Posts Tagged ‘work’

They say that clichés are shortcuts for ideas or metaphors we all understand because they’ve been used so much. (So that makes them equivalent to words, doesn’t it? but let’s not get into semiotics. that’s not why I’m here.) They’re also often irritating, not-useful, and upsetting. For instance, you’re walking down the street just after your best friend has told you she’s got cancer, and a well-meaning stranger says, “Cheer up, it might never happen.” How is that ever going to help?

Not a place of fond memories...

Not a place of fond memories…

One thing people said to me a lot when I was made redundant five years ago was, “Oh, that happened to so-and-so, she was devastated at the time but later she said it’s the best thing that ever happened to her.” I repeat, how is that ever going to help? It certainly didn’t help me. I was recovering from a particularly bad bout of depression, had only recently bought a new house that probably cost more than I could afford, and I didn’t have much chance of finding another job. I was sure redundancy was not going to improve my life. I signed on for jobseekers’ allowance and desperately tried to find work. No go. No-one was interested in a middle-manager with out-of-date technical skills when the economic crisis had just started to bite.

My preferred definition of "redundant" (from Merriam-Webster)

My preferred definition of “redundant” (from Merriam-Webster)

It’s been a hell of a struggle getting to where I am now… but I can honestly say I’m happy. Not financially secure by any stretch of the imagination, and I work twice as hard as I ever did at the company which employed me for over a decade, but that stinking cliché turned out to be true. I enjoy my work more than I ever thought it was possible to enjoy work. I don’t just work to live any more, and that feels good.

I was sitting in Broadway last week, waiting to meet a friend, and I happened to bump into an ex-colleague – someone who joined the company around the same time as I did, and who’s still there now. It was lovely to see him, but intensely depressing to hear that everything there is almost exactly the same as it was when I left.

  • Short-term gain overriding long-term planning every time – “yes, it might make us millions in the long run if we do it properly, but if we don’t make any profit on it this financial year you can’t do it.”
  • Sales-driven development – “yes, I heard you say you can’t produce that piece of software in two months, but I’ve told the client that’s when they can have it so that’s when you’ll have to produce it by.”
  • Constant undervaluing of technical skills – “you don’t need trained programmers, the data developers know how to write SQL, you can get them to knock up a quick C# program, and they’re cheaper.”
  • Macho bullshit everywhere – “what do you mean you don’t understand that particular bit of sales jargon? I couldn’t possibly demean myself by explaining it to you…” Meaningless work – “so the products we provide simply help marketing executives target their adverts and campaigns more successfully, making loads of money for already super-rich tax-avoiding corporations and their fat-cat bosses, so what? isn’t that what we should all aspire to do?”

In a microcosm, that’s what seems to me to be wrong with the country, and with the whole of Western-style capitalism. It makes me so angry. People aren’t people, they’re resources to be used, and if they’re useless as resources they’re useless as people. What sort of system is that? A crap one, that’s what.

But, it also makes me very very grateful that they chucked me out of that world that was destroying me, enabling me to find a world that nurtures and supports and fulfils me. The cliché turned out to hold true in my case. But that still doesn’t mean it was any use to me at the time.

Not sure why I wrote this post, but it’s been on my mind. Make of it what you will.

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Beeston Poets 2012 season flyer

I designed this over the weekend. Three things:

1. Tickets will be available very very soon. Probably tomorrow. Definitely by the end of the week. Buy them.

2. I’d love to hear what you think of the poster, design-wise. Any critiques gratefully received. Trying to get the hang of this graphic design lark.

3. This particular Beeston Poets elf is VERY VERY EXCITED about the whole project!

In other news…

Got lots of work on at the moment. Good job I can survive on 4 hours sleep for a couple of weeks. Caffeine addiction has firmly re-established itself.

Nottingham Festival of Words is taking shape, slowly but surely. I’ve volunteered to design the programme and they’ve accepted my offer. Whoop whoop! If you haven’t done so yet, sign up to the mailing list, like the FB page, and mark 9th-24th Feb 2013 in your diary. Oh, and don’t forget to sign up for the Festival launch, which will be at Antenna on September 12th, and is free.

And… tomorrow I’m off to prison.

Behind bars - and not the sort that sells beer



I’m going to a meeting to discuss a creative writing project at Sudbury Open Prison, where I’ll be shadowing someone and will have the chance to run a workshop with prisoners. What fun!

Lots of other stuff happening. But if I wrote about all of it you’d get bored and I’d get even less sleep.

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I'm going to see the sheep!

I’m going to see the sheep!

I’m going to make some resolutions for my holiday:

  • I will spend at least two days without connecting to the internet (if you see me on Facebook on Thursday or Friday, slap me).
  • I will get into the habit of writing every day (need to establish the habit).
  • I will not worry about how overweight and unfit I am until I get home (want to fully enjoy Mum’s wonderful cooking).
  • I will not spend more than an hour a day working (I’d like to not work at all, but that’s not going to happen).

I never thought I’d end up being a workaholic. But then I was never passionate about my work when I was in IT.


This is what I’ve been doing over the last few days.


The Bookcase, LowdhamWorking on a new website for The Bookcase in Lowdham. I’m very excited about this project – Jane Streeter wants to make a website that reflects the shop itself, including aspects of the service they give in person and giving a feel for the atmosphere of this perfect example of what an independent bookshop should be.


Draft programme for the Nottingham Festival of WordsSorting out the programme for the Nottingham Festival of Words. It’s going to be amazing, awesome, fantastic, brilliant… I know I keep banging on about this, but honestly, it is going to be EPIC. I’m a bit worried that I’m going to mess it up, but I honestly think we’ve got so many top-quality events that even I can’t blow it!


Nottingham and Leicester Poetry Society members at the Huw Watkins memorial eventAttending and reading at a special Nottingham Poetry Society meeting to commemorate the life and work of Huw Watkins, who died earlier this year. I never knew Huw, but I know by reading his poetry that I would have liked him. David Duncombe asked me to read Huw’s poem ‘Heifers’ – having spent much of my childhood years living right next to a field that was always full of cows, I can testify that Huw totally understood the beasts. We had a great audience and heard many beautiful poems.


The Heroes anthologyToday the proof arrived of an anthology I’ve typeset for the Nottingham Writers’ Studio’s ‘Heroes’ project. Richard Goodson and Natasha Picot worked with groups of young people from diverse backgrounds, which resulted in some amazing poetry and stories, not to mention colourful and inspiring pictures. It was a pleasure to design the anthology and help put it together, and I’m very pleased with the result.


Let the Blood RunOver the weekend I worked on a script for a graphic story that Emily Cooper is going to illustrate – we’ve submitted the proposal to Brick’s new project, which is called ‘Drawing from Distress to Recovery’ – an anthology of graphic stories about mental health problems. I hope our proposal (gorily entitled ‘Let the Blood Run’) is accepted, because I’m looking forward to working with Emily. She’s so talented…


… and lots of other stuff too. I love my life. Just got to find a way to work some more writing time into it!

Oh, and I somehow ended up watching the Olympic opening ceremony. I loved the cauldron, and the bouncing punks. I wanna be a bouncing punk.

Bouncing Punks

How could you NOT want to be a bouncing punk?

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How on earth did that happen?


111O/3, with letterpress poem/print insert

I might have mentioned earlier this week that I have had four poems accepted for Obsessed with Pipework. These are not my first published poems – I’ve had some included in the Nottingham University student anthologies, a couple in the Nottingham Poetry Society‘s 70th anniversary anthology, and my poem Horseflies was published (at the editor’s request – thanks Eireann Lorsung!) in 111O/3. But this was my first actual letter that says, ‘Yes, we like your poems and we’d love to publish them.’ So exciting! And it does make me feel like a real poet.


My first non-anthology published poem.

I spent most of yesterday at Southwell Library Poetry Festival. As always, Sheelagh Gallagher and everyone at the library have done an amazing job, bringing some wonderful poets to this neck of the woods. Sadly I had too much work to be getting on with to go to the events during the day, but the evening was magic. More of that later.

At lunchtime I put on my (metaphorical) chauffeur’s cap to take Sheelagh to the Maggie’s Centre at Nottingham City Hospital – I should possibly have taken an amphibious vehicle, there was so much water on the road. I sat and worked while she gave a creative writing workshop, until the end of the workshop when she called me in to talk to the group about ‘being a poet’ and read a couple of my poems. It felt quite strange, a bit like I was an impostor*… but it was fun and they were lovely people who had written some interesting poems themselves.

[* NO! I am a real poet!]

We made it back to Southwell – just. Didn’t stop to look at Lowdham, which was completely closed off and flooded. I then spent a happy couple of hours with Cathy Grindrod and Frances Thimann eating cake (thanks, Frances!). Oh, and discussing the event proposals for the Nottingham Festival of Words. Some interesting ideas, lots and lots of talent… over fifty proposals submitted so far and a few late submissions still trickling in… it’s going to be a brilliant festival. The website is under construction, but you can subscribe to the mailing list on the front page – I recommend you do that if you want to be kept up to date with the news.

Lovely hour or so preparing for my reading chatting to some friends I haven’t seen for a while and incidentally identifying some more opportunities (some people call it networking, I call it fun). Then read four of my poems (along with Carol Rowntree Jones and Simon Kew), which was awesome. I love reading my poems aloud**. It’s even better with an audience! Not so sure about the radio mike though – not used to that sort of thing at all.

[** See! I really am a real poet!]

Valerie Laws

Valerie Laws with her horse skull…

The day was finished off perfectly by a couple of hours listening to Ophelia’s Sistas – billed as:

Prize-winning poets Char March and Valerie Laws are both fabulous and experienced performers and – as Ophelia’s Sistas – they make a formidable team. They take their audiences on an exploration of pathology, wild sex, dementia, lost pigeons, flirting at funerals, dogs in space, insanity, all in poetry which is deeply moving and very funny. […] a high-energy evening of performance fireworks, belly laughs, dirty laughs, and pathos – forging through darkness with wit, determination, and panache.

Char March

Char March (she didn’t wear the Viking headgear for the whole show)

And they didn’t disappoint. Funny, touching, profound, silly, raunchy… sometimes all at the same time. I recommend you catch either or both of them if you get a chance. Clever, interesting, generous women, and bloody good poets too.

As I walked back to my car (my heroic car which took me carfully(? boatfully?) through rain and rain and rain all day) I was accosted by a very strange woman who wanted to know whether the 100 bus stop which said the bus went to Lowdham was also the bus stop for Nottingham. I assured her it was, and as a reward was treated to her life story. It seemed to involve theatre (in a cellar?), a door somewhere in Southwell which just opened for her (which I think was a literal door), travel around the UK (possibly involving London), a son who studied philosophy, and lots and lots of incomplete sentences which ran on and on, punctuated by, ‘I do ramble, don’t I?’ and, ‘I don’t mean to keep you.’ Turned out she’d been to Ophelia’s Sistas – didn’t think much of it as the poetry didn’t rhyme, but appreciated the mentions of allotments and still-birth in the poems. She had very strong views about Char March’s frequent mentions of the fact that she’s a lesbian, but I’ve no idea what those views were! Bless her – I could have listened to her all night!

The sun was losing its grip on the sky as I drove home, without my usual audio-book. For once, I enjoyed the silence and time to reflect on what was a truly wonderful day.

(then I got home and did a couple of hours work…)

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I’m sitting watching The Wonders of the Universe, featuring the ever-grinning Professor Doctor Saint Brian Cox, and he’s rabbiting on about how long turtles have been laying their eggs on the same beach – longer than the continent in question has been in existence. And I thought to myself, that’s about as long as it is since I last blogged.

“What’s happened since then?” I hear you cry…

well, quite a lot.

Most excitingly, I’ve been shepherding the relaunch of Five Leaves Publication’s Crime Express imprint.

Crime Express Proofs

Four damn fine books. Buy them.

I’ve been proofreading (and a bit of copy-editing), liaising with the typesetter, cover designer and printer. I’ve been setting up events with the authors. I’ve talked to bookshops about stocking the books, I’ve sent out press releases, I’ve approached magazines and websites about reviewing the books, I even set up a Facebook page (please ‘like’ it – it needs friends!)… and what fun it all is!

It’s also totally nerve-wracking, especially when I had to email the printer to say, “yes, print hundreds of copies of these books.” My experience as a typesetter tells me there are always mistakes… and the best I can hope for is that they’re not too disastrous. I think the most galling mistake that slipped through was a typo in my own biography in last year’s student anthology!

The new Crime Express books aren’t officially available until April 1st, but you can get them (post free in the UK) from Inpress Books along with the previous books in the series. I’d strongly recommend them. All of them. They’re brilliant.

Anyway. I’ve resolved to write short but sweet blogs from now on. Easier to read, and much easier to persuade myself to write. So I’ll sign off for now, but promise to write more very soon about all the exciting goings-on in the life of the Old Bat.

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