Darren’s Dress Code
Like our Australian friends, we are experiencing a hot summer. In the part of South Africa where I live, it is also very humid. Every year we dread the 100 days from New Year to Easter. They are debilitating. Last week we had a day that was horrible and everyone in town must have been using every single air conditioner and fan that they had. That overloaded the municipal grid and caused two long power failures, so we had nothing to blow cool air over us.
I hate the heat. I gripe about it all the time. You can ask anyone who has had emails or conversations with me since the beginning of the year. They have been one long moan. And last night I was doing just that with Trish Burr, who had phoned me about something else. During that conversation I described the horrible day we had last week and told her how Darren, who works for me, had come dressed for work.
Darren is one of Dude’s Chinas. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Dude, he is my son. A young man with many Chinas (friends) and they’re all called “Bru”. Darren has left school and is still deciding what he wants to do with his life, what path he wants to take and what he wants to study. Last year I had an overwhelming year. On a particularly busy day in August when I was tearing my hair out because I had too much to do, he was visiting my son and getting under my feet. I’m not sure what precipitated it but suddenly a light bulb went off above my head. One that flashed ‘offer him a job’. So, I did.
The offer was verbal. I quoted a wage and working hours, but no job description was given. Other than, “you will be doing whatever I ask you to do”. Like a wife, really. So on any one day Darren can be found driving down to the post office in my car to post the days’ outgoing parcels, fixing the garden irrigation pipe that has been chewed by the dogs or weighing and packing a consignment of beads that has arrived. On the next day, he might scream out to buy bread, update the virus software on my computer and take the dog to the vet. The following day he will be putting up extra shelves in my studio, fixing a fallen down window-blind in the TV lounge and measuring threads needed for an embroidery kit. At the end of each day he is properly tired because, as I tell my husband, he’s been working like a woman all day. Very hard.
He is a young man who can, not only turn his hand to just about anything, but one who has the ability to anticipate things and to use his not-inconsiderable brain to solve a problem when I’m not available. To add to all these wonderful attributes, he’s a better photographer than I am. He now takes embroidery photographs when I need them and does a far better job with my camera that I am ever able to do. Yesterday afternoon he captured this rainbow over our house.
What a gem. I’m not sure how I will find someone to replace him when he eventually decides what he’s really going to do with his life and goes off to study. He is doing all the website orders, sometimes cutting fabric for the screen printers and – believe it or not – overlocking the backing fabric on with an overlocker. As I am typing this, he is sitting on the other side of the studio packing beads. We don’t tell that to his drinking mates.
One thing about working here that is different from any other job he will ever have, is that there is no dress code. We’re rather casual. The business premises used to be our double garage. Some years ago I decided that the cars could sleep outside because we needed to have our dining room table back. I needed more space and so I called in the builders. Within weeks, I had two rather rudimentary large rooms with the necessary good lighting and electrical points. Everything was freshly painted but the walls are still rather rough garage walls, the floors are nothing special and we certainly didn’t call in the shop fitters. We’ve added shelves as we’ve needed them, bought tables and work stations when required, moved in filing cabinets and bookshelves and put a tea table into one corner. There are extension cords hanging from hooks in the ceiling. They are used to plug in all of the computers, scanners, printers and sewing machines. They are also littered with bulldog clips that hold notes and reminders.
The two remaining rooms in that building used to be servant’s quarters and when we decided to move from having a full time live in maid to a daily charlady, they were converted into an office and bedroom for Dude, who had finished varsity and wanted to start his own media business. I was quite happy to provide the business premises and quite happy to have him living (with his considerable mess) out there, as opposed to in the house which now stays tidy.
A working environment where we get through a huge workload and worry very little about what we wear to do this work. And Dude, also informal, wanders in from his office next door to steal a cup of coffee or, more often, bum some money and borrow my car (my petrol, not his) to pop out for things that he says are vital to his existence.
I did have to chuckle, though, on that hot day last week when I saw Darren drive into the gate and get out of his car. No shoes and no shirt. Just a pair of shorts which, like all of Dude’s Chinas, was hanging low, with the top of his “boxers” on display. Logical, because he knows that when it all gets too hot he will help himself to a towel from the linen cupboard and have a dip in our pool. Then dry off and carry on with his work, refreshed. Why would he want to overdress? Particularly if he knows that when the dogs start panting from the heat, I’m going to ask him to help me to hose them down so that they can also cool off. That always turns into a hosepipe game, particularly for the mad Boxer, so shorts and shorts alone are beyond practical.
Trish and I were having a little giggle over this and we got to wondering if other embroidery businesses that operate from home, do so under similar circumstances. The thing is that most of us have grown our businesses from hobbies. Most of us started working from our dining room tables and went from there. We mused over the fact that most of our customers probably imagine that the kits and packs they have ordered from us, come from elegantly decorated studios, with antique furniture, oriental rugs and tasteful curtains. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our studios are factories, offices, cutting rooms, sewing rooms and shops, all rolled into one. They are places where we welcome visitors, chat to our children and dogs, drink coffee and generally have fun while we work. If I’m working when my husband is at home, maybe on a Saturday afternoon, he will bring his laptop out to my studio and work alongside me. Mine shouldn’t even be called a studio because I don’t do a stitch of embroidery in it. I draw and write in it, but every stitch that I ever do is done in my TV lounge, in front of my television. That’s where you’ll find the antique furniture, oriental rugs and tasteful curtains.
So, having made all of these admissions, we would love to hear if others’ workrooms are equally grotty.