Erm, An Extended Holiday Break

This is a little awkward. You know my recent posts where I have been a tiny bit whingy about having a real job – one where I have to work at a desk that is shared by my husband and it is really just a cobbled-together table at the end of my bed? A ‘boffice’, I think I termed it? And that the baby comes into this boffice, often, when perhaps I should be concentrating fully on the Teams meeting rather than having to find him helicopter cartoons to watch to keep him from screeching, all while taking notes and not breaking the Teams eye contact thing? You remember those halycon days – days which added up to ten whole months of fulltime employment?

Well, on Dec 1, on an otherwise ordinary Thursday afternoon, that all came to an end. My particular skills, mutually agreed to have been useful up to launch, were decided not to be quite right for the project going into Phase Two and so it was decreed that I would leave, effective the following day after handover.

This has been a funny old time. It occurs to me that I have now been made redundant a dazzling four times over my career; once, because I was brought onto a magazine to fulfill a role for a project that didn’t end up getting the go-ahead (and I had instead been ‘given’ to the editorial team who weren’t ever quite sure what to do with me – and then I got pregnant and six months later it was ‘BYEEEEE’), another time because the project ended (fair dues, I guess), and another time to cut my part-time lowest-hanging-fruit costs. This time, a job spec rewrite. So I kind of sat there for a bit, wondering what to do about the nanny and her job, also suddenly made redundant (although not redundant really, because who is actually willing, six kids later, to go to four playgroup sessions a week without literally plunging their head down the small person’s loos?) and wondering, more existentially, about my career and where it all went funny. And not ‘funny haha’, either.

Sit with the sadness, friends told me. Sit with feeling embarrassed and unemployable and small. Cry a bit for a few days, if you must. Go to a daytime movie and drink some wine and then start looking for a new job. You’ll have all of December to find one, they encouraged. January will be fizzing with employment possibilities and, and….don’t forget, there’s a talent war out there! A virtual battleground with young people flinging uncompromising flexible terms like pointy paper-cutting darts into the inboxes of companies everywhere! You’ll be the voice of reason, of experience, compared to those teaming hoards of brilliant digitally-savvy youngsters! They’ll like you because you are old and don’t demand anything! YOUR TIME IS NOW! Just imagine.

Well, so far, I’ve pitched for freelance work, written some stuff for the Americans, applied for four jobs, been sad about the pay rates, drank a fair bit of wine, and cried twice. I have worn my sadness like a fairly heavy woollen poncho – the kind of poncho that restricts the arms and makes me just kind of sit still for a bit, leaden and trapped.

I have sighed audibly – OH, how I have sighed! I have to figure out what to tell my lovely nanny who, only ten months ago, gave up all of her jobs and rearranged her life to help us out. Awkward doesn’t begin to cover it.

Anyway, it has meant that December has been less difficult than usual – I could actually attend the nativity service and could sneak out to buy stuff and met up with quite a few people at Cafe Beam for their excellent shakshuka. Gardening leave (oh, what a term!) was, in retrospect, quite a grand thing, though it runs out in a week and so there will be less brunching and more fretting over endless CV versions and tweaking the old Linkedin profile. My profile photo currently has that badge that says ‘#Open To Work’ and every time I see it garlanding my photoshopped sweet trusting face, I feel like I am wearing a conspicuous dunce’s cap. It may as well say ‘#Unemployed Loser’. That badge says what I need to say, but, like, do employers want to see that I am ‘in-between jobs’? Or does that just make me look recently fired? There’s a line here, and I’m not quite sure where to draw it.

We could just shortcut this pain if anyone of you want to hire me. I’m mostly great with words, though have been known to make terrible decisions over capitalisation. I’m pretty good at work events and will talk to anyone. I get my copy in on time and always reply to emails. I love Teams. I love a good bit of gif banter. I’ll definitely bake for the office every now and then.

Argh, all this makes me feel like a red light district working girl with my boobs out. Words! Boobs! Take me, please! Shimmy shimmy wink toss of the hair – here’s my latest piece of writing – suggestive lick of the lips. URGH.

In Other News

We are in Devon again and this week, I am mostly concentrating on fitting excess meat into the small cottage fridge. Mark gets extremely excited by farm shops and begins to build a small butchery for us. We have a big ham, two ducks, two rib roasts, two massive packets of sausages (venison and cracked pepper) and a turkey. I said:

“I really don’t like turkey, mate” which is something he should know because we have had Christmases together for thirty years but he assured me that I would like this one because ‘we’ (read ‘Jodi’) would create some sort of cranberry thing to drown it in so it wouldn’t taste like protein-y nothing. Meanwhile my eyes shift to the ham, my one true meat love, and I wonder why we need to even have this conversation. Ham requires nothing but butter and crusty bread. Ham is Christmas. Turkey is a pallid big dino bird with red warty things on its face.

So far we have gone into Barnstaple twice to raid the charity shops which are both a’plenty, and smokin’. I bought myself Tayari Jones’s Silver Sparrow, Abigail Dean’s Girl A, and Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women, all for £3. We discovered the Lidl and marvelled at its £3.50 pandoro and Mark choked on its £7 ducks, hence why we have two of the buggers jamming up the fridge airflow. Each time we open the fridge door, something flies out – twice now the uncorked prosecco which hasn’t yet seen me on all fours slurping the spilled contents, but may well if it keeps happening.

Today we are headed towards Woolacombe for some bracing wind and enormous sand dunes to sustain us through another evening of Christmas movies. We have seen them all. Last night it was National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and let me just say, Beverly D’Angelo is a fox. That Christmas evening outfit of green silk ice skating skirt teamed with a high necked plunging keyhole blouse was pure perfection. Tonight, it’s a toss up between Love Actually and The Family Stone, although Mark just keeps trying to watch back-to-back violent TV shows whenever there is a lull in proceedings, even if he has a small innocent two year old on his lap. It breaks me.

Here are some photos of the joyful beachy outing:

Before we got to the beach we had roared around Ilfracombe, looking for somewhere to eat and finding nothing, really. We settled on a big ugly pub at the harbour, but not a ‘pub’ pub – more a Wetherspoons big ’80s building which was full of the entire town and about one thousand sticky menu options. I was all snooty about it, being the cultured London lady that I am, and audibly despaired at the myriad food genres on offer. Why not keep to a theme, I wondered? A simple green or red shakshuka choice, perhaps? But the children were nonplussed about the horrible burgers and fat pasty chips and, in fact, became very happy. The eldest looked around the place and said:

“I love it here. It’s so Christmassy.”

I gave him a pained look and he told me to stop being such a Debbie Downer. Fair enough, really. This is neither the time or the physical or emotional place to begin being a gastro-bore.

Here is our cottage:

It occurs to me that the kids will now and forevermore associate Christmas with holidaying in Devon. This is very different from my own Christmassy memories. We obviously had a very different climate in New Zealand in December – everything was warm and sunny and beachy, in a non-windswept, jackets and scarfs kind of way. But my memories are more about the coming together of the aunties and the cousins, people turning up to camping sites and unloading the cars, setting up the caravans and bring out the Scrabble. Christmas is really about Scrabble – Jesus, yes, but really Scrabble.

My three aunties, one who has now died, another who is now in a home, the other one I haven’t seen for perhaps twenty-something years, and my mother would come together from different parts of the North Island and would get serious about Scrabble. I remember sleeping on stretchers in the caravan awning as a kid while the aunties and my mother would play into what felt like the early hours, the weak caravan light just enough for them to thumb through the Scrabble dictionary checking each other’s words, and their own ambitious attempts. Is ‘Mi’ a word? What can I do with this ‘X’? I feel like they stripped to their bras while they played, but that might have been me confusing the Shuggie Bain aunties with my own. I know the husband-uncles were elsewhere, perhaps in another caravan, but not drinking or eating crisps or posh cheeses, because that’s what I would do – that’s not what the post-war Salavation Army husband-uncles would do. Possibly fishing on a small aluminium dinghy that would likely make my dad seasick. The next day we might dig for cockles or pipis and then soak them in buckets to cook up later.

Anyway. We’ve substituted those traditions for a cottage, movies, beaches and North Devon pannier markets, and all is good with the world. Until we get back and I face the Job Problem. Merry Christmas to you all!

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3 Responses to Erm, An Extended Holiday Break

  1. Sally says:

    Nobody wants to go against a Pyle gal in Scrabble! Will Judy and Mar have a game on Christmas day I wonder?? Have a wonderful Christmas in Devon creating more fabulous Northern Hemisphere memories. 🎄 All the very best with the job hunting. Xx

  2. rose says:

    THANK YOU for writing. Super sorry re job situation but January should be better job hunting. Holding total good wishes for you. YOU ARE GOOD WITH WORDS! Stay safe, be healthy, enjoy your family, laugh, and store all the memories!
    HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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