Tuesday, February 9, 2021

A little change here, a big change there...

To everyone who has been within conversational reach of me recently, and there’s not been that many thanks to lockdown, the following will not come as a surprise. 

I stopped liking my job last year.

And in that, I'm not alone. The pandemic has affected people's attitudes to their work worldwide: the pressure of working, often the only person left as everyone else was furloughed, balancing the needs of the museum with the safety of the volunteers and team just became overwhelming and triggered a minor breakdown. 

When that happened, it also triggered a small epiphany: the only thing that gave me any sense of satisfaction was working outside with plants and nature. The allotment became everything and, rather than fading as life attempted a return to normal, that remained constant. 

I tried changing my hours, throwing myself into new projects, delegating more, but nothing worked. It wasn't satisfying and I was frustrated by the lack of flexibility that came with being tied to one building, 4 days a week, 9 till 5. I knew I wanted a career change, I knew I wanted to work outside and I knew I wanted fulfilment. 

In short, I wanted to work with plants and the only thing that held me back was my lack of knowledge. That and my lack of time. 

So I've reached a turning point in my path. A crossroads, if you must. I could continue with my salaried job and a gnawing sense of time wasted, or I could forge my own way, accept instability and welcome the flexibility to learn something completely new. 


It might not surprise you to know that I've chosen the latter. As from April, I will be a freelance museum consultant, entirely dependent on my own ability to charm people into giving me work but also entirely free to start training and getting some experience in the plant world. 

And, heavens help me, am I terrified! I've never done this before. Never freelanced, never charmed outside of an interview, never faced a new venture without knowing where my income is coming from. This is scary stuff but I'm ready for it. 

 I think. 

It does mean that my grand plans for the allotment are on hold. This year it will be more about ticking over, planting and digging rather than constructing elaborate fruit cages, buying trees or even getting my shed. Oh my shed! I stand on the plot and dream of it, painted blue with yellow door (not looking at all like an IKEA, no matter what my friend says), a shelf for potting, hooks for hanging tools and a wheelbarrow (also currently existing only in my head) resting neatly on the side. 

I've promised myself that for every job I get, I'll put 10% aside for shed, shed-related purchases and general pursuing of dream plant-based job. 

All that's left to do now is hustle some work my way. 

If you are feeling particularly generous or flush, and you'd like to see the shed manifest itself, there's now a Ko-fi link at the top of the blog page where you can click through and donate. But no pressure, no expectation, just undying gratitude to anyone who wanders that way..

Wish me luck!

There's a whole world of shed love on Pinterest - most of them compeltely unrealistic
I almost wanted to change my search terms to "normal sheds" or "working sheds"
Still, how nice would they be on the plot?

Sunday, February 7, 2021

January Reading: 2021 in Books

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I managed to read in January. Immediately post-op, in December, I was fine and ploughing through, if at a slightly slower pace. Come the first week in January, an infection set in and scattered my concentration like so many marbles. Nothing written would stick. 

It took me a week to get through The Box of Delights, something that would normally only take me a day. The Living Mountain was even worse, all that lovely lyrical prose... I’d manage a sentence and then put it down in preference for staring, glassy eyed, at the wall. 
I'd treated myself to Ring the Hill after enjoying Cox's 21st Century Yokel, and which proved to be a wandering, strange and oddly compelling as that. I do like the way he fits himself into a landscape, actively seeking it out regardless of the challenges. Once my health began to return, I tore through it. 
"A hill is not a mountain. You climb it for you, then you put it quietly inside you, in a cupboard marked 'Quite A Lot Of Hills' where it makes its infinitesimal mark on who you are."

But what really kicked my reading arse into gear was the ever reliable Pym. Some Tame Gazelle was the first I read of hers, decades ago, and returning to it was like returning to an old friend, one who made no judgement but allowed you to find your feet again. 

That was enough to send me back to The Living Mountain which is almost an antithesis of all those men-and-mountain books around. I could amost feel the snow against my face as I read it - just wonderful. A friend lent me the 3 Monica Dickens books, tales of her times as a junior report, cook and trainee nurse, which were hilarious and eye opening. 

Mudlarking finished the month with Laura Maiklem's ode to the Thames and the treasures she's found on its shore. A museum person to the core, I can think of nothing nicer than getting to see her own mudlarking museum, a richness of finds, the lost and thrown away of lives stretching all the way back to the Romans.

 Right now, I have Diary of a Disappointed Man and Homecoming on the go, not to mention Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food, which is fascinating. I think I'm almost back to normal, but I'm still hugely distracted by anything that doesn't require much concentration. One sentence at a time, eh?

And at least I'm not having to force my way through a Philippa Gregory like my friend is (she does not give up on books she doesn't like and is growing gradually more annoyed). So tell me, what are you reading right now?

Weather Advisory Service

On the way home from the train the other day, I took a shortcut through the dripping allotment grounds, the grass and earth squelching under...