Artfully multitasking

TOP TASK MASTERAccording to this morning’s news, 20,000 nurses jobs are unfilled because of a financially imposed recruitment freeze. So while some of the most vital workers in the UK are unable to do the job they are trained for, a million of us are tunnelling our way out of the recession by taking on a second job. You can’t move for moonlighters. At the latest count one of my nephew-in-laws had three jobs on the go – plumber, driver and fitness instructor – and that doesn’t count his real job in magazines. And if one of Katy’s teachers hadn’t spent his half-term building and decorating she’d still be sleeping in a Barbie pink bedroom and the garden shed would be leaking like a sieve. Even I’m at it – when I’m not blogging I’m teaching one day a week.

So long as we’re not taking work away from other people I’m all for it. What I do resent is having to take on other people’s jobs in the meantime because the big companies can’t or won’t pay for enough staff to keep things going. I’d still be queuing up to pay for last night’s shopping if I hadn’t taken an executive decision to risk the self-scanning machine yet again. I’ve said it before, but I should not be put in charge of machines that a) go ping and b) accept money. It’s something that always ends in tears. I either take the bags off too quickly or not quickly enough and just when I think I’ve cracked it I get blind-sided by an unidentified bread roll and have to scroll through mug shots of 17 varieties of baguette before I can escape. Finally I have to get authorisation from a 12 year old before I can be allowed to leave the premises with a bottle of wine.

Having done my short stint on the checkout I had to play Mr Ben – the world’s first multitasker – yet again before I could get home. My travel card had run out, so it was time to put on my station master’s hat and sell myself some bus and train tickets. I do quite like topping up my travel pass automatically – especially on the rare occasions I top up my card with cash and get change – it makes me feel as if I’ve had a win in Vegas. A small one, obviously, without the fun of dinner and a show.

At last I’d put in enough hours to get on the bus, after scanning my own ticket and leaving the bus driver free to do the proper stuff ¬– like get us home safely. Because I was in such a grump I forgot to press the request button and I could see the bus slowly but surely sailing past my stop. I pinged away madly like a hyperactive toddler until the driver growled that we’d passed the point of no return and he couldn’t open the doors. “Do it yourself,” he said. I was swaying away at the exit with four carrier bags, an oversized handbag and a chip the size of Blackpool pier on my shoulder and felt like telling him not to be such an idiot. Then a suave man in a cashmere coat looked up from his smartphone long enough to explain. “He means open the door yourself – look up there – pull the button.”

“Are you mad?” I said (I can be very un PC at times, which is quite a high risk strategy when I’m talking to strangers on the bus). “No – look – up there – pull the handle,” he repeated. I put two of the bags down and stretched for the handle. Even in heels there was no chance of reaching, so I just had to harrumph my way to the next stop when the driver’s door-opening powers were restored. I thanked my newfound techie friend and tottered off the bus to retrace my steps back home. Just as I crossed the road one of my self-filled bags gave way, opening up not just a jar of Branston and a bottle of Pinot on to the pavement, but another career opportunity – this time as an Artist. All it needed was a small tasteful sign and I could have flogged it to Tate Modern: “Pickled mum: thwarted”.

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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