Archive for the ‘Tales’ Category

#48 Life, death and nostalgia at the car boot sale

In Gratuitous nostalgia, midlife, Tales on June 14, 2010 at 11:29 am

I thought a car boot sale was just about getting up too early on a Saturday and making a quick bit of cash; turns out they are a philosophically-charged hotbeds of self-examination, rites of passage, relationship diplomacy, and even life and death.

Having just filed the last tranche of the 40,000 or so words required for the forthcoming book Welcome to Midlife, which I’ve co written with the far more literary than myself John O’Connell, (published by Short Books this autumn), I thought I’d make a bit of much needed cash at the school car boot. (Writing books is a privilege, but it pays bugger all.) Read the rest of this entry »

#42-and-a-half: Over to you…

In Homeworking, Jobseeking, Kids, Tales, Tips on April 26, 2010 at 10:56 am

So I’ve been banging on about me, but what about you?

It would be really interesting to hear everyone else’s experiences of being unemployed, under-employed, job searching, home working, being made redundant, feeling bored of looking after children, thinking of going back to work, or thinking of jumping ship.

Do you have any tips to pass on? Any observations to share? Spleen to vent?

Visual entries also welcome.

In the best traditions of the current exploitative jobs market, I can’t actually pay anyone to write anything of course – I just thought it would be fun.

You can remain anonymous, or plug your own websites/Twitter accounts/Facebook groups/CV to your heart’s content.

There’s no way I’m letting you all become administrators of this blog, so I’m thinking you could send me something via this Facebook group, email me if you already know me personally, or put something in the comments below that I’ll cut and paste into a proper blog entry.

[If you are more blog-minded than me and have a better solution as to how to make this work, please let me know!]

#18 Know your PS1 from your VL2

In Get cash, Tales on December 15, 2009 at 12:28 am

First up, a big shout out the Berlin eBay massive who I hear are loosing their jobs following the company’s decision to relocate its services elsewhere in Europe. Genuinely sorry to hear that.

Thanks to the German love of bureaucracy, they won’t actually be kicked out until some point in the middle of the year, once everything has gone through their Works Council, and several other bodies. On the one hand that’s six months to line up some schemes and realise your dreams (open a shop? foreign travel? write more?); on the other it’s six months to get bored out of your mind going through the motions of a job you already know is doomed. Expect mass sickies.

Personally, I’m coming to the end of my six-week sojourn into the world of work, where I’ve been filling out purchase orders, ordering stationery, scanning in funding proposals, and trying to work out the difference between a PS1 form and a VL 2, who should get which colour duplicate, and whether or not I can bring myself to care. I’m leaving just as I finally get access to the Z: drive, and find somewhere interesting to get lunch (an intriguing little Japanese convenience store called Natural Natural, just off Finchley Road). Only last Thursday I discovered the basement and another staircase; on Friday I realised there was a whole other building.

Don’t misunderstand – I’m incredibly grateful for the work. Somewhere warm to go during the day, and some cash for Christmas presents. Though I’ve spent most of my time on my own in a cupboard sending emails, I’ve learnt how to spell Grotowski, to pronounce HEFCE as heff-key, and to use a sentence like, ‘I’m not sure the VP’s research outputs are REF-able; let’s see if we can get any funding through SCUDD.’ I’ve been shocked by the students – not because they look so young or so self-absorbed, but because they have more expensive clothes than I do. And it’s been eye-opening to see how much more money there is sloshing around higher education that around publishing.

But most importantly I’ve learned that I love my job. Not the cupboard-based one, but the one I took for granted for two decades. I really wish my vocation was high finance, law, plumbing, search engine optimisation, or celebrity ass-kissing… anything with a decent wage. But it isn’t. The further removed I get from work, the more I realise it wasn’t really work in the first place, but getting paid for your passion. Which, let’s face it, was quite jammy really.

I recently heard of an editor of a weekly magazine (known to be pulling a six-figure salary) who has gone on holiday while his/her Christmas issue goes to press. Traditionally this is the toughest issue of the year, but also the most fun to produce. How sad to be in such a privileged position and yet appear to derive no pleasure from it.

An introduction

In Tales on October 4, 2009 at 8:45 pm

So, I’m unemployed. I’m not sure exactly when it happened. Maybe it was when I submitted my last invoice for the last moderately-sized job I did. Maybe it was when I let my Travelcard expire as there was no longer a need to go into town. Maybe it was realising that I had forgotten what I used to wear when I didn’t wear jeans and Converse every day. Maybe it was after the school holidays when a falling off of childcare duties exposed just how few formal (ie financially remunerated) tasks had appeared to replace them. Maybe it was when 10 jobs that a year ago I’d have been over-qualified for failed to dignify me with so much as an email ‘Soz!’ Whatever the exact moment, my status has somehow changed from happy-go-lucky freelance to full-on, down-and-out unemployed.

Perhaps you’re unemployed too. There’s a lot of it about at the moment. According to the Labour Market Statistical bulletin for September, there’s at least 2.47  million of us – an impressive 7.9% of the population and rising – indeed more, because of course the self employed, careers, mothers looking to get back into the labour market, and other such groups are not included in this figure. Perhaps you have stumbled across this blog looking for guidance out of the dark reaches of unemployment, a step-by-step guide to how to get a job, a self-help manual for coping with the alienation, the demoralisation, the boredom, the poverty and the sheer lack of self-worth inflicted by something as basic as not having a job. Sadly, this is not the place to look.

This blog cannot pretend to offer anything more substantial than a way of staying sane through the dark times in the hope that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train approaching. It may be that some posts end up being accidentally useful – if I come across any useful tips, I will of course share them (that is, unless they are editing jobs where I could do without the competition). It may be that one or two are interesting. It may be that one or two inspire you to go somewhere or do something with your day other than checking the jobs websites and realising you can’t even apply for that job at Greggs because it specifies previous experience in catering.

But if it occasionally makes anyone at all feel that they are not the only one whose life seems totally tragic, then, job done.