Work, bus, north FinchleyJanuary 8, 2009
Work. It’s a four-letter-word. A bit like fork.
For the last three years or so, I’ve mostly freelanced for the same company. I enjoy many aspects of it: I like getting out of the house from time to time, the people are good, I can work from home a lot, and sometimes the material I deal with is interesting. As time has passed and I’ve gotten better at what I do, my involvement in various projects has increased and my role has changed. In many ways that’s a good thing – it means I have more work and a greater say in how projects develop. The downside is that my role has changed from a mostly creative role to getting more involved in the management and structuring of projects. Which is something that I find quite challenging.
It also means that I end up doing things I find quite alien. For the last two mornings, I’ve been up at 6am to conduct phone interviews with employees of large financial institutions and ask them about various policies and processes. I’m up early because of time differences – I’ve called Tokyo, Mumbai, and Singapore and have to remember that it’s afternoon there. My office wouldn’t be open at those hours, so I do the calls from home on Skype. This leads to the ridiculous and surreal situation whereby I am sitting in a small, one bedroom flat, with a wonky futon and a table covered in coffee stains, the floor littered with junk, wearing tracksuit trousers and slippers and sucking on a nicoteen lozenge as I chat away to various executives and account managers in major world capitals. And I have to pretend that I have even the slightest idea of what I’m talking about. I can’t say that I enjoy it, but I think I get away with it without sounding completely out of my depth. Who knows? Perhaps they’re also at home, wearing dressing gowns and drowning in old tubs of curry.
After that was done, I needed to get out, so I took the bus up to North Finchley. In doing so, I pass by the dilapidated, depressing area at the top of Colney Hatch Lane that remains strangely nameless but holds many bad memories for me, as it was where I used to wait for a bus to secondary school. I also travel past Woodhouse college, where I spent my sixth form. Those memories are not so unhappy. The bus journey was unremarkable except for a lone figure lying motionless across the seats at the back of the bus. He didn’t move once, even when the bus reached its destination and terminated. So when I got off the bus, I mentioned him to the driver. He nipped upstairs, had a look and just shrugged and told me: “He’s completely out of it,” as though that were a medical diagnosis. Maybe he’s dead. I will check the local news.
North Finchley is a bit crap, although there are far worse places to spend an hour. And there’s an Argos, which is some sign of civilization. I went into a charity shop and was followed in by a man in a tracksuit, who looked fairly normal, but turned out to be a mentalist. As I perused the books, he merely picked up loose novels and shoved them into gaps in the shelf, before settling on piles of paperbacks and ordering them into neat, orderly stacks. He didn’t work there, he was just obsessed with the books being neat. I didn’t talk to him.
This evening it is very foggy, but I no longer have a camera phone, so you’ll have to take my word for it.