Goodbye 2011

This year I…

  • Finished my job on March 31st and unintentionally told the council’s most senior officers what I thought.
  • Sobbed into a dinner lady’s ample chest.
  • Went on the Million Voices for Public Services march on March 26th and the pensions march on November 30th.
  • Registered at HMRC as self-employed online with an ex-colleague because we were too chicken to do it alone. We pressed the submit button on our laptops at the same time.
  • Set up an educational consultancy business with a friend.
  • Didn’t hear back from several high street banks re our business banking account so thought stuff them, walked into the only one we hadn’t tried and asked to see the small business manager (oh the jokes). It was the only day of the week she was in that branch. She set up our account there and then. Sometimes fate intervenes…
  • Designed our own website and discovered what File Transfer Protocol is. Eventually.
  • Discovered that working from home is actually quite fun unless it’s very cold.
  • Learnt how to network and attended lots of networking meetings making new friends and learning loads of new skills.
  • Sang at Wembley Arena (Hello Wembeeeey!) and the Royal Albert Hall.
  • Stood in the pouring rain to watch a recording of the X Factor and froze; watched the recording of Got To Dance and boiled in the September heatwave (watch out for my very red face in the background of the semi-finals). The advantages- some would say- of having flexible working arrangements.
  • Bumped into the prime minister and shouted, ‘Oy Cameron giver me my job back!’ Saw Boris Johnson a couple of times and met Ed Miliband at a Q&A. Managed not to shout at either of them.
  • Did some training and consultancy in schools and discovered that I can be very adaptable when it comes to what I offer.
  • Wrote lesson plans for a major high street supermarket that will be used in schools across the UK.
  • Was interviewed for The Guardian and told it like it was.
  • Got a job.
  • Found out that the world doesn’t collapse just because I lost my job.
Good luck and a happy and prosperous 2012 to everyone.
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Happy Jobmas!

This time last year I indulged in the memories of public sector Christmas past- the celebratory meal at the local Italian that did a lunchtime special for less than a fiver; the Michelin star quality of the canteen Christmas dinner (‘she wants vegetarian gravy!’) and the jolly office Christmas card.

Another jolly public sector party

I was also panicking about my future post 31st March and not sure what I’d be doing with the twenty three hours a day that Homes under the Hammer wasn’t on telly. Post redundancy like the infinity of space was hard to imagine without collapsing another synapse.

It’s not, however, been as doom-laded as I imagined. Since April I’ve set up a business with a colleague and recruited lots of schools. Phrases like ‘tax deductible,’ ‘e marketing’ and ‘business networking’ are part of my working vocabulary and I’ve retired public sector favourites like ‘stakeholder engagement,’ ‘best practice’ and ‘benchmarking.’

I’ve had some work as an independent trainer, have worked for a consultancy and have written for a well-known supermarket chain. I’ve continued my blog and been interviewed for a Guardian article without having to be anonymous.  I’ve also networkedlike a fiend and met some amazing business people.

Worth being made redundant for.

I had been told by a lot of people that being self-employed is a lonely option but I’ve not been lonely at all. I’ve met up with colleagues for coffee on a regular basis and in setting up our business my business partner and I have had to meet a lot, our favourite office being a branch of a well-known coffee chain. We make phone calls, send emails, sign cheques, check out eBay, plan training and design learning resources in our ‘office.’ NB: one of those items is not strictly work related.

It was after one of our meetings that I checked my phone for email and found and interesting message from a local head teacher. It said something along the lines of (and I may be paraphrasing here):

You know how you said you’d rather chew your own leg off rather than go back into school? You’d better sharpen your teeth and break out the salt and pepper because I’d like to offer you a job.

She went on to offer me the acting deputy headship at her school while her deputy is on maternity leave. Perhaps I’d like to meet her for a coffee in the ‘office’ and talk about it.

I discussed the proposition with Mr R who was very supportive. I then phoned my mother who said, ‘excuse while I faint,’ and then fell about laughing. Thanks mum.

I met with the head teacher and we worked out a deal: I’d take the job for three days a week so I can continue with my other projects and will remain self-employed to make the tax/national insurance/pensions thing my responsibility and so as not to confused HMRC. A few days after I accepted the post, the head teacher found someone to fill the post the remaining two days.  I’ll be very busy but it’s not class based and I’m very much looking forward to it. I like to think that maybe the universe has come good after a crappy start to 2011.

So my 2012 is set to be busy, challenging and exciting. Just don’t ask me what I do for a living if I bump into you at a party.

Happy festive season and a happy new year to my readers. Thank you for your support over the last fifteen months and I’ll see you next year.

Autumn austerity

In spring this year our winter gas bill arrived and was ridiculously high. We’re pretty sensible about the heating, keeping it fairly low and of course switching it off at night (I’m always surprised by how many of my friends keep their heating blasting all night long) but prices had gone up and last winter was pretty cold.

 Last winter Mr R and I were both at work all day so the heating was only on in the morning for a short while, off all day and on again in the evening. This autumn/ winter however, my office is the kitchen table and given my financial situation we need to economise on the high heating costs. We’re bravely holding out on heating until the end of October which might be fine for Mr R who is from the wilds of West Yorkshire where the wind always howls and people stare and point at the sun in wonder on the one day in summer it deigns to shine up there but I’m a softy Southerner. I’m so pathetic that when we visit Mr R’s parents, my mother in law always says, ‘I put radiator on in t’spare room for you three days ago,’ but I still shiver under three duvets. One Christmas up there I spent the whole day huddled on the floor by the radiator. They’re nails those Yorkshire folk.

Being profligate with the heating is not worth the ridiculous amounts of money we have to pay for it though. I’ve ordered a little heater from Argos and will use this if I’m working at home for as long as I can handle it like some modern day Bob Cratchit. Meanwhile this is what I know about keeping warm:

  1. Wear a hat. My old guide leader gave me this piece of invaluable information the first time I went camping. I was eleven years old, thrilled to be away from home for a few days and didn’t brush my teeth once. It rained so hard and our equipment and clothes got so wet that we all spent a memorable day in the only dry place for miles, an old hut, trying to dry our sleeping bags. If you’ve ever been on guide camp you might remember that when it starts to rain you have to change out of you cosy jeans and into shorts as these are easier to dry than denim. So we went around in our shorts and t shirts in freezing temperatures and pouring rain for a week but I wore my hat. And was warm. The hat hair is a small price to pay.
  2. If you’re chilly, do some housework. I’m not a housework fan but it’s great for working up a glow. Today I climbed onto a chair and cleaned the windows in the living room. I’m warm, the windows are sparkling and the kids from the secondary school on their way to buy chips for lunch had a laugh at the mad woman cleaning windows with pages from The Guardian. Result.
  3. Wear more clothes. ‘Obvious!’ you might think but we’re so used to being warm that we’ve forgotten how to dress cosily. I was listening to a radio phone during the snow spell at the beginning of the year. A Norwegian guy phoned in and called us Brits a bunch of whingeing wimps. Our idea of a warm outfit is not the same as countries that have proper cold weather so we need to consider vests, long johns  and socks more seriously. It’s not sexy but neither are chilblains. I went to Russia a couple of years ago at the end of their winter. It was very cold but everyone is bundled up and warm and they really do wear those fur hats with the earflaps (ushanka) . Mind you, every building we went into including the hotel blasted out plenty of efficient Soviet era heat so you spend half the day just dressing and undressing. It’s exhausting.

    Sean Connery knowsh how to keep coshy in hish ushanka

  4. Shut the doors. No, not the front door. Obviously that’s shut but we’re trying to remember to shut all the internal doors so what heat there is doesn’t spend its time warming the bathroom floor or the bedroom wardrobe.
  5. Slankets and blankets. My name is Citizen R and I own a slanket. Whatever. Top tip: don’t put on your slanket and think you can walk around in it. You can’t. You will trip on the hem and end up in a heap of synthetic fabric and static on the floor.

Right time for a nice warm cup of tea and a spot of warming vacuuming.

I wonder if Mr. Cameron is wearing an extra sweater and worrying about how he’ll pay his gas bill this year.

If any readers have any more ideas on how to keep warm please add them!

 

 

Type for your life!

I have a confession to make: I don’t touch type.  I have a rather idiosyncratic style that I’ve developed which involves my pinkies stick out in the air like I’m taking tea with the queen while my hands cross the keyboard as though I’m playing a particularly complex piece of Chopin. Which is not always accurate but it’s quick. I’ve used this style all my working life. I’ve written lesson plans, end of year reports, letters and articles using it. Hell, I’ve even written a book or two using it.

Before.

So why can’t type properly?

At my all girl secondary school we had the option of taking a subject called ‘Office Practice’ which consisted of pecking at giant typewriters in an asbestos-lined portable classroom  while the teacher marched up and down barking orders.

I escaped this dystopian nightmare by taking Latin instead. In a manner that would have Mr Gove jumping for joy, my mother decided that her daughter would have none of this practical nonsense so I spent two years reading the joy that is De Bello Gallico and learning how to translate sentences like ‘the Carthaginians were once again routed.’ Which of course has proved far more useful in my daily life than that practical nonsense.

Latin was such a popular option in my school that just five of us took it (their mums made them do it too) and was timetabled for a triple lesson once a week. The teacher taught us for the first period, rushed away to teach French somewhere else in the middle period and came back for the final session. Except she usually forgot to come back.  In effectively one lesson a week I learnt very little Latin and got a D but a friend brought in her guitar most weeks and I did learn how to play Stairway to Heaven which apparently impresses teenage boys so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

At uni I had a Saturday job in a local newspaper office as receptionist. My boss, the head of advertising, naturally left the crappiest jobs for the Saturday girl. These jobs usually involved typing pages and pages of classified ads and the week’s sales figures. Not a Latin declension in sight.

And that’s how I developed my quirky style. Hung over, munching a toffee Crisp and desperately trying to see through swollen sleep-deprived eyes. Four years of that every Saturday and I was quick and accurate-ish and I’ve never really had the time to undo the damage.

But I’m now bored with the restrictions. I make the same mistakes constantly (‘citizenship’ gets me every time) and I have to peer intently at the keyboard as I type which makes copying anything really time consuming.

After. I hope.

This weekend I started learning touch typing using an internet programme (hurrah for the internet!) Perhaps one of the positives of being self-employed is that although the business is picking up, I still have time to practice. I’ve learnt all the letters and the commonly used punctuation. My little fingers are not at all happy at being employed and often refuse to work and I find myself hitting the spacebar with my index finger instead of my recalcitrant thumb but I’m getting there slowly.

I have written this post without looking at the keyboard and all I can say is thank goodness for spellcheck. My speed is about 18 wpm and my accuracy probably about 70% but it’s a start.

Do you remember when you learnt to touch type and how long did it take you? Is there hope for me?

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