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It’s Friday, I’m in love

10/25/2013

Flexible working 1

So here I am sat in front of a computer at 8.32 on a Friday morning. There’s nothing unusual in that but instead of being in a large, busy open plan office I’m at home alone having eschewed a damp commute and severe delays on the District and Circle lines. Instead I’m commencing day one of my new life as a “flexible worker”.  I’ve had some cereal and orange juice, watched a bit of breakfast telly, brewed up and now I’m tapping away on a keyboard with the word count indicating that I’ve already knocked out more than a hundred words without really saying owt. I’m also listening to Johnny Marr’s new one which represents a feat of multi-tasking that probably won’t end well.

This new style Friday morning has come about as a result of me compressing my hours at work so that I can take a day off each fortnight to, er, allow me time to “pursue my writing and blogging interests”. That’s what I actually said when someone asked me about my new working arrangements the other day. Bloody hell, you can tell I’ve been in London for a few years now. How poncey does that sound? Who am I trying to kid, eh?

I suppose this is mainly about freeing up some time to be a little bit creative. To think, reflect, be inspired and write things down. There was a bit in The Guardian the other week about the daily rituals of some of history’s most creative minds. Long before the days of flexible working, Franz Kafka combined his writing with a job in an insurance office by doing most of his scribbling between 10.30pm and the early hours of the morning. Benjamin Franklin, on the other hand, liked to take “air baths”; his term for sitting around naked all morning. You’ll no doubt be pleased to learn that I am fully clothed as I type this but I do need to think carefully about my own rituals and get into some good habits.

Flexible working 3

The concept of working flexibly has been around for several years in the NHS. It’s a wonderfully progressive idea that’s usually associated with people looking after children or elderly relatives, not writing nonsense like this. It’s all about being able to achieve the often elusive balance between work and life outside work. The ten page guide to flexible working that I read through includes the example of Ahmed, an office manager, who compresses his hours into a four day week to give him time to look after his new-born daughter. Unsurprisingly there was no mention of anyone with half-baked notions of being a writer.

To be honest, I had been thinking about compressing my hours for a while. There’s a friend at work who already does something similar and hearing about her successes and bursts of creative energy has given me the kick up the arse, after much procrastination, to finally do something. There’s also been advice about “head space” and “having a plan”. But right now it feels like there’s perhaps a bit too much space between my ears and my rather vague plan for today consists mainly of scribbling in my notebook which for the last year and a half I’ve got into the habit of taking everywhere.

I’m looking forward to it and, in moments of confidence rarer than winter sunshine, I even think that, if I can stop wasting hours looking at winter coats on the internet, I might be able to make a success of this. But I’ve got no real sense of what “success” looks like. I started blogging last summer and have thoroughly enjoyed it. The original intention was to write something each week but sometimes I’ve struggled to devote sufficient time to it. Instead, I’ve managed forty posts in not far short of seventy weeks, which isn’t too shabby I think.

Flexible working 2

The subject matter has been a hotchpotch of topics that I’m passionate about including the NHS, issues concerning refugees and asylum seekers, visits to museums and art galleries, book reviews and stuff about football, cricket and lesser known London landmarks. All delivered from an unapologetically left-leaning viewpoint. Regular readers (if there are any) will also know that lurking not very far behind many of the posts is the beautiful football club known as FC United of Manchester. I have a tendency to bang on about them rather a lot.

If there is a loose thread binding most of these pieces together it’s probably a fascination with underdogs and events, stories and people that often fly below the media radar. And part of it is about me finding a voice and communicating in a way that I’m comfortable with. I love the opportunity to pause and reflect before communicating that writing provides. Too often my natural diffidence will mean that I will sit with a group of people, whether at work or socially, and say very little. There’s a good reason for that daft tongue-in-cheek, thirteen letter blog name.

The vast array of statistics that sit behind the blog includes a bar chart which shows the number of “views” per day. Of course, a “view” could mean anything from someone reading an entire article to a cursory glance at a few lines. We all do it, don’t we? We click on a link to something on the internet, read a few words and then click away to something more interesting. A symptom of our seemingly increasing inability to focus on things for very long. If the bar chart was a profile of a stage of the Tour de France the smart money would be on Mark Cavendish to win in a bunch sprint finish. It shows a fairly flat, steady-ish flow of visitors with occasional undulations when I publish a post. But scroll back to the early part of this year and there’s a huge Alpe d’Huez-like peak.

Flexible working 4

On a single day in January one post received nearly two thousand four hundred views. The article was a personal reflection on the Hillsborough disaster in the light of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report last September. It was posted by the Hillsborough Justice Campaign on their Facebook page and on Twitter and received some lovely comments from fellow football supporters. It was at this point that, perhaps for the first time, I thought I might, just might, be on to something with this writing malarkey. On a good day FC United can get a crowd of around two thousand four hundred people at Gigg Lane. I know what that looks like. It’s quite a lot of people. It felt exciting to have that many people read something that I’d written.

I’m extremely grateful to anyone that’s taken the time to read anything that I’ve posted. In today’s busy world, where most people tend to read very little, it never ceases to amaze me that someone will take a few minutes to read something that I’ve written. Aside from the Hillsborough piece there have been other posts that have attracted encouraging comments while others have had only a few views. Such is the fate of the newby blogger. I’m under no illusions. This isn’t the X Factor. You have to stick at it. It takes time and no little graft.

My blogging technique tends to mirror my personality; endlessly fretting over details and writing, rewriting and rewriting again before eventually hitting that “publish” button and sending the latest post out into the blogosphere. Will people actually want to read this rubbish? Nah, probably not. There are so many blogs out there. Why would anyone bother to read mine? I don’t know the answer to that. But I do know that I’ll never be able to enjoy any success as a writer or blogger unless I give it a proper go. So here I am. Giving it a go.

If nothing else, it’s a wonderful privilege to be able to work flexibly and devote more time to something I’m passionate about. Sometimes when I’m on holiday, wandering the streets of another town, I’ll momentarily pause and think “hang on a minute, I’m not actually at work today but I’m getting paid to sit munching a Cornish pasty on the harbour front of a beautiful fishing village”. How good is that? Paid holiday is a wonderful thing and the same is true of flexible working. It’s a privilege to be able to sit here right now tapping away on a keyboard. To the several generations of workers and trade unionists who fought for freedoms like this, I salute you. Now I’m off to look at coats on the internet and make another brew.

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From → Personal

4 Comments
  1. You’ve got a great voice in your writing, keep up the hard work! And the not so hard work…like looking at coats on the internet. It’s healthy!

  2. Another great piece Mr A. Keep up the good work. Remember there is only one F in Finance!

    • Cheers lad, much appreciated. Blimey, TOOFIF is a blast from the past. We only did two issues. Back issues must be rarer than hens’ teeth. Probably worth, ooh, several pence on the black market.

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