I PARTICULARLY LOOK FORWARD to the period between Christmas and New Year. It’s one of the few times in the year that I give myself a few days off. Of course I go in on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day - not full days you understand, just a few hours to show my face. I think this is important if you expect your staff to work these unsociable hours. Luckily my delivered trade supplier always carries out stocktaking during this time, so there’s no big order to oversee. I’ve usually so over-ordered on fuel that tankers aren’t a problem so, emergencies excepted, it’s the ideal time to slope off for a couple of days.

NOW APART FROM GIVING me an opportunity to recover from the festive over-imbibing and allowing preparation for a good New Year’s Eve bash, these few days playing hooky allow me time to think.

YOU KNOW YOU CAN SET OFF to work with all the good intentions in the world but, from the moment you arrive, there are so many interruptions that throw you off course that by the time you leave you realise that all you’ve been all day is reactive rather than proactive. That’s one of the good things about going to an exhibition or a trade meeting. It’s not necessarily what you see or hear while you’re there, it’s the fact that you’re away from the everyday humdrum with an opportunity to actually think about where you’re up to.

ANYWAY, NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME in my journalistic career I fear, I digress. My little ’between-the-festivities’ holiday allows me a period of reflection - to reflect on the year just gone. What were its successes, what were its failures, what progress did I actually make? And to think of the challenges and goals I need to set myself for the year ahead.

ON REVIEWING SOME OF MY ARTICLES of this year I realise that I may have started to become the Job of the petrol pumps. Perhaps there’s been a little too much of the ’doom and gloom.’ Now I’m a great believer in the adage that ’there is always someone worse off than you’. When you’re feeling a little down just think about those you know that aren’t having it so good. It doesn’t actually improve your position but it does give you a bit of a springboard to move forward from.

SO AS I’M SAT IN MY ARMCHAIR on December 28, my thoughts turn to my bunch of friends who saved hard all year and managed to pull in a few favours so that they could jet off to Australia to watch England retain the Ashes. It’s bad enough to watch your local footie team play like pratts and losing at home, but at least it’s only an hour to the ground and an hour and a half back. Fancy going all the way to Oz to find out there won’t be a fourth or fifth days play to watch!! The England cricket team. Heroes to zeroes in 18 months. Which gets you thinking - why?

WHEN IT BOILS DOWN TO IT, it’s a mixture of a few key members missing and not enough of the rest of the team achieving their best together. That’s all it took to go from being numero uno to whipping boys. The dividing line between success and failure is a very thin one. A little less here, a slight under-performance there and suddenly you’re on a slippery slide before you’ve even realised what’s happened.

SO WHAT ABOUT MY ’TEAM’ back at the forecourt? Where have I let standards slipped? What happened to that drive to get all staff to ask about the loyalty card? I know that I’ve been busy but I thought I said I would have a new shop promotion every six weeks. When was the decision made to stretch it to every eight weeks? And that car wash bay - I thought the rollover was going to be thoroughly cleaned every month. Wasn’t the last time it was done early in November? And wasn’t I going to assess my sales against national statistics to revise my planograms? Little details, I know, but little details add up.

AS I SAID - a time for reflection...