The Banks Are On Holiday

It’s Bank Holiday Monday, and I’m here again. Why, it feels like it must be 2005, posting every few days…

And the good news is that, in exactly two weeks time, it will also be a Bank Holiday. Hurrah.

It has been a “busy” weekend. And by busy I mean I have spent most of my time working. I spent virtually all of my Easter Sunday doing some monumentally tedious work on my company’s “Quality Management System”. This is a remarkably dull piece of documentation that waffles and repeats itself many times, all of the sake of showing that we are, apparently, worthy of doing the work we are doing.

This wasn’t the plan when I discussed Easter Sunday in my post on Saturday. But when I looked at the forecast, it made more sense to have an afternoon off on Saturday, while there was some actual sunshine, and then get stuck indoors all of Sunday instead, while it rained. It worked perfectly.

The consequence is that, today, I genuinely have nothing to do. Nothing pressing, work wise, anyway. I could do odd chores instead. I could clean the bathroom. I could mop the kitchen floor. I could play my guitar a lot – which I have brought home from the office for this very reason.

But maybe I will actually do none of those. There’s a bit of sunshine outside at the moment as I gaze out the window. It looks good. It makes me want to go outside… for a little bit. It makes me want to just spend a little time away from my “desk”. Then maybe watch DVDs all day.

Then I look around at my desk here at home, and am disgusted at its mess. It could really really do with being taken off, cleaned, and then only the important things put back. That sounds like a good plan. Maybe after the walk?

Yesterday, I was invited in for Easter Sunday breakfast with my neighbour. That was nice. We had muesli, boiled eggs (with soldiers) and then an extra piece of toast. With honey. And I had already had a bowl of Weetabix at home. Well, the cheap Weetabix. That was basically my Easter. It’s a far cry from my family Easters that I was used to over the years…

I did the phone call home. It was spent, as usual, listening to my mum talking, as she does. I don’t mind… (too much)… but it also made me a bit depressed. We don’t speak on the phone that often any more. It used to be a regular thing, at least once a week. Now it might be only once every fortnight, or longer. And when we were speaking, my mum was telling me about the terrible nerve pains she’s been having for over a month now. The doctors don’t seem to be helping. The physio hasn’t worked.

It’s worrying. It all reminds me of the days, weeks, months and years that are passing in the blink of an eye. Health doesn’t last forever.

Wow. Now I do need a walk to clear my head.

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The Easter Working Weekend

It’s Easter Saturday. It’s currently 5:41am. I have been awake since 5am.

What is my life?

It’s a question that, when enunciated with an American accent, can sound incredibly irritating. Indeed, it’s not even a question I would dare to use in public, for fear of rather odd looks in return. But, at the same time, it is actually quite accurate.

My life, as I have known for the last few years, is basically split into the work and non-work sliver. In the non-work sliver I read political websites, playing increasingly less and less guitar, listen to Radio 1, and watch programmes I missed on catch up TV.

The Easter Weekend gives a brief window to change that. And, this year, I decided to give myself an extra reward. I told myself for several weeks in advance that I’d be having the Thursday before Good Friday off too. This would give me five consecutive days off. Wow, wow, wow. My brain said. I don’t get many of those with no consequences. OK, Christmas can be up to two weeks off, but Easter is at a nicer time of year. And the weather certainly has been good so far.

After two days of my five day weekend, how is that shaping up?

Well, on the Thursday I ensured I was “working from home”. The main reason was to sit around all day and await delivery of my new Virgin Media super hub (cost £6.99). In return, I really did sit around all day. Little did I know that the courier’s rule of “between 8 and 6pm” was almost literal. The delivery finally arrived at 4:30pm. This stressed me out incredibly.

Why? Because, after all that waiting, I had to go and do some work anyway. 4:30pm arrived, and I immediately rushed into the office to do a mail merge for my business. This involved a hefty queue in the post office, a ludicrously priced purchase of stamps, a run back to the office, printing, folding, sticking.

Then at 5:15pm my carriage awaited. To go off to my next job, which had been sitting, waiting, all day.

Back home at 8:30pm, I then proceeded, for the next two hours, to do some remote technical support for a new client I have won, which I had promised to do after 6pm (best time when the computers are not in use…). Along with the bits and bobs of work done during the day, I think I managed to still do a full day of work, even when I said I wouldn’t.

Good Friday. In the office at 8am. Having an informal discussion with someone we want to take on but don’t know if we can afford it. Then doing more work, general discussions, tidying, a small amount of fixing and minor catching up.

Home for 3:30pm. Back out again immediately because I had to do shopping. Back home to do more remote fixing for new client, who seemed to be working on Good Friday properly. This is not good.

Easter Saturday. The plan is to digest my company’s “Quality Management System” today, and do all the things I should have been doing over the last several months.

This is not a non-working weekend by any stretch of the imagination.

The problem is simple: work is my life. Work is my identity. Work is where I will – hopefully – continue to make a decent return on the time I am investing. Not that I have any time to spend what I’m earning…

In the meantime, some of my customers, both home and work, continue to send me e-mails. I do not reply to them. I cannot show to them that I do not use my holiday weekends as holidays. I cannot open the door. The problem, though, is that some of these e-mails are urgent, and leaving them till Tuesday will probably cost me business. That’s not fair on me at all, but it does seem comical that I try to maintain a strict outward show of protecting my holiday time jealously, while secretly working all the bloody time.

There is something wrong with modern life. We are entirely responsible for remoulding our work culture into an ethos of “(s)he who works longest, looks best”. We have had our evenings and our weekends invaded with e-mails and text messages and now WhatsApp and other conversations. We are all guilty of replying to them, let alone just reading them, and allowing our work to also take over our alleged free time.

Part of this influence is just the nature of capitalism – and how it slowly is engulfing our very identities – for the pursuit of more and more. It’s starting to twist to the point that now the people who say bold statements as “I do not answer the phone after 5pm” or “I do not read my e-mails at weekends” are looked at as a bit weird. We invest bizarre justifications such as “But why not deal with it, because if you don’t it will only make the morning 100 times more difficult!”

I also know people who set an out of office autoreply just for the weekend. Imagine that… we have degenerated so much as a work culture now that we have to have an actual system that reminds senders that their e-mail sent at 9pm on Friday might not get a response until Monday…

Maybe – just maybe – Easter Sunday will actually be a day off.