Thursday, 27 September 2012

Highways and Byways

How far does 'home' extend?  As far as the front door? The garden gate?  Further than that, I think.

We've lived in this village for nearly six years and I thought I knew it well.  After all, it's not very big.  I walk the main street twice a day to take the boy to school and back, I drive the other large-ish road regularly on my way to the nearest town, and I know most of the side streets.  This week, however, I've spent an hour or so each morning walking paths and minor roads that aren't on my usual routes.  I did have a cursory look at a map on Monday, but mostly I've just been following my nose.

Being slightly geographically challenged, I've thoroughly enjoyed the several 'aha' moments as I've emerged from a new-to-me footpath onto a familiar street, or spotted another footpath I didn't know existed, or realised that if I walk down here I'll end up there.  I swear there's an audible click as the jigsaw pieces fall into place in my head and my mental picture of my home surroundings becomes clearer and more solid.

I've heard birds singing, smelled pine trees and soil, seen fantastic views over rolling fields (and I thought Suffolk was flat!) and encountered squirrels, pheasants and friendly dog-walkers.  I've been stung by nettles and slipped in the mud and altogether properly experienced this place we live in.

These excursions have prompted me to ponder lots of questions: did all of these little patches of orchard once join up, and if so how big was the whole orchard once?  Is there a map I can find to tell me?  What's a haulage lorry from Scunthorpe doing in the back end of nowhere in Suffolk?  Why is there an elderly man sitting out of sight behind the village hall in an equally elderly Jaguar with the engine running and the window open, smoking a pipe?  Is he perhaps the lift home for the man with the incredibly bushy moustache and the battered tennis racket who is whacking balls around the playing field for his two collies to chase?  And most of all, why have I not done this before now?

A tree's roots extend far beyond its trunk.  A person's roots need to extend beyond the front door.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Things I never thought I'd miss

Things I never thought I'd miss (but sometimes secretly do) about working outside the home for someone else:

Working in a team. That sense of shared purpose and 'all being in it together'.  The feeling that other people know what it is you're doing and why.  People who understand the same jargon and share at least some of your frustrations with the job. People who are, quite simply, there during your day and sometimes give you an opportunity to laugh and put things into perspective. (Which is a little difficult in a room on your own.)

Gossip and other people's problems. It may have been irritating at the time but it was a window onto another life and a way of bonding with another person.  (Even if the bonding you were doing was with the person across the room who sympathised with you for being cornered, rather than with the gossiper.) It's easy to get 'stuck' in your own life if you don't get to see into other people's.

Meetings. An excuse to drink tea, eat biscuits and call it work. And still be paid!

Someone to blame.  If a day is too busy, boring, stressful or just plain rubbish then it's the fault of the company, the workmates, the workload someone gave you... Never your own fault, surely.

The boss. Passing the buck. ("I'm sorry, I would have loved to help but that decision was out of my hands. Blame the boss.") But, more positively, being able to talk through a thorny problem or a difficult decision or a question you don't know the answer to with someone who, in theory, knows more than you and, in practice, can actually tell you what to do and make the burden of responsibility a little lighter.

Going home. The change of scene and pace; the feeling of escape and relaxation. How can you capture that feeling of going home when you're already there?

Monday, 17 September 2012

As you mean to go on

"Start as you mean to go on."

I ran at last week like a bull at a gate.  Charged through it all at lightning speed, constantly aware of all my responsibilities and everything that needed to be done.  And the week got more and more frenetic and less and less enjoyable.  (As, no doubt, did I!)

Since beginning this work at home life I've definitely noticed that as the day begins, so it generally ends.  So if I dash out of the door in the morning, swearing and falling over things, you can bet your life that I'll re-enter the door a few hours later in the same manner, not to mention falling into bed in a similar fashion at the very end of the day.

If I sit down and focus on work the very second I return home after dropping the boy at school, I'll still be there, hunched and focused, until the very second it's time to do the dash to school in reverse and bring him home again.

And then there are the slow days.

This morning began at warp speed as I wheeled the wheelbarrow as fast as I could to the allotment on the way to school, so that I could return there on my way home to dig the last few potatoes in preparation for finally relinquishing 'ownership' of the allotment.  Speed was necessary as the detour to the allotment meant we were in serious danger of being late for school.  (The wheelbarrow, by the way, contained one digging fork, various school bags and a small boy.  It was quicker and more fun - for one of us at least - than expecting him to walk at warp speed.)  I passed a friend on the way in to school as she was leaving the premises having already deposited her children, and then proceeded to walk so fast having deposited mine that I caught her up before she was a couple of hundred yards down the road.  I was already in speed-demon mode.

But then I dug potatoes.  Not something you can hurry, especially when the ground is as hard as it is now.  I picked beans and investigated the contents of the compost heap that has not been turned for about 2 years.  (Lovely, useable compost, just right to enrich the soil in the garden when I've barrowed it all home.)  I brought the small, pitiful, slug-eaten and slightly embarrassing harvest home.  And by then, I'd slowed down.

A cup of tea at my desk and some filing, tidying, list-making came next.  Nothing too urgent or taxing (ah, tax...accounts...numbers...things which I need to work on soon - but not today!) but all things which needed to be done.  Today had become a slow day and somehow after the pace of last week I knew I was not up to more in-depth work.  Another day, I will be raring to go.  Today is not that day.

Today is slow and gentle.  But things will still get done.  Probably better than they would if I ran at them.  The whole day's work has become slow because I began work slowly.  No, I did not begin the whole day slowly.  My mistake.  Having my hands in the soil soon corrected it.

The challenge now is to see if I can end the day slowly, despite an evening meeting with a potential client an hour and a quarter's drive away from home.  On second thoughts, make that an hour and a half's drive.  I'll drive slowly.

PS. We have a date for the garden transformation!  It's not until early November but we're definitely moving towards bringing the veg growing home.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Getting back into it

The season is turning; there's a definite autumn feel in the air now.  Summer is over (it must be, the Husband announced it as we sat in the garden on Sunday evening) and it's time to get back to the balancing act that is real life.

And back to blogging, which is not real life but a sort of sideways look at it.  It's taken me a while as I didn't know where to start - so in the end I'm just starting, to see where I end up.

For the last 3 weeks in August I was pretty much Mum, without the work.  It was lovely, but by the end it was also a huge challenge and both the boy and I were ready for something different.  The first week in September saw me completely reversing that situation with 3 days at the opposite end of the country, just working - no Mum duties.  The change was nice (and probably just what the whole family needed) but I felt a bit like a pendulum, swinging from one extreme to the other.

This week I'm finding my way forward again, focusing on the work during the school day and trying to leave it behind afterwards as I wear the Mum hat.  After so long away, work is, well, hard work.  I'd forgotten how much time it takes to find and cultivate new clients, and what a challenge it is to do that while still focusing on the actual paid work that needs to be done.  Very similar to the balancing of paid work against unpaid family and home tasks.

Things are busy at the moment with new clients, new work, not to mention the boy's rapidly-approaching seventh birthday (seven? How did that happen?) and a new school year.  We seem to have crashed into September, feet stomping and arms waving, but I'm hoping that we will wobble back into equilibrium soon with regular work days, regular blog posts and a bit of time to breathe.