stuff with art and photography. Like workshops for kids and travel camps. That’s what I will do when I am rich.”

“Ok good enough,” the Doctor shrugs pretending not to care, but I can tell my the twinkle in his eye that he liked my answer.

“What will you do?” I ask him in turn.

“Consider risks, as its hard work to begin with,” the Doctor gives me a wise look urging me to pay close attention. “I will protect my money. Invest as best I can. Keep trying to grow my capital. Be wary of those trying to take it away. Mix with winners only and adopt their attitudes to success. Teach my kids to do the same. To achieve is better than a life of Reilly.”

“Ok will cogitate on that,” I tell him as I do think his advice is pretty sound.

“Think about it like this,” the Doctor looks at me sternly. “You work for longer periods than you vacation. This makes vacation special. If you vacation for long periods you will need to demotivate yourself to work.”

“Well yes there are long periods during school time,” I defend my cause. “But okay make vacation rare and special. I’m hoping I do get Google. I’ll be able to have paid vacation! Real vacation without a computer. Without being always on. I haven’t had that in years.”

“Yes I really hope you do,” the Doctor nods. There is something about the air around him that makes me feel insecure now.

“I will by a loft by the sea and organise meditation retreats,” I continue laying out my future plans, doing my best to shake the creeping feeling of insecurity. Why am I feeling this gut feeling? What am I not acknowledging? “Me too. Any magic spells?”

“Yes but they don’t work in Belgium,” the Doctor dissuades me of any hocus pocus. This also shakes me as I would expect my pure desire for manifestation to be the ultimate secret to getting what I want.

“They don’t?” I ask him annoyed. He obviously wants me to work for it. Maybe that was my uneasy feeling. “Where do they work then? Need to make this work. I’ll just have to trust that will happen what is best. Whatever is on my path. Sounds so fatalistic.”

“Spells work best among superstitious people,” the Doctor explains. “No you must make it happen. Pray a lot. Ask for it. Be clear on what you are asking for.”

“I want to be a top executive at Google,” I decide there is no time like the present to be clear about what I want. “It will give me the visibility and credibility I need to sell these training videos and to be successful. It will allow me to expand my career, learn, and have security. Security is good for me and my kids. It will reduce stress. Top pay 150k plus, indexable annually, car and fuel covered so I can get rid of my car costs, med coverage so I can save that cost too, pension and shares for later.”

“Yes. Plus you get to brainstorm with like-minded people,” the Doctor reminds me it’s not just about the money but about the satisfaction of working on something meaningful. “Just be selective on who you sleep with. Don’t go for low level management until you are at the top of your game.”

“Paid vacation is a ball,” I know I keep repeating myself but this is one of the perks I am really looking forward to. “I’m sleeping with Wim. But true. Sleep with top management?”

“Yes. You are,” the Doctor nods. “Things change.”

“Hmmmm yes,” I look disgruntled.

“Ok so focus on this position and what you can bring,” the Doctor changes the perspective for me to consider all sides to the story. “Ask for it in clear terms. Don’t worry too much about your contribution as it will fall into the scope. Ignore the vacation aspect, it’s a perk. Focus on the job only.”

“I want the job,” I repeat like a moron. “Conversion optimization evangelist. I want to be a Google evangelist.”

“Find out who you need to get to know to get support from them,” the Doctor gives me ideas how to keep working towards this goal.

“Quite amazing,” I cheer happily. “I would be like my analytics heroes. Never thought this was possible.”

“Keep that picture very focused in your mind,” the Doctor preaches. “Talk about it. Do your homework and due diligence. Meet the relevant people. Get to it now.”

“Okay,” I skip around merrily.

“You have the knowledge and skills,” the Doctor coaches me. “Go forward. Ignore the past. Recreate your history to make you look amazing. It’s in you. I felt it.”

“Yes,” I am beaming all over now. Feeling invincible. I like that. “Ha now BNP wants to negotiate too. And I don’t want to sleep around. I want to marry Wim.”

“You sound sure,” the Doctor prods me to get me out of balance on my last statement. “Well BNP is in your hand so negotiate. If Google comes resign and move on. Don’t turn BNP away in case Google happens some day soon. It may not.”

“Good plan,” I smile, but not inside. I don’t like what the Doctor just said. What does he mean, Google might not happen?

So instead of taking responsibility, I spent my time on sillies like the secret manifestation and other oddities I picked up from courses with Deepak Chopra. Just hoping the universe will listen and chanting mantras will not bring me the job. It’s hard work and doing your homework and research that will. That’s the part where I was supposed to be taking responsibility.

If I am ever to climb out of this pit I believe a reset of my way of thinking is in order. No more magical BS and unicorns for me. No sir.

Fiona

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I am blonde

When I dumb myself down, I sell myself short and lose out on opportunities.

“In fact you could be Francis,” I eye the Doctor suspiciously. “The blog is well written, talks about anxiety and depression, about taking off the mask and welcoming change.”

I am talking to him as I am talking to him as I am nonchalantly skimming my mails. One mail in particular catches my eye and I start jumping up and down excitedly. “Oh my God! Google is offering 150k annually. That’s worth thinking about. Paid holiday, paid sick leave, benefits. Still a slave, but a star slave with a lot of visibility.”

“Yes indeed,” the Doctor nods approvingly, his smile reaching almost ear to ear. “Worth the security I would think. Exec salary. In fact you could employ me.”

“I could,” I look at him with pure excitement shimmering from every part of my body. “Would need a great mentalist on board. Any questions I should be asking? What do I need to negotiate?”

“Would be wiser to ask Wim,” the Doctor cautions me. “But to get you thinking. Length of contract with penalty clause if they fire you. Perks like car, med insurance for the family. Share options. Pension contribution. And scope.”

What I admire the most in my friend is his ability to go into any social situation and sense the level of consciousness in that situation. His friendship is a gift. It enables me to move considerately in a world that holds all kinds of people. Although I am unable to shift my energy to accommodate people, I have caught myself out dumbing myself down to a regrettable degree. Sometimes, when I get into a particular social situation, I feel pressure to play it small in order to fit in. These are situations where everyone is drinking or smoking excessively, engaging in gossipy small talk, or complaining bitterly. I notice this and modify my expectations, but never entirely join in.

Where do you fit in, do you know?

Fiona

Make every day count

Sometimes I purposefully, though unconsciously, cut myself off from my business and workflow so I can avoid dealing with painful issues.

“You could record live webinars in your kitchen and show people how to do it,” I tell Bakerman as we are brainstorming business ideas again. “Sell your recipes. Or maybe you want the quiet life by the sea.”

“Sex on the beach,” Bakerman teases back. I can tell immediately he’s in a funny mood.

“Haha yes that too,” I laugh back. “I’ve never had sex on the beach. I’m 42 for crying out loud. Wouldn’t that be lovely…”

“You don’t need sand in soft places,” Bakerman always knows how to sooth my hurts of lost opportunities.

“No it probably sounds better than it really is,” I decide. It’s like people who claim they were up all night making love. Never done that one either.

“Did you have a good holiday?” Bakerman turns the subject to something more fun.

“Yessss,” I emphasize as I beam at him. “Love my kids sea beach and champagne.”

“No side entertainment?” Bakerman is making sure I was on best behavior.

“No,” I snap back at him and squint my eyes. “Like what?”

“Cava,” Bakerman offers.

“Champagne,” I correct him again. “And a few smokes.”

“Nice,” Bakerman smiles pleased. “Did Wim miss you?”

“Yes,” I smile again. “A bit. Did you?”

“Yes. It was very quite while you were away,” Bakerman admits.

I let out a loud laugh as Bakerman gets to his feet. “Got to go. Be good,” he says as he pecks me fondly on the cheek.

“That company came back to me that I was too expensive,” I tell him on his way out. “Any way I can still win the deal?”

I guess we all experience periods where we are separated from the abundant ebb and flow, be it in business or in our career. These times of being disconnected from a steady source of income may occur for many reasons, but self-sabotage is the most common cause for me cutting myself off from the abundant flow of the universe. I find I cut myself off from this flow so I can avoid dealing with painful issues, shun the necessary steps for growth, or prevent the success I am afraid of achieving from ever happening. When I disconnect from the abundant source, I am blocking the flow of the universe’s generosity. I become like a sleepwalker who is not fully awake to life, and my hopes, plans and dreams begin to appear as distant blurs on a faraway horizon. Universal support has obviously never left me. If only I can remember that I became disconnected from the abundant source by choice, then I can choose to reconnect.

Faithfully,

Fiona

We all need chocolate egg therapy

Chocolate and therapy are both profoundly helpful tools. Yet talking about it openly is almost as dirty as talking about money. As a result, we turn to chocolate as the thought of therapy alone is a host of unhelpful fantasies, hopes and suspicions.

Bakerman being the attentive friend he is, has been popping some chocolate eggs in with my daily bread for the past few days now leading up to Easter.

“More video training today,” I smile at him joyfully at the prospect of more chocolate surprise. “Awfully exhausting. Wishing you a happy Easter and lots of chocolate. Off to Normandy tomorrow.”

“I’m an atheist,” Bakerman tells me straight. “But the real tradition is Passover. Happy Easter to you. Have a good trip. ”

He blows kisses at me as he heads back to his van. I eagerly peer into my brown paper bag with fresh bread and am delighted to find another handful of dark chocolate eggs. Exactly the ones I like. My best therapy.

I am certainly a believer that therapy is the greatest step anyone can take towards self-discovery and fulfilment of your highest potential. How therapy works is a mystery. Chocolate eggs for that matter are much easier to understand. You unwrap the shiny coloured wrapper, discover the deliciously scented egg inside, then pop it into your mouth and wait for the feel-good hormones to kick in.

Love and chocolate always,

Fiona

Lighten up

Bakerman didn’t show for my morning delivery of freshly baked buns, so I decide to call him on the phone to check whether everything is okay.

“Howdi,” I start out, and already the excitement of hearing him made me totally forget my reason for calling him. “Did my mom’s tarot yesterday. She pulled the death card twice. Does this mean I am going to die?”

I pull a horrified face which I am sure he can’t see at the other end of the line. “Went to see the solicitor yesterday. To see for marriage contract with Wim. Brrr… very scary. And also to sort out custody for Willem should anything happen to me. If I die, Willem goes to his godparents, Wim and Buidi.”

My chatter is ongoing on I’m half wondering if Bakerman is amused or trying to get a word in somewhere. “Also writing up an offer for a new client. I really want this one. It would mean 1.400 Euro monthly recurring. What can I do to make sure I get this client? Any magic or woohoo I can do?”

I pause for a moment for the magic to set in. Then I finally request a response from him: “What kind of lessons do you teach Mary?”

“Hi,” Bakerman breathes amused down the phone. “The death card means change. Not a physical death. Are you doing a prenuptial agreement? Let’s hope nothing untoward happens to you as your family will break up and the kids will lose touch.”

“Yes split contract, prenuptial,” I emphasize the cleanliness of the deal. “It’s scary though. I want to get married but last time I didnt like being married.  If I die and if Willem goes to Wim or Buidi, they will maintain contact with the kids.”

“I see,” Bakerman is making sense of the ongoings. “Are you going to live together?”

“No,” I laugh out loud at the crazy suggestion. “Later when the kids are at uni.”

“Then what’s the point?” Bakerman asks me a little annoyed.

“The feeling, the intention, the love,” I spell it out for him. “The commitment.”

“Really?” Bakerman sounds unconvinced. “Oh well that’s great. Sounds wonderful.”

“It’s good and slow enough for me,” I beam at him determined not to get unbalanced in my personal conviction.

“When will this happen?” Bakerman continues prodding the reality of my plans.

“After Wim’s chemo therapy,” I announce a little too sure of myself. “I guess September. We’ll get the contract sorted now and then set a date when health permits.”

“Very cool,” Bakerman is humouring me, I can tell. “This way you get to keep your cake after you have eaten it.”

“We’re doing things backwards: buy a house, have a baby, get married… live together,” I know just by saying this that I am the rule, not the exception, but I chose to ignore the uneasy feeling creeping up on me. “ Yessss! How do I make sure to get this client?”

“Fantastic,” Bakerman susses me for now.

“Come on, a magic phrase or whatever?” I plead him to give me a feather of confidence to hold onto.

“Which client?” Bakerman questions me.

“The tourism agency one,” I go on very excited. “They want social media, Adwords and analytics.”

“What do they want?” Bakerman pretends he didn’t hear me first time. “Oh.”

“I am quoting 2.800 set-up fee and 1.400 monthly recurrent,” I go on divulging the details of the calculations I made based on the prospects business requirements.

“Can you use Mechelen as a reference?” Bakerman has got his business thinking cap on. “You will guarantee the results are true.”

“Yes I could,” I realize this is the ultimate referral which should convince my prospect of experience and quality of work. “Okay. The results are true?”

“Use Mechelen,” Bakerman emphasizes.

“Excellent idea,” I congratulate him for being such a fantastic consultant.

“Yes after you have done social media, AdWords and analytics the dashboard will reflect unbiased and true results,” Bakerman points out my own unique selling propositions. “You don’t spin the result like others do.”

“Oooh okay,” I breathe excitedly. “Is my price ok?”

“Things will start to pick up now,” Bakerman predicts ahead. “February is always a bad month. Although it’s a very good month for holidays.”

“Super,” I am happy at this thought of business picking up and income increasing. “Things will be good by the time the Star returns. Mid November she’s back.”

“I can’t say if your price is good or not as I don’t know the market value,” Bakerman points out. “Better a bit high than a bit low.”

“Okay, will review before sending,” I decide content with the outcome of this conversation.

“Good girl,” Bakerman teases me.

“How are you?” I finally recall my reason for calling him. His absence this morning to deliver my daily bread.

“I am sick with flu,” Bakerman informs me matter of factly.

“Oooh poor you,” my cheeks burn slightly red that I had not inquired before.

“Had hoped to get going now but set back another week,” Bakerman informs me I’ll be without my daily bread for a few more days. Bummer, you start enjoying little routines and it feels awful when these fall away abruptly.

“Are you being spoilt?” I want to know.

“No,” Bakerman replies short.

“No oranges and honey?” I ask incredulously. “Why not?”

“I like to be left alone to sleep,” Bakerman gives a totally plausible yet surprising answer.

“Where’s Debbie?” I ask checking if all other factors remain constant.

“She is around,” Bakerman answers my real question.

“So I’m bothering you?” my cheeks are still a high colour of pink and I’m happy he can’t see that.

“No,” Bakerman smiles. “I don’t agree that as a man I am useless when sick. I think we suffer equally as much. But life goes on. Having my tummy rubbed is fun but at the right time and for the right reason. But for flu I just need tea, vitamin C, food and sleep.”

“Agree,” I sigh relieved. “Men do make a fuss. Or life just ends there and then.”

“Yes they do become babies,” Bakerman chuckles.

“Got to go,” I jump up looking at the time horrified. “I have a conf call.”

I head back off to my desk and computer my head spinning with new ideas. I have a few new ideas how to approach this prospect with promises on how to manage and analyze their social media marketing in one dashboard, how to use analytics tools to improve their advertising performance. And I am also feeling optimistic and confident with the marketing support I am getting from my friend Bakerman. Right now I feel like yes, I can succeed!

* Disclaimer : Any resemblance between the fictional characters in this story and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle by chance more than by choice.

Free bread, last chance!

Bakerman had invited me to a sample sale of his new baguettes. It was nice. Lovely little nibble bites and lots of smiles from the locals. We live in a village. At the end of the day, everybody knows a little bit about everyone.

“You are very quiet,” Bakerman had made his way across the room. People had started to leave and I was just considering doing the same myself. “What’s wrong?”

“Hi there,” I greet my baking friend. “Nothing really. I didn’t want to keep complaining about the usual. My mother, work stress, money problems and Wim’s health. So I just got busy with some stuff and couldn’t think of anything else to tell you.” I give him a meek look which reflects my inner turmoil. Then I am quick to change the subject. I don’t like having the focus on myself for too long. “How are you? How are your sarnies? How can you make a baguette taste like an éclair?”

“I make a secret sauce,” Bakerman winks at me. “The eclair has no sugar in it and is very easy to eat. The Oban is being fixed right now so I will do some bake tests in it to get to know it and use the expensive stove for the first time.”

Bakerman had just stuffed his face with an entire mini-éclair. “Ovan,” he repeats again, his face turning a dangerous colour red. “Oven,” he finally spits out with great frustration.

I throw my head back with amused laughter. Laughing with friends is a great way to let go of the negative energy and allow for the light-heartedness.

“Shitty thing is I will have to move in six weeks to a new kitchen,” Bakerman looks around his current little bakery. “Thanks for the correction. How are you? Any new Reiki clients?”

“No, I’ve stopped advertising Reiki and meditation after throwing money away for 3 weeks,” I pull a funny face to highlight my annoyance. “Maybe I should create a Facebook page and try some social media marketing instead.”

“Yes,” Bakerman nods at me encouragingly popping another mini tart into his mouth.

“Yes the right mindset and all,” I say pensively. “I’ll give that a try when I have the time. I am now creating my slides for the video training. And learning new stuff about social media marketing. And seeing to new and existing clients. Very very busy. Only generated an extra 1.100 euro though this month.”

“That’s cool,” Bakerman replies nodding at me again.

“Didn’t make my 1.500 target,” I correct him. I have set myself solid targets for each month. Generate more income than the same month of the previous year. Gain at least one new client each month. And then a target amount to put aside in savings each month. I am continuously tracking my progress and pushing myself to perform, for my own sake. “But I did get a new client so that’s something.”

“Keep going,” Bakerman smiles at me with that penetrating blue gaze. “Maybe I should consider learning Facebook marketing and SEO and come back and sell the service. I will have to go out and cold call clients too for my sandwiches. I am very cheap. 1.50 euro for a veggie one.”

I shudder as I hear the term ‘cold calling’. In fact, I can see goose bumps appearing all over my arms. I must be allergic to the idea. Hate it. Absolutely hate cold calling. “I am pricing myself cheap because I am desperate for clients,” I sigh a little ashamed to admit this. I’m a posh lady. My time and know-how is worth more than that. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

“Try being expensive and give a discount out of empathy instead,” Bakerman whispers to me. “Hard to raise your price if they think your value is cheap.”

“True,” I answer as my thoughts start drifting off in all different directions. My head is swimming with images and thoughts related to many different subjects. In my mind they are all intricately connected, though I know in reality they are not.

“Also explain the difference between instant gratification and delayed gratification,” Bakerman reminds me of his favourite sayings. “You provide more delayed success that is longer lasting then a short term win that is gone in a day.”

“Yup I do,” I say as I realize this is true. I’m finding back part of my value and the feeling alone makes my eyes sparkle.

“How are your kids?” Bakerman suddenly changes the subject, eyeing me carefully.

“Anyway first I need to complete those slides before I chase new clients,” I say summarizing my work priorities. “Only done one third of the slides so far. Deadline is eighth of March.” I sigh as I take a sip of my sweet English breakfast tea. “Kids are doing great. Hockey for Winston three to four times a week. Lilly loves the piano. Willem loves the piano and loves to eat.”

“Are you writing dialog for your slides?” Bakerman asks and I can tell it’s a trick question.

“No, no dialogue. Just keywords and some bullet points. I would like to do on screen demos,” I lay out my plan for the online video trainings in Google Adwords. It’s my opportunity, my moment to try for passive income. After all, I’ve been talking about this wish and desire for what, about a year now?

“Wim got worried last night,” I give him a conspiratorial look. “What if Marc turned up now, or in five years to claim the baby? What rights does he have? This is his quality time with Willem.”

“Do you need a baby grand piano for the lounge?” Bakerman looks up suddenly as if a brilliant plan had just emerged to the front of his mind. Or some psychic interference, who’s to say?

“I have a piano in the lounge,” I tell him realizing Bakerman never got any further than my kitchen. “Renting it.”

“I think Marc has visitation rights but you could argue he gave them up by complete rejection and no financial support,” Bakerman reassures me. “I assume you got over your vanity crisis?”

“Yes I did,” I chuckle my cheeks flushing bright pink.

“Wonderful,” Bakerman beams back at me.

“In fact the law says he can’t claim anything now unless I let him,” I tell him, my head held high and a certain note of haughtiness in my voice. “He had twelve months to claim paternity and he didn’t. So he has lost any rights he might have had. And me too. I can’t pursue him now anymore if I changed my mind. Twelve months is up.”

“Nice to hear Wim is getting into surrogate fatherhood,” Bakerman cajoles in a soft voice. “How is Wim doing? Pity we can’t be friends Wim and I. Yes it’s for the best to let Marc disappear forever.”

“Marc is a jerk!” I say a little too loud. I look around me to see if nobody noticed, but there are just a couple of old biddies hovering over the last of the strawberry tarts in deep discussion. “You don’t like Marc, do you?”

“No I don’t,” Bakerman pulls up his nose. “I didn’t think he was a wise choice for you.”

“Anyway, Wim is ok,” I sigh with relief, and then smile to show my optimistic confidence on this matter. “First round of chemo went well. He was tired for three days, a little sick but not too much. Extremely sensitive to cold stuff. I continue my Reiki on him. My kids love Reiki too.”

“Very good,” Bakerman nods, pouring another cup of tea for us both.

“I just wanted a baby,” I say a little too exasperated. “And that’s what I got.”

“Yes. Good you accept that truth,” Bakerman nods, stirring his cuppa with a little spoon. “Santa came early that year when William was born. Willem.”

“I love that little baby,” I smile fondly as I picture my babies.

“It let me type productions without correcting me,” Bakerman waves his mobile phone at the old biddies who just ate the last of the strawberry tarts. They look at him a little alarmed and then quickly scuttled out of the bakery. We’re the only ones left.

“I love all my babes,” I smile a bigger smile now, laughing again at the thought of the old gossiping women leaving the bakery. “Haha!”

“Me too,” Bakerman joins the banter. Somehow he understood what I was getting at. So I pull another funny face at him and laugh even louder.

“No it still interferes with my inability to spell,” Bakerman is still fiddling around with his mobile. “It’s stopped snowing. Yay. I can go outside now.”

“Switch it off,” I urge him with the voice I use when commanding my littles.

“How?” Bakerman looks up at me to gauge my mood.

“It’s freezing here,” I suddenly notice the temperature has dropped now the bakery isn’t filled with half of the village. “I don’t know. Mine doesn’t autocorrect me.”

“Yours knows you can spell,” Bakerman teases me.

“Yes I do,” I state wisely.

“You are very clever,” Bakerman compliments me. “So when I write you will correct the English and spelling, OK?” He looks up at me and meets my puzzled expression. “I mean articles.”

“Yes when are you going to write?” I ask him sipping the last of my tea. “Then we can discuss recipes.”

“Good question. I haven’t thought of a subject yet,” Bakerman scratches his head. “Any suggestions?”

“What kind of articles are you writing?” I need to know more details before brainstorming wildly. Making assumptions is never good, I learned the hard way.

“You are funny,” Bakerman laughs at me jolly faced.

I pull another funny face at him in reply. I shouldn’t make assumptions, yet he expects me to know these kind of things.

“Life skills,” Bakerman starts summing up on his fingers. “Sometimes communication skills, intra-person stuff. Thought about charisma as a topic.”

“Yes charisma would be great,” I enthusiasm. Bakerman must have many personal skills he can write about. After all, he knows how to sell. He knows how to talk to people. He watches and observes the entire village all day long, every day. He has life knowledge and knows what people are like. What makes them tick. “I’ve discovered I can indeed sell. I am getting new clients. I can sell.”

“Is the sandwich shop in Keerbergen still for sale?” Bakerman enquires.

“I wouldn’t know,” I start out hesitantly. “You’re not coming back!”

“Yes you can and if you overcome your fear of rejection you will be an excellent sales person,” Bakerman has still not given up on my hidden talent for persuasion. It is so well hidden, I still haven’t found it to this very day. “I might. I will give it a little more time and then decide. I still feel like a round peg in a square hole.”

“Poor Debbie,” I wink at Bakerman.

“Yes,” Bakerman teases me again. “Too bad, so sad.”

“I still want to become filthy rich,” I say nonchalantly getting up and putting on my warm winter coat.

“See you later,” Bakerman waves after me.

I head off home feeling like I’ve stretched my comfort zone with line breaks.

* Disclaimer : Any resemblance between the fictional characters in this story and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle by chance more than by choice.

A place to meet the Bakerman in the evening

Last night the Bakerman turned up on my doorstep shortly after I had put all three of my kids to bed. After months of small talk during our pre-breakfast meetings on my doorstep, we have now started evening tea time in my kitchen.

I am dying to share with you my experience from the evening.

“Fiona I need a product name for a baguette that is made from an éclair,” the Bakerman starts out. “I am looking for a French word. Something easy to pronounce.”

“A chocolate baguette?” I ask in amazement, as both don’t seem to fit. To me a baguette holds something savoury, like cheese or meat with some vegetables. Chocolate is for pastries. Also a baguette should be crunchy, not soft like an éclair. When I eat my baguette at lunchtime, I want to have the feeling that my teeth are getting a workout, not that they’ll drop out soon because I’ve only ever eaten mushy bread.

“Do you have a picture?” I ask him as I am having a hard time getting my head around the whole paradox of a baguette that is soft like an éclair.

“What?” the Bakerman looks at me half surprised and half in despair. He then reaches over to his bag, pulls out a paper bag and shows me a huge baguette, richly laid with luscious pieces of pink salmon and lettuce leaves. “This a salmon one. I have many variants. Looking for chicken and mayo for example. A simple name that people can call it. Like baguette. But something else.”

“Un pain?” I start thingking out loud still totally bemused. “I don’t see the eclair part,” I add eyeing the baguette with certain suspicion. I can smell the sweet fresh bread and the salmon with a hint of sour cream. I start feeling hungry although I have only just eaten.

“Perhaps you need glasses,” the Bakerman retorts. I can discern a hint of irritation, but also amusement and a little bit of teasing in his voice. “What is a popular word kids are using in French? Words like cool, awesome and so on?”

“’Une flute’ for a baguette,” I go on realizing that ‘une flute’ is also used for a certain body part. The thought makes me blush and I try to stay focused on the issue at hand. “Cool in French would be ‘grave’, ‘terrible’…”

I pause a moment and chuckle. There is in fact an expression I have heard the youngsters use at the office: “Leur baguette est à se taper le cul par terre. I heard that from my french colleague at BNP.” I go on laughing quietly to myself for a while, so I take the opportunity to share the joke: “That translates into: that baguette makes me want to smack my bottom on the floor.”

I can feel a new tradition of evening tea setting on. If you can’t make it, no worries! I’ll blog about my experiences afterwards.

* Disclaimer : Any resemblance between the fictional characters in this story and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle by chance more than by choice.