An update

Probably the best thing about my day at the moment is my walk to work. I’ve started renting (borrowing) a desk at a fantastic web development company called Rechord, who happen to be based just 20 minutes walk away from me. The quickest and easiest way to get to their place from mine is to get lost in the woods. Bloody marvellous.

There aren’t many woods in central London (OK, Bow is the edge of Zone 2, but its still more central than not), but Cemetery Park is a little oasis of wonderfulness, tucked inside a triangle of railway lines and behind an abandoned mental asylum. Once a cemetery it was then abandoned to become an overgrown tangle of woodland and wild flowers and is now maintained as a park and a nature reserve and a place of real shelter from the urban jungle. It’s very existence does wonders for my mental health.

The woods are my favourite place to go and have a smoke (every so often – wouldn’t want to get addicted now), and really take the edge off having to get up and go to work in a morning…

Work. I haven’t told you about work, have I? Since about November (January, really), I’ve been working for myself. This has been a challenge and an adventure, and I’m not entirely sure what I think about it. It is really too early to tell if it has been a successful endeavour or not.

I style myself as a ‘Freelance Copywriter’ although, to be fair, I don’t exactly have a website or business cards yet, so I could call myself anything. A ‘digital handyman’ might be appropriate… Over the last few months I have worked on a variety of things, projects long and short, well paid and not, but that basically fall into two camps: I write reports for some people, and help build websites for others.

It’s been an interesting process. I love having variety in what I do and who I work with. I love having projects that I can focus on for a time, and abandon when complete. I’m not so hot at motivating myself to look for work and do business development, and I really struggle with not having security of income and workflow. The last two months have been very busy (which is good), but I have no work lined up for July and August at present (which is not).

The most amazing thing about all this? Every single job I have had in the last 6 months has come through friends. Some have been current friendships, some have been new acquaintances that have become fast friends, some have been old friendships rekindled through need for work. But every piece of work has been, at least in terms of initial introduction, found through personal contact and based on me as an individual, rather than on a resume or application form. That has been a revelation.

So I press on. I don’t exactly have a better idea of what to do with myself, and I think this experiment needs to be run for a while to determine its success. It has created within me a very short-term view of life: I live for the next day, the next piece of work, the next contact, the next payment into the bank account. I feel unable to plan, but am not sure what plans I would make, if I did. After effectively living out of a suitcase for almost three years now, you’d think I’d be comfortable with that…

Ah yes, that. I guess I am as stable as I have been for a long while now. I have been back in London since October, and living where I am now since mid-November. Which is pretty stable, really. I live with my oldest friend, his wife and their housemate. We’re an odd bunch, but we get on very well (most of the time). I have a door to close and a bed to sleep on. It is just that that door is to the home office, and the bed is a futon sofa.

AJ & T have been incredibly generous to me, giving me space in their home office for a ridiculously low rent and even allowing me to work on the house in lieu of rent when work was/is scarce. But the reason the rent is low is that it is the home office, and I need to vacate it when work has to be done. My clothes are in a wardrobe now (yay!) but the rest of my stuff remains in boxes in Birmingham. It is far less temporary camping than most of the last three years, but it still feels like camping.

I long for some space of my own, and I long for a sense of stability. Place. Home. I don’t know what that looks like though, or where it would be. I am back in London because of friendships and work, but almost every day I wish to be somewhere else. Somewhere slower and greener and more permanent. I’m not sure that place exists just yet. I am living successfully enough where I am right now, but am not convinced I could live elsewhere in London just yet. My current bank balance certainly doesn’t think so…

Other parts of life, outside of work. I am embroiled (increasingly so) in a marvellous and somewhat chaotic social enterprise called Sweet Notions. It is an entertaining outlet, something I give time and energy to (in lieu of cash) and, increasingly, it is community to me. A wonderful, disorganised, passionate and slightly bonkers bunch of folks, trying to make a difference and having a lot of fun along the way. It’s like church, with less pretension and more alcohol (so maybe like church is meant to be). I seem to have gone from being an occasional spare pare of hands to ‘most regular meetings attendee’ and ‘unofficial sounding board’. These are not bad things to be, but I am trying (and failing) to resist more formal roles…

This year has also been about trying to set up a consultancy firm with AJ and a few others. A lesson in many things, first and foremost that of frustration. Starting things is hard, especially when you are all busy people. The dreaming and conceptualising is fun (always a favourite), but actually agreeing and compromising and sacrificing egos is hard. It may or may not yet happen, but I have enjoyed(?!) the process of creating a company and will be proud to see it done, even if there isn’t a place for me in the end result.

That is largely it, really. I still take photos and watch films and spend time with friends and, very occasionally, write. Life has become more insular in a lot of ways, as I get slowly drawn back into the vortex of London Life. I have slowly lost touch with friends far away, and I am very sorry about that. Communication has lapsed, as has this blog. My confession is that, after staring at the laptop all day at work, I rarely want to look at it when I get home. So blog posts don’t get written, emails don’t get sent, and I can’t remember the last time I was on skype…

I spent a couple of weekends getting to know a wonderful young fashionista from Sheffield last month. I’m not sure there’s anything more to say than that, but it was bloomin’ fun while it lasted…

I keep hoping that a little more stability is round the corner, but I think the reality is that this is my life right now. I am here, in London, working for myself and doing the day-to-day thing. I might feel like a lemming sometimes – running forward at a pace, not knowing what is ahead – but perhaps that isn’t as bad a thing as it sounds. This is where I am, and learning to be here (and not wishing I was somewhere else) is not a bad thing.

So, for now, I will live my life and enjoy the joys it has in it. I will enjoy the friendships I have here, the opportunities for coffee and food and wine with good company. I will enjoy the variety of work I have right now, if not the insecurity. And I will treasure and relish the little patch of wilderness on my doorstep, and the fact that I have to walk through it each day, on my way to work…

That’s my life right now. Consider yourselves updated.

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