Quarterly Report

Well, it’s been three months since the Morning of the Long Knives. How’s the freelancing going?

It … goes. I think.
To recap: summoned to a meeting early at work, told the department was being restructured, warned I was at risk of redundancy, sent home for a week (which turned into three weeks) to think things over. On the understanding that I would be retained to work for the old place for 5 days a month, I took the redundancy and became a freelance technical writer.
Later on the same day as the Morning, I went into London to meet some nice people who wanted me to do 36,000 words of ghost-writing. That was fun, and lucrative, and it kept my mind off worrying what to do next. Sadly that’s now over.
In the meantime I was signing up with various agencies who handle people like me. They were all saying essentially “work’s always thin on the ground at this time of year but it picks up in September”. It’s now September so I’ll be holding them to that.
And meantime – oh, dear – meantime I signed up to websites like freelancer.co.uk and ifreelance.com. I helpfully get sent daily lists of jobs being offered that I am invite to bid on. At first this was almost suicidally depressing; now I just keep getting the alerts as incentive – a dreadful insight into what could be.
Example, in today’s post:
“I will need 500 articles of 100 word length as soon as possible … All writers will be given a list of keywords to write at. You MUST be able to do at least 20-30 short articles a day … My budget is $30 for each set of 100 short articles (100 Words Each).”
So, $30 for 10,000 words.
The only thing more depressing than the tenders is that there are people who still make bids, with persuasive notes such as:
“Respected Sir, I want to establish long term business relations with you because I can do your project and it will help us to develop healthy business relations.Sir, I will provide you high quality work under dead line.”
On the bright side, the 5 days a month at the old place pays the mortgage and fuel bills, so at least I can starve in the warm and dry.
To be blunt, I miss working in a team that I got on with doing work that I valued. I miss my friends and I would much rather have a full time job. However I don’t want one so badly that I’ll just take anything, and I don’t want to have to take a step back: hence, no real desire to return to journal publishing, for instance. I’m a realist and I know that beggars can’t be choosers – but I’m not yet a beggar, and shouldn’t be for some time to come.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s September and I have stuff to do …

Invisible boundaries

Rather sweet, isn’t it? You get little reminders like this everywhere you walk in Harwell, giving the impression our nuclear secrets are protected by well-maintained flower beds and perhaps invisible forcefields.

Back in the used-to-be, RAF Harwell’s giant aircraft hangars left over from the war were used to house things like GLEEP and other faintly – or even extremely – glow-in-the-dark type toys. This was before they invented cool-sounding names for nuclear reactors, of course. A single fence enclosed every affected area and the bits in between too, and a right pain it was for the rest of us.

Two of the hangars were demolished a couple of years ago (the third still stands) but the fenced-off area remained. Until I noticed, the other day, taking the obligatory two-sides-of-a-triangle route to the shops past the main gate at lunchtime, that the war against terrorism seemed to have been won. No armed guards at the main gate. The barriers stood invitingly open. What gives?

The answer is that they’ve mostly taken the fence down. The seriously affected areas still remain fenced off, including the site of the two ex-hangars which is now a bit of grassland where rabbits can breed safe from predators but at increased risk of mutation. But you can now walk between the fenced off areas. You can vary your route! You can walk straight to the shops from work, hooray. I had no idea there’s a lake in there (technically). And everywhere you come across these little souvenirs, abandoned in place, of what once was.


I look around at my co-workers on a Friday afternoon …

Everyone seems so normal. We are mostly white and middle class. I would guess that the huge majority have a university education. No one here has ever really known deprivation or the breakdown of society. I’m sure we were all spanked by our mothers from time to time when we were naughty.

And yet, the forensic evidence suggests there is a male in this company who pees into the toilet bowl without putting the seat up. It’s the kind of thing you could write a thesis on.

Have a good weekend.