Posts Tagged ‘get cash quick’

#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 »


#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.

#11 Get a job (any job)

In Get cash, Jobseeking on November 16, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Ok, so the whole point of this blog is that getting a job (any job) is not so easy right now. But a friend has been kind enough to offer me a few weeks of part-time admin work in his office and with the wolf:door relative proximity getting narrower every day, it seemed like a good idea.

Although it isn’t the work in which I spent the past two decades building up expertise, it is straightforward to get to on public transport, offers a creative environment, comes with flexible hours, and pays the same as devising and editing a major book title for Time Out. It will cover Christmas presents.

I know plenty of people who, when times have been hard, have swallowed their pride and their CVs and taken on jobs such as: columnist for a self-build magazine; ‘blobbing’ (pinpointing exactly venues on a map) for Time Out; acting in a daytime TV soap; part-time childminding. Personally I was considering applying for  the job advertised in the butcher’s (an organic fair trade butcher’s, mind).

It’s been a while since I was last a commuter and now I can’t remember what to do. I’ve no idea what to wear in an office setting. I haven’t bought clothes since Easter (excluding a pair of jeans and an impulse-buy pink beret). There’s a threadbare Cacharel skirt at the back of the wardrobe, bought in Paris when the Euro was low and I had places to be. Tights feel funny and shoes (ie not Converse) look weird. I use the iron on my own clothes for the first time in months and send my children out in crumpled polo shirts. I invest 90p short of £100 in a Travelcard, make some complex childcare arrangements,  push my son through the school gates, and run.

As it turns out that very little has changed.

* the 9.15 train still comes at 20 past

* in spit of the demise of both the London Paper and London Lite, carriages are still littered with free papers full of stories about people I’ve neither heard of nor care about

* people still have far too many meetings

* however central your office, your colleagues will claim ‘there’s nowhere round here’ when you ask where to go at lunchtime

* sandwiches still don’t react well to being chilled

* offices are still freezing at the beginning of the week, and tropical by the end

* your office computer will still be slower than your home one

* I’m still fit enough to run up the slope to catch the train

It doesn’t take long before I’ve reverted to my old ways, calculated where the doors open on the Tube platform, lost track of my children’s whereabouts, and eaten a ready meal. However I’m frugally avoiding breakfast stalls, and am bringing in packed lunches.

By the end of the week I’m congratulating myself on being able to interchange between train and Tube without breaking step, when I find my path blocked by an artisanal bread stall, shattering my routine (I’ve never been able to pass a crusty bloomer without at least pausing to show my appreciation). Nearby is a stall selling real coffee. I cave in and buy my first latte in months. And it’s fantastic.

There’s a law  – you probably know the name, I don’t – which determines that if someone has money, that money generates more, but if someone’s skint they’ll slide into further poverty. So it seems with jobs. Though the phone hasn’t rung since Easter, in the past week I’ve had  emails from three separate contacts asking me if I want to meet to talk about potential projects, and one bona fide commission paying hard cash. Whether anything will come of these ‘talks’ is almost immaterial; the silence has been broken and things are looking up.

[If you can beat blobbing for Time Out as a desperation job, do let us know. And student jobs don’t count. Only ‘proper’ jobs.]

#2 Take up a disreputable habit, such as gambling

In Down and Out on October 6, 2009 at 11:28 am

Sociologists have identified the typical leisure activities of the unemployed as ‘going for the occasional drink, playing bingo and placing a bet at the bookies.’ It’s wet Tuesday morning in early October, so the bookies it is.

This is not my usual turf you understand. I’ve only ever placed a bet once. On the Grand National. Like everyone. This is not because I have any deep set moral objection to gambling, and, though I wouldn’t want to trivialise the debilitating effect gambling has on some people, I’m fortunate not to have an addictive personality and reason that I’m unlikely to descend into depravity or develop a fetish for tiny pens.

I head for the high street of a well-heeled South London neighbourhood where, even here, there is a choice of at least three bookmakers. I choose the biggest and brightest, and the one that sounds like a person, reasoning for no particular reason that they’ll be less likely to laugh at me. Today, it turns out, their only customers are me and two blokes in caps, one sitting at a desk watching screens with lists of horses, the other being similarly studious in front of sheets of statistics about form and running. Why aren’t these people working in the City? They must be as well equipped as any of the chancers who do. Or perhaps, until last year, they did, which is why there here, with me, on a wet Tuesday morning in early October…

Somehow the whole place reeks of cigarettes, which must be impossible as no one’s been allowed to have a fag in there since July 2007.  A psychological trick of the environment? Or a mental association with the fumes of desperation and cheap pvc? There are refreshments on offer – fizzy drinks, bottled water and Grab Bags of Walkers – and I make a mental note to suggest to the management that investing in an espresso machine and a few croissants might be a moneyspinner with the local demographic since there is plenty of room in here to park a buggy.

A man in a glass booth looks uncomfortable as I slap my freshly ATM’d tenner on the counter and ask: ‘Are you taking bets on the Booker?’


‘The Booker Prize. It’s tonight!’

He taps his computer keyboard and tries not to call me love. ‘The only specials we’ve got on at the moment are Strictly and X-Factor. Otherwise it’s footie, dogs or horses.’

‘Try under Man Booker – Man as in, er, man…’

He shakes his head. It’s a slow morning and he’s a patient chap so he offers to ring hq. ‘Who are you betting on?’

‘Sarah Waters, that’s W-A-T-E-R-S… no ‘L’, but I’d like to know the odds first,’ I bluff, hoping my A level maths will equip me for whatever complex odds and spread betting options he throws at me. Which is unlikely as A-level Maths was all about Poisson distributions and drawing coloured balls from bags (something which I can say I’ve never actually done in the two decades since. Or before).

I attempt to blend in as he wedges a phone in the folds of his neck for a number of minutes. This gives me time to mentally spend the wad I’m going to win when 6-1 Walters romps home ahead of Mantel (the favourite from the outset at 11-10), Byatt (8-1) and Coetzee (6-1 for a hat trick). Not that I ever could win. I don’t. In 15 years of the National Lottery, I’ve won £10 four times. (It is reckoned that, on average, a million people win something every draw, so with a UK population of 61 million, with two draws a week and even  if everyone did the Lottery, I’m sure my turn should come round more often, possibly almost twice a year?) And the only time I’ve ever won a raffle prize it was a sack of dog food. And I don’t even have a dog. No, a bet on Sarah Waters, for no real reason other than that I loved the book, would serve no purpose other than to effectively remove her from the running.

‘A-huh, a-huh, thanks. Click. I’m afraid…’

My attempt to acquire a gambling habit has fallen at the first fence! ‘As there is another round of judging this afternoon, betting has been closed today on this one.’

‘Of course,’ I fluster as if I should have realised that all along, and thank him profusely for his help.

Sarah owes me one – at least now, without my bet, she’s still in with a chance. Meanwhile I have the consolation of being lucky enough to have read such a superbly crafted novel.