Middleagedmum.com: The bad old days


Back in the 80s I had a ferocious boss who made Miranda Priestly look like Mother Theresa. She would arrive in the morning in a cloud of Christian Dior Poison, clutching a giant mobile phone, crank up Tina Turner ‘You’re Simply the Best’ on the studio speakers, while simultaneously demanding a bacon sandwich (no butter) and calling for her gay assistants to come into her excessively decorated office.

Her day was filled with bitching and politicing and generally destroying peoples confidence if she thought they had too much of it. Luckily I’m Scottish (so is she) so didn’t have too much of it and was always first into the studio in the morning (I have always been an early riser) so she liked me – but I was well aware of the heartbreak she caused many of my contemporaries and vowed I would never ever be that kind of boss.

She was however, a perfectionist and a stickler for detail, who despite her viciousness, taught me how to make the perfect mood board, never to use I instead of we in a team situation, not to put up with sexist behaviour from men and to always do my absolute best at work.

She also taught me how to drink ridiculous amounts of red wine, usually followed by a bag of chips in a cab on the way home and no matter how late I stayed out at in the gay bars of Soho, to always get up in time for work. She only was sympathetic to hangovers and if you felt really bad, she would let you lie on her Harvey Nichols sofa for an hour – under her (real) fur coat.

While I’m not suggesting that her management methods were to be admired, or encouraging young designers to drink fish bowls of wine every day at 5pm was a good idea, those bad old days of smoking at ones desk, staying up partying on all night flight to India or Hong Kong and going straight to work in garment factories, may not have done our bodies any good – but God they were fun. No-one went to the gym, ate healthily, or gave a damn about how much they drank or smoked, we just lived life to the full and to hell with the consequences – we worked hard, but we partied even harder.

Young people these days seem so serious, ambitious and controlled – everything is planned and perfected and bad behaviour is frowned upon. The workplace is a much more serious and silent than those bad old days, when phones constantly rang, Friday afternoons were spent catwalking up and down the design studio in ridiculous wigs and we started meetings by sparking up a Silk Cut.

Most of all we would laugh – every day – and have fun. I met some of my very best friends back in those badly behaved days and we can still be the last ones standing at a party if the mood takes us!

Lucinda Chambers summed it up perfectly in the first episode of the fabulous Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue series on BBC2.

“When I started at Vogue, you’d go in and there would be clouds of Gitanes smoke and people with their feet on the desks. It was a much more heightened place, people weren’t beavering away, getting on with it, behaving well. People behaved badly. There’d be lots of hangovers and parties and it was much more rackety.”

Perhaps it’s time to bring some fun back into the workplace – red wine anyone?


  • Russell says:

    Morning darling
    On a cloudy mornday morning on a train it was a great read yes. they were good old days had fun and your right made great friends ! Bring them back I say !!❤️ Glass of wine soon pls xxxx

  • Sarah says:

    Was just talking about this very thing with a friend yesterday, some of our young people have it very much tougher – and seemingly much more boring than we did. Smoking at work…how can that be a good memory – but it is! Drinks after work (pre kids, so maybe Corbyn has a point) was part of the working week, I remember running out of work with my dearest friend to the pub – happy days. This summer I spent some time in an office with young people, they were serious, focused and silent – all day, no fun whatsoever. Sad really.

  • Joy says:

    How funny – yes we were discussing this too recently. Having been lucky to have retired (very!) early I did have a stint back in an (open plan) office environment last year. I couldn’t get over just how quiet and serious it was. No phones were ringing – it’s email only these days. And everyone had ear phones in, listening to something which was probably not a motivational podcast! I didn’t think I’d ever wish the bad old days were back but this didn’t seem like the fun and friendly environment I worked in during the 80s & 90s.

  • Ellen says:

    I didn’t drink or smoke, but did.have lots of fun. Today’s world is head down, do as much as possible, and do it fast. No time for fun. But it is what forms a bond to make a team and gets you through the stressful tight deadlines. I hate the work place of today as it is all about speed. I loved the crazy conversations we had back in the day. I feel like a telemarketer now.

  • Mary says:

    Remember one office that had an old-fashioned tea lady with a tea trolley. In the afternoons, she trundled round with a wine box as well as the tea pot. Mornings were abstemious, only tea!

  • Valerie says:

    The day the ipod came into creative departments was the day fun went out the door. No more fighting over music, ridiculous pranks and uproarious laughter. Now it’s the blank stares of millennials as they pull out their earbuds when you need to talk to them. No one tells jokes, they point at memes. Back in the day, we set up a shooting gallery (with real guns) and paper targets in the back of the building, unbeknownst to admin. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Ellen is right, no bond is formed to help you get though the deadlines and late nights. Pity.


    Oh my lord where do you people work? I’m of the ‘I remember when’ age too. I work with a lot of 30-somethings, lots of women, some with young kids, and a few millenials too. We work ferociously hard, are a tight team, and still talk a lot, laugh at anything, go out and really enjoy each other at work and outside of work. I don’t miss smoking in the office and haven’t given up wine. I think you all need to work in Canada.

  • Jane says:

    Haha Susan, maybe we all need to come to Canada. Although when I worked there back in 1992 it was almost as serious as it is here now!! I agree with the other comments about social media. Emails and online music have taken away the need for coversation.

    Our tea trolley used to double up as a wine trolley on a Friday afternoon Mary – but it seems the fashion industry drinks more than anyone else!!

    My studio is filled with shared conversation and music and hopefully fun – I refuse to be drawn into the silent serious culture of the modern day office.
    J x

  • Ben says:

    ..cough, cough, whilst you were sitting out the front early Miss Goody Two Shoes – some of us were crawling on our hands and knees through the pattern cutting room round the back – hoping to arrive unseen, usually two hours late after collapsing in Trafalgar Square and sleeping off last nights gallon of red wine slumped on the unused plinth..ah the good old days.,

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