Tuesday. C-Day. The start of a new contract.
Which means I will have to root out some bras. And set an alarm each morning for some unearthly time. And go to bed on the dot of 10pm. And I won't be able to swan around in pyjamas - I will have to actually get dressed five days a week.
The upside is that I won't be swanning around in pyjamas most days - I will have a routine back. I will be motivated. And I might just stop booking holidays.
And the major bonus of this particular contract is that I get to drive to work (no metrolink!). Of course the downside is that I will increase the mileage on my two and a half year old Kuga. By the end of the contract (October) it might actually have done 11,000 miles.
So in preparation....
I have just booked our anniversary trip to Iceland. And tried a couple of outfits on to make sure my 'work clobber' still fits (it has only been three months since I was last in contract...but thats a long time in the life of a pyjama slob with a sweet-tooth). I've found a couple of half decent bras (but still trying to decide if I wear baggy - can I get away with 'cropped-tops'? Maybe if I walk slowly at all times round the office no one will notice). And I have added some motivational 'driving to work' playlists to my iTunes.
Notice how I quickly glossed over the booking of the November Iceland trip? I booked it with my eyes closed. That way it's not really cost me an arm and a leg.
So - back to earning my keep - with less than three weeks before we're off to Italy for a few days of sun and scenery. Perfect timing!
Right - best get on - I need to practice smiling!
And here's an Icelandic horse. With bad hair. Reminds me a little of Trump.
My finger is still not fixed. It's still strapped up. And even though I change the strapping daily my fingers stink. Sorry – but that's the way it is. No amount of soap or handcream takes away the ingrained sweaty stench. I didn't realise that fingers could sweat.
On a brighter note, I've now dictated five chapters of my dad's first book. In fact I've probably dictated double that–if you count the number of times I've had to undo, overtype and correct the iMac's translation of my Altrincham accent. The chapter I dictated last night introduced my grandad, Donald (GonGon), his love of the sea and how he met my grandma, Deborah (Ninny).
My own memories of my grandad are quite sketchy - I've summed up a few below:
Today, for some reason, I googled caravans (quick subject change so I don't relive that trauma!!). And looked at how much they cost.
I have no idea why. Maybe I have a yearning to be one of those irritating types on the inside lane of the M6 motorway. But I just thought I would throw that in here.
Today was also the day that I switched from winter to spring wardrobe. However this year I've been a little bit smarter - I have kept some warmer spring items out i.e. winter jumpers. Every year I switch my wardrobe during a lovely warm, sunny start to spring - which is then followed by a windy, rainy, dreary and cold few weeks.
GonGon and Ninny - looking well posh.
This week I discovered that instead of typing I could dictate to my iMac. And due to an unfortunate series of events I am now dictating this blog.
Yesterday, during a trip to Dunelm to buy a blanket, I managed to break my finger. Which sounds ridiculous. But it's true. I broke my finger on a blanket.
My finger has turned black and is strapped up. It has to stay this way for three weeks.
It's day two and I've had enough. It's surprising how disabling the injury is. It's just one finger.
Anyway, enough of feeling sorry for myself. The reason I decided to try dictation in the first place was my Dad's book. Many years ago, before he became ill, he was made redundant and had time on his hands. He decided to use this time to write his memoirs. When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer this became more urgent. He suddenly had a time limit.
He spent his last 18 months catching up with friends and relatives reminiscing about the old days and turning those memories into three books, entitled–Who put their finger in the jelly?, From the lions den to gainful employment and Dashing about like a fart in a colander.
Unfortunately he used a Mac. One that would now be classed as a relic. And as such his most recent version is unreachable. The Mac won't turn on and his backup is floppy disks. In Quark. Whatever that is. What I do have is a foolscap folder containing an outdated draft.
My task, should I be brave enough, is to take the paper copy of the three books, retype on my iMac and find some way of publishing them. I've had this task on my to-do list for over 15 years. And this week, with the help of dictation on the iMac, I have finally made a start. And, because of dictation on the iMac, I can't use my broken finger as an excuse!
I've made a start looking at options for publishing–but because I can't get a price until I know the number of pages I won't be making any decisions just yet.
If the floppy disks do turn up I may well need some help accessing the files. So if you know anyone who is still living in the late 1990s and is a Quark expert please let me know.
In order to keep well clear of the ongoing decorating of the cat's (aka spare) bedroom I spent the morning in my office.
After several failed attempts at level 2304 of Candy Crush...I decided to do something more useful.
So I did a simple (very low-res) infographic - about me (with a little shout-out to strategy - not that I am dwelling on feedback, not at all). It took me half an hour on a free online infographic tool. And therein lies the low-res issue. You have to pay for an end result that is visible without a magnifying glass. Don't try zooming in - it just gets worse.
Tomorrow Stu will be painting the ceiling and walls. I will be found in my office (again) working towards a higher-res version of this...
The rabbit survived the weekend with Joe (Jess stayed over on Saturday night).
We had a great time in Hawkshead. We walked. A lot. And ate cheesecake. That kind of sums up the weekend.
As it was Stu's birthday he had presents. Be careful what you wish for Stuey! (Or at least be careful what you mention in passing). He got a lovely leather tool belt and a small plaster trowel. As well as a Leatherman multi-tool (which will NOT live its life out in a kitchen drawer) plus a silly t-shirt and three creme eggs. He seemed content.
I had an interview in London on the Tuesday. Around £76 of train ticket - plus tube fare. And apparently I don't have enough strategy experience. No clue how they came to that conclusion. As it is all over my CV and we discussed strategy in the interview. Anyway - it was a no thanks. Which is fine by me. Seriously. If it's a no - the role wasn't for me. So I move on. I don't take it too personally - but I will be revisiting my CV!
Whilst I was in London - in the London Bridge vicinity - there was a bomb scare. I missed the whole thing. Somehow. I think it had something to do with iTunes and headphones. Two people we also stabbed at Victoria station.
Anyway - Joe will be pleased I didn't get the job as I received several texts throughout the bomb scare telling me YOU ARE NOT TAKING THAT JOB. He does care.
The comms contract market is crap at the moment. The rates have dropped, a lot, on any roles I have seen advertised. And those are few and far between. And if you're in the interim game you will know all about the IR35 fiasco in the public sector. Which I believe will most likely include the private sector in a year or two. So that could signify the end of contracting for me. I guess I need to get my head around what it means for me - and the way I manage my ltd company affairs. For someone who thrives in a change environment at work I absolutely HATE change enforced by the government - relating to VAT, dividends, NI etc. It is unsettling, stressful and not in plain English!
So - in addition to contemplating a change of house and location - I am starting to think about how I might change direction in terms of earning pennies. Sooner than I had thought - potentially.
On that note - here's a cake I baked. It's full of a ridiculous amount of calories and fresh cream,
At the time of booking a holiday or short break it seems the greatest idea. I love holidays.
When the day arrives (or in this case - the day before) I start with the panic.
We're only away from Friday to Monday. And, we're only going to the Lake District. But Joe is in charge of the cat AND the rabbit this time.
So not only do I have to worry about whether he will have friends round after 10pm and disturb the neighbours but I also have to worry that the rabbit might die of starvation, boredom or fly-strike.
Ted (the rabbit) has a reasonable life for a pet. I know he should be roaming the fields with his buddies. But he's not. Instead he has several hours of 'freedom' from dusk to roam our small garden. His favourite spot is on one of the planters - he's demolished all the plants it held. He sits on the remains of one plant and poos in the other half (there's a brolly there now - as we've had some shocking weather lately and he's not smart enough to stay covered). He also spends a good deal of his freedom following the cat. And eating bird seed.
So - will Joe remember to feed him and change his litter tray daily? Will he remember to let him out for a play? Will he remember to give him his bedtime treats (curly Kale and dried herbs)? I really hope so.
He'll have no choice but to look after the cat. Merlin is very demanding. If he isn't fed Joe will be haunted all night by Merlin's very special growly wingeing.
The other anxiety with holidays is packing. But I am proud to announce that I have already laid out both mine and Stu's clothes on the bed. That is some achievement. But as Stu is working his socks off at the moment I don't feel it's right to play the 'pathetic female who can't pack' card this time. After all - when he gets in tonight he will need to make our dinner. And tomorrow morning he's working for a few hours before he stops off at Tesco for the food supplies. Finally coming home to load the car. He's good.
So Joe - here's a photo of the rabbit....the one in the hutch outside the back door. At our house (do you need a map?).
I'm still here. No contract and nothing looking promising.
Trouble is...I am finally settling into a new routine. And enjoying it.
Bed at 10pm. Read until about 11pm (2am if the book's good). Alarm set for 8.30am. Wake before alarm. Check news and weather on phone. Turn over...think about going back to sleep. Then bounce out of bed in a 'determined to make this a good day' manner. Get down the stairs. Put music on. Put kettle on.
And so on.
The days are literally flying by. I've done the obligatory housework, visited Mandy-Lee G (the person who is always there when I am at a loose end) several times, been to Ikea, painted a hall table, decoupaged things, cut Jessica's hair, baked, drank too much coffee, drank too much tea and other 'semi-retirement' type activities. Though I haven't joined a Bridge club (I have NO idea what Bridge entails - but I watch TV...I know old women and bored housewives play it).
Of course I look at the job boards online every day. But there isn't a whole lot doing right now.
I finally heard back from one recruiter. It was a no in terms of an interview. I'm not too disappointed - the client short-listed two people with more relevant experience. I was told that the reference they received was excellent (thanks to that chap - you know who you are). And, of course, thanks to the recruiter at Hydrogen for letting me know. I'd much rather receive a phone call to tell me I wasn't successful than not hear anything at all.
The weird thing about not working and waiting for the next contract is that the week flips. Suddenly I don't want the working week to end - as once it does I know that there are two days before the next jobs are posted, or the chance of a possible phone call. So I want the week to last.
It's Friday tomorrow. I am getting a little fidgety again. The anxiety of another week gone by and no interviews lined up.
So I am in weird place - loving the time off...but desperately wanting to land that perfect contract. The one where the hours are long, the week drags, Friday's are sublime and I go to bed each night mentally exhausted but feeling that I am making a difference.
On that note...here's a picture of a swan and her cygnets. Taken years ago, at Dunham.
Not a great deal going on with me at the moment.
I did rip some wallpaper down today. It came off in great sheets - very satisfying. However when it got to the fiddly bits that needed the steam thing I suddenly had a more pressing engagement - in my cubicle office. You know - emails to check and level 2267 on Candy Crush to try and beat.
I have now officially lost count of the number of potential comms contracts that I have been contacted about. The current fad on LinkedIn seems to be recruiter bashing (that and people showing off their new desk / IT kit on the first day of their new jobs). I would never criticise recruiters on there. Are they mad? The people who hold your next 6-12 months in their hands and you tell the LinkedIn world they're all shit?
I've not had a bad experience with recruiters over the past however many years I have been contracting (10? 12? - who knows) - just the occasional frustrating wait for a call back when they're 'representing' me for a role. This is one of those times. Do they not know I am going insane? I know - they're busy.
When I start out looking I have every intention in waiting for the perfect role. Give it a week and a half and I am anybody's. Go on - throw a permanent internal comms role with an insurance company in London at me...guaranteed I will be able to sound excited at the prospect.
I am trying hard not to do that at the moment. I am trying to stick to my guns - no internal comms, transformation / change roles only, nice big chunky programme, something I can get my teeth into, a challenge, not too bothered about travel (so long as the rate reflects the role / additional costs)...etc.
But if those damned recruiters of 'god-knows what they have put me forward for' don't come back with some sort of response soon I will get cross. ('Get cross' was one of three potential endings to that sentence. The others involved blasphemy, blood, sweat and tears).
Anyway - here's a picture of a Herdwick sheep I took years ago. With added texture. For interest. Because sheep are a bit dull right?
This time of year is always the time that I start to think about making changes:
No...I'm not ready to retire just yet and neither is Stu. Way too young for that!
I am just so uninspired by our surroundings. Altrincham feels grubby (this could be due to the amount of building work going on at the end of our road). I want to be able to see more than the occasional robin, long-tailed tit or blackbird who brave our tiny garden. I want a view that stretches for miles. Where are nearest neighbour isn't within touching distance.
On the subject of neighbours - we live in a terraced house. We're not particularly unlucky with neighbours. We have a great couple next door. On one side of us.
I really try hard to like the other two. But to be honest they are pushing my patience. We have lived next door to them for over ten years - with two growing children and two border collies. You'd think that through the kids' teenage years we would have had complaints about music blaring. Or perhaps a comment about the dog's barking at odd hours. But no.
They held back...only to release their middle-aged moaning, over the past 3-4 years,against Joe: Joe and his tv and a previous girlfriend's high-pitched voice. Seriously I got an in-depth account of just how irritating her voice was. I also learned that the neighbour knew exactly what time said girlfriend would be round and what shifts she worked at a local supermarket. A tad creepy to be honest.
The latest complaint came in the shape of a rather formal, signed letter - to Joe. The day after he had a few friends round - late on a Saturday night. Just to clarify...I would be annoyed too if my next door neighbours were making a racket (music and loud voices) at 2am. But what I find quite odd is that they didn't make any complaint at the time of the crime - they waited until the next day. And even worse, in the letter they also referred to a similar occasion the previous year (which they didn't mention at the time) - where they had just learned that a close family member was terminally ill. And how learning that on the same day as Joe had friends round was truly distressing. HANG ON A MOMENT. What the hell is the point of saying something now - months after the fact. Knock on the door at the time...explain to Joe (who isn't a complete ignoramus btw) and ask him to be more considerate.
Shit - this has turned into a massive rant. But they make me cross. I'll stop...my blood pressure is rising.
Back to a change. So, to avoid killing my neighbours, we are starting to consider a move.
Of course as Joe is still 'living at home' (his clothes, TV and playstation live here) I might have to ask the neighbours if Joe can move in with them.
Actually I can't get off the topic of the neighbours.
So here's a picture of my little angel
So we're home. The sun is out. The third load of washing is drying. And I've been through the majority of photos.
The memories are still fresh in my mind - and those that may fade are written down in a little notebook (the only shopping I did at the airport this trip).
The highlights of our Norway experience:
And here's a photo summary of the trip...