ExitYou may have noticed (or you may not…) that it’s been quite some time since I mentioned work here.

There are reasons for that.

Most of them were related to my not enjoying the job. However, I finished there on Friday and am now much happier – if somewhat lacking in disposable income.

Resigning without another job to go to isn’t something I’ve done before, and I couldn’t have done without the support (if not the happiness…) of my wonderful wife and family. Thanks, guys!

I’ve been job hunting for a while now, and despite coming tantalisingly close on occasion have yet to have any luck. But that luck seems to have changed following my resignation, just not in quite the way I expected, because I’ve now got some freelance work.

Freelancing is new to me. I have friends who are very successful at it and recommend the life to everyone. Their stories have always sounded marvellous, but while talking about tax advice, remarkable pay and choices of self-employment or limited company status, they always seemed to miss out the part where they find the work.

You know, the important part.

Luckily I seem to have stumbled onto some of this forbidden knowledge by accident.

In a couple of job interviews they loved me and my writing, but the job didn’t quite match my skillset. I shrugged my shoulders, thanked them for their time and was about to move on when the interviewer paused for a second.

“You know,” they would say, “we really did enjoy meeting you. Could we keep your details on file for the future?”

“Sure,” I would always smile, “that would be great.” And then close the door.

Well, this time, I’m pleased to say, they weren’t joking. In fact, they were so not joking that it might – just possibly maybe might – be a substitute for a “proper” job.

Only time will tell. In 12 months I might be king of the freelancers or I might be blogging from my ‘phone as I beg for money outside Albany Park station.

You’ll know it’s me because the cardboard sign will be properly spelt, grammatically correct and devastatingly effective in its call to action. 🙂


Commuter heaven

There, I’ve come out and said it: I love my commute!

Non-Londoners may think I’m insane: how could he possibly enjoy an enforced 2.5 hour journey every weekday, you say? Surely an extra hour in bed would be infinitely preferable? Isn’t he just trying to make a virtue out of a necessity?

London commuteBut honestly, I’d be a bit lost if I didn’t have my daily work commute. Working from home, as I did for six months in 2014, had its own rewards, but was ultimately rather lonely. Starting my current job and being back in an office, I was initially relieved just to get out of the house (then disappointed that most of my workmates weren’t more sociable…)

My daily commute to King’s Cross is ten minutes of walking, 35 minutes on the train and another 15 minutes on the Tube, rounded off with another ten-minute walk. It’s the perfect mix of exertion and introversion: an hour of enforced relaxation with no responsibility whatsoever; stretching the legs, waking the brain and preparing for the day ahead.

Similarly, the journey home to leafy Bexley is a chance to wind down and think on a comfy seat on a warm carriage whooshing through the metropolis.

Outside the windows are a surprising number of unbelievable sunsets.

Inside, I might choose to read and enjoy an endless amount of wonderful literature.

If I don’t feel like reading I can people watch: wondering where the person next to me bought that shirt; watching the lovely lady opposite put too much make-up on; marvelling that the rough-looking chap by the window is reading Dostoyevsky; eavesdropping on the endless conversation the older lady behind me is having with someone called Claire.

If I was out the night before, I might take a nap. Listen to music. Stare at the clouds.

I can simply sit and think – I did this a lot in the weeks after Trev died.

Wouldn’t I much prefer to be home? No. At home I’d be distracted by my lovely family, by the lure of the TV or the computer; there would be jobs to be done, things to be fixed, washing, cleaning, children, writing – all unavoidable!

On the commute there are two hours of the day that are mine alone; surrounded by people, I’m left blissfully alone, free to do anything – or nothing.

(thanks my old colleague Brooke for her excellent post on the joys of commuting…)

Dampness. I got it.

DampnessLooking on  the bright side of a rainy January commute to work…

Even Millie was a little bit sad last night when I got in. She didn’t know why, just felt a little bit sad. The Lovely Melanie had mentioned the “January Blues” and Millie had self-diagnosed herself with that.

To be fair, her ‘phone seemed to be on the way out (although, I think I’ve fixed that) and a major loom band project had failed when her loom broke, so she was feeling just a little bit sorry for herself.

Just like me this morning – not helped by having to shout at Amber three times before we even left for school.

Stupid children.

The end of silence?

I’ve just signed a proper work contract AND been informed that the new office “is moving forward”, so my four-month sentence of Working From Home might be nearly up!

Not a moment too soon, either, as I’m going a bit mad.  It’s not the actual time spent alone that’s been getting to me, more the cumulative effects of not seeing other human beings (except my family) for days at a time.

I miss sitting on trains reading; I miss overhearing snippets of random conversation; bumping into people; seeing new posters and adverts – even simply saying “Please” and “Thank you” in shops!  I don’t mind being by myself for much of the time; I do mind being by myself all of the time.

How to kill a blog

New jobs are notorious blog-productivity killers.  Many times in the past few days I’ve thought “I should blog about this,” then remembered that of more importance is the text for a promo video, the FAQ web page and checking a job description for error – not to mention writing the girls’ Christmas book (which looks like being quite long this year).

Oh, another problem was that I was out on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening – a burst of social activity almost unheard of in modern times!  Meeting up with old Yahoo! colleagues on Monday at a pub quiz in London’s fashionable Soho (and we won!); watching Gravity at the cinema in 3D on Tuesday (best film I’ve seen in a long time!); and Wednesday I went to watch Public Service Broadcasting in London’s not-so-fashionable Kentish Town (there were balloons – lots and lots of balloons!)

Thursday, as you might imagine, I rested – well, took a nap in my lunch hour (working from home is great sometimes!)

21st century home office
21st century home office

The new job with Fotolia is going really well; the work is enjoyable, the people nice, and I’m feeling happier than I have in a long time.  Have my family noticed the difference?  Hard to say, but I certainly have: I’ve had more patience and been a lot quicker to laugh all this week.  Even the enforced home working is going better than expected.  With no rush to catch a train there’s no panic in the mornings; I can pick up the girls at 3.15 so there’s no need for after-school club – hell, even the chickens get to come out of the coop more often!

And the writing… Oh!  The glory of writing for a living once again!  I can’t tell you how much I missed it!

Seriously.  It’s so good to be back.  A little nerve-wracking at times, wondering if I’m up to the task, but mostly…just glorious. 🙂

The only downside so far is that I’ve lost my reading time.  The hour-long commute into the centre and back was perfect for reading; with that two hours of literary bliss gone I’m struggling to find the time to read.

Still, it’s only the first week, and I’ve been out a lot in the evenings, so no doubt this will settle down into some new pattern.

I’m going to be at home until the new year, when more UK people will be starting, so the company will wait till then before renting offices.

Being home until Christmas sounds fine to me.  But I’d quite like to get out of the house after then…

Meditations on changing jobs and being crap

Having changed jobs four times in five years you might think I’d be pretty blase about starting another new job on Monday (in fact, stretch the time to six years and it’s six jobs in six years!)

But you’d be wrong – I’m very nervous about Monday, for two reasons.

Reason one, the simplest to explain, is the four-day trip to Paris for training.  I’ve never been sent away for training before, let alone abroad.  I’m excited about going, yes; but being alone in a strange place where I don’t speak the language?  That’s quite daunting.

Reason two is more complex.  It involves producing work I can be proud of.

I started my present job eager and excited, ready to do what I do best, which is write.  The previous 2-3 years had been spent getting good at writing for a living (very different to writing a blog) and now a big company had taken me on as a writer and I wanted to prove myself.

Bill LumberghExcept…it didn’t work out like that.  Within a couple of months my job metamorphosed into repetitive data entry wrapped in an encyclopedia of ever-changing pettifoggery.  The only creative solace was in finding new ways to type the phrase “No changes needed”, which I wrote 40-50 times a day.

There are only 7 ways to write “No changes needed.”  Trust me on this.

After seven months I was put on antidepressants and realised that I had to find a new job.  Five months later and here I am: about to start a great new job with an exciting company doing what I love – writing.

And I’m terrified, because I care if I mess it up!  I care about doing well at this job.  But the fearsome flipside of is: what if I’m crap?  What if I fail?

I want people to say “Good work, Stu!“; I want to be proud of everything I write; I want to learn new things, attempt new tasks – hell, to revolutionise web writing!! 🙂

Being crap at complicated data entry is fine, it’s not like I put any effort into it.  The fear for the new job is: what if I’m crap even when I try…?

(Oh, I’m sure I’ll be fine – don’t worry!)

The art of bad translation

My current job, checking international hotel information and facilities, is fairly mundane.  But every now and again I stumble across a hotel that takes the art of mistranslation to a new level.

So far this week (and bear in mind that it’s still only Wednesday) I’ve had a hotel in Riyadh tempting guests with the slogan Wet yourself in our pool!, and another in Ecuador that offers a Partying goatee Service.

Answers on a postcard, please.