It comes to something when missing a train feels like a treat. Earlier on the week, I missed my train by under a minute. I hit the platform just as the train started moving. Too late. It was bad luck, sure, caught on the hop by the level crossing being shut, the parking machine being out of order, and one of the ticket collection machines being down. Too much bad luck for one journey to stand.
I live far enough into the sticks that my next useful train was 30 minutes away, so I did what I always do when things throw me off in Shoreham – I went for a coffee and toast in a local café. As before, I picked Hector’s Shed.
Toast. Coffee. And half an hour to sit reading. I don’t do that enough. Since I switched to a freelance consultancy career, I’ve struggled with the urge that I should be doing something to further my career at all times – and I mean doing. Reflecting, thinking and reading never seem to be active enough, and so they fall by the wayside. This has just got worse since Hazel was born, and the remainder of my free time was eaten alive by the bumdle of cuteness that is my daughter.
But an accident, an unseen confluence of inconvenience, gave me premission to chill. And chill I did, with coffee, and toast, and some reading on my iPad. A simple pleasure, but right now life is teaching me that simple pleasures are often the best.
A fortnight ago, I was in Berlin. I love that city. Over the last year, it's become my most visited city, and I enjoy every single trip. It has an edgy, interesting feel – like everything's changing, but nobody's quite sure what the finished product will look like. It's just fun.
But, oddly, while walking in a Berlin park, I had my first moment of nostalgia for my old job and office. You see, when autumn arrived in Sutton, the conker tree between the car park and the office shed its bounty of conkers, and I was the only one who seemed to care. I stuffed my pockets with them, satiating the desires of my inner eight year old, and built a little stack of them on my desk. It was a beautifully organic counterpoint to the digital focus of what I was doing.
There are no conker trees around where I live, or the various places I work. And so, I've missed those moments this year.
Until a Tuesday afternoon, in Berlin, in a park, when those moments all came back. A single conker, lying in the leaves, in the crisp German early autumn. A world – a life – away from where I was then, but the feelings came flooding back. It's a mark of how happy I am in my new life that the principle emotional callback I've had to my working life of six years is a single conker in the leaves in a park.
Life moves on. There are conkers everwhere – and I'd rather encounter them in Berlin than Sutton.
There was only one thing for it: head off and kill the nostalgia with a lunchtime currywurst…
Whenever I get stressed about finding work, about the fact that I’m going to be a father soon, about the huge changes that are sweeping over my life, I remember that I live here, that I’ve been married to a woman that I love for 9 years and that I have some fantastic, helpful and talented friends.
And suddenly I can’t find much to be stressed about…
I've been scanning again. One of my redundancy resolutions has been to use my sudden increase in available free time to catch up on some projects, including the digitisation of my own negatives and old family photos.
The image to the right comes from a set of negatives I shot as a university student – probably in the spring of 1993, although exact dating is hard. I'm not quite sure who took the photo of me above – but I do know they took it with my camera.
The thing that has really struck me about this film in particular is how darn grainy it is. Honestly, I'm not sure if that's an inherent characteristic of the film – Ilford HP5 Plus – or some poor darkroom discipline on my part, effectively "push processing" shots that didn't need it.
Or, am I now so used to using digital photography (which I've been doing since late 2001) that I've forgotten how much grain was an inherent quality of silver halide photos? I suspect the coming weeks of scanning will answer that question one way or another.
The other thought that occured to me was that, as these photos from the student magazine office remind me, I'm not involved in the production of a journalistic periodical in any way for the first time since probably 1987. School magazines, student newspapers, my professional journalistic career… It's been over two decades of continuous involvement brought to an abrupt end by redundancy.
And you know what? I'm amazed by how little it's affected me. Perhaps sometime in the last year I passed the point where I'm truly more a blogger – an online content afficicnado – than a journalist.
Where does that take me next?
Today is proving to be a struggle.
It's now about 25 hours since I had any significant amount of sleep. I took the red-eye back from Florida last night, and I'm aiming for at least another 9 hours awake before I finally keel over. Oh, yes, and I'm in the office – estatesgazette.com's office in Procter Street, to be exact. I'm testing my wife's anti-jet lag theory, that see you doing as much of a working day as you can before retiring to bed.
It was all neatly planned, you see. My desk in one of RBI's London offices was prepared, with my laptop left, pre-Christmas, securely locked in my under-desk pedestal. The journey from Heathrow to Holborn was smmooth and easy, and I walked into Procter Street before 9am.
And then I was stopped on my way to my desk by someone aking me if he could help me. "Just going to my desk," he said, gesturing in the direction of my long established desk at EG. "That's not your desk," he replied, a puzzled expression on his face. And, to my horror, I saw that my desk and those around it were now set up for developers. My desk was, indeed, gone. And with it, my laptop.
20 minutes of frantic hunting and pestering allowed my to find most of the stuff that was lost. I found my books on and in one guy's desk. The docking station and power cable for laptop turned up with the IS team. And, finally, the pedestal was found under a random other desk – the laptop safe within.
The monitor and monitor stand are still AWOL, but I'm not going to stress about those too much. The nature of my work at EG is shifting, and I think that truly hotdesking – just grabbing a free desk when I can – should make that both easier and more productive.
I've just spent a useful half hour clearing our the junk I'd accumulated up here over the last coupld of years, sending some of it down to my "main" office in Sutton, and the rest to recycling.
And I'm just hoping that I don't regret the decisions I've made when I'm no longer sleep-deprived….
Somewhere, my inner seven year old, a Swap Shop fanatic, is squealing with delight.
(and yes, it's the same one)
Oh, great. I can feel the beginnings of a cold working its way into my system. Lorna got this a week or so back, and I was feeling all smug because I fought it off. No such luck. So, I’m dealing with it in the normal way. If I’m found dead in the gutter with my body a mysterious bright orange, that’s because I’ve died from vitamin C poisoning.
Come to me, my little tangerine friends…