Over the years I’ve kept a running tally of jobs which, when measured on a comparative scale of hourly rate versus stress and unpaid hours have left my own job slightly wanting. Working on a local newspaper wasn’t so much stressful as never-ending, and that was in the days before email, mobile phones and laptops so there was at least, in theory, a physical limit to the amount of work you could do once the office was locked up for the night. Out of hours work was limited to the amount of time you could actually stay alert enough during a council or public meeting to glean anything worth writing about, which in turn was in inverse ratio to the amount of interest your editor would show in the agenda the following morning. Woe betide the slack hack who slipped off home before finding out whether councillors had approved that rogue roof extension in a leafy Georgian terrace.
Fortunately my days of covering the minutiae (and believe me it was often very minute) of local Government are over. These days I spend my unpaid working hours planning English lessons for adults, which is not only a lot more entertaining, but, thanks to YouTube, remote desktops and online library membership, can be done from the comfort of my new kitchen table.
When I say new, I of course mean ancient. I have just got rid of a lovely, but giant, wooden table we inherited from the family six doors up when they moved to Devon. It was not only too big for their new house but too big for the van. We held on to it for years in the optimistic belief that we would either be moving into our very own mansion any day now, or that the walls of our kitchen would miraculously expand to accommodate it in all its glory. I finally admitted defeat last weekend and sent it off to its new home three streets away where my friend Ruth was thrilled to take it up to her airy new loft. “I’ll send the boys round,” she said, dispatching her husband and three sons to carry it up the road.
In its place is the much more compact pine table from my mum and dad’s old house that has been in storage for two years, complete with cat-ravaged legs, drill holes from one of my dad’s many Christmas morning toy assembly jobs, and a kitchen drawer which still contained a baccy tin of 2p coins for the phone box (this may require a footnote for younger readers!).
Just as I was putting it together two of my fellow trainee teachers popped over to help me celebrate (and double check) my newly acquired teaching qualification – news of which had just arrived by email to universal shock and awe.
The new/old table was a piece of emergency utility furniture issued to my mum’s Auntie Dolly after she was bombed out during the war, which meant it was built to be assembled and reassembled easily in stressful situations, a bit like Ikea. As we put it together, together, I regaled Paul and Ivana, both in their 20s, with my own storage wars, explaining that I didn’t know how I was ever going to find time to sort my way through boxes and boxes of old cine film. They looked as blank as an accidentally exposed roll of Super 8. “Please don’t tell me you’ve never heard of cine film,” I said, feeling about as contemporary as Clara Bow. “Well, I’ve heard of Betamax,” said Ivana, not very helpfully.
As we tightened up the last wing nut on the table, I decided not to share the story of Auntie Dolly’s table and her brush with the Blitz, lest they decide I am actually older than Dr Who. Instead we gathered round the new/old table and I put the kettle on and poured myself a cup of strong sweet tea. For the shock.
Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn