Archive for July, 2009

Homesick for work?

At home in the office

This may lead some people to think I am a bit barmy, but I’ve realised over the last week that I am homesick, but for a very specific aspect of my life. Work.

I miss having my own desk with plants and pictures and my files and plans on the walls.

I miss being a respected font of knowledge in a particular area, and having people ask me regular questions that involved nuanced detailed answers.

I miss my boss coming up to my desk at irregular intervals and asking where I’m at, which was always code for “I’ve got some work for you”. Which relates to me missing the situation where each day had the potential to bring a new, possibly pressured task to do, which I thrived.

I miss the phone ringing. It doesn’t here. I miss meetings. I *almost* miss 2 hour teleconferences with a chair that insisted on repeating everything that we said and waffling. Almost, but not yet. Although I do miss the sense of accomplishment in being the only person who actually prepared for those teleconferences and was able to meaningfully contribute.

I miss having to wear at least 3 different hats on any given day, and the variety that went with that.

I miss being responsible for a process or project that I’ve been involved with since the beginning, that actually matters to someone other than a management committee spinning wheels in case they get rubbished for something beyond their control.

I miss the political machinations. The sense of camaraderie and cohesiveness that came from working on a difficult policy area.

I miss the sense of being part of something bigger and doing something worthwhile. I miss doing something that was almost always guaranteed to generate a conversation at parties where I didn’t know anyone.

I miss actually feeling like a worthwhile member of my team, whom my Director depends upon.

Here’s hoping tomorrow goes well!

-for anyone from SPD reading this post, click on the photo above and it will take you to all the photos I took in the office while I was there. Oh, and Jenny, I read the May EPHC communique today and almost giggled/cried at the statements, and waht they mean for the work we were all doing, especially the ones relating to CDS.

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Last week’s update didn’t happen, mostly as I’ve been very sick for the last 6 days. Chesty cough, feverish, sniffles, completely exhausted able to cope with being in bed, on the couch, or a slow foray into town for a coffee to get me out of the house a bit. Don’t think it was swine flu. Probably just normal chest-cough flu, caught from Leylah. Yay children! Yay new countries and their new bugs hitting my unsuspecting immune system!

So, we had a lovely weekend two weeks ago, but now it’s been ages since it happened so you can all cope without the details 🙂

In other news I have a job interview on Thursday with the Department of Energy and Climate Change as a policy adviser, for which I am currently madly reviewing all I know on climate change policy, and precisely why I am an excellent person to work for a government department. Wish me luck!

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An odd week. I spent Monday at home on the couch, sick, tired, worn out and typing out a job application for Department of Energy and Climate Change. Which I sent off in time, and then subsequently checked 2 days later and it’s rather unpolished. I’ll be amazed if I get an interview, on the other hand they are hiring for lots of positions, so perhaps they‘ll overlook the lack of polish and decide I’ve got the experience they’re after. Crossed fingers.

Spent most of the rest of the week worn out, tired, listless, and playing Rollercoaster Tycoon 3. Not sure why, as I don’t really like the lack of structure in the game, maybe simply because it’s there and it’s a game you can leave running with no end point so it sucks you in. Maybe. Although, reading back over emails it was also a week of small adjustments between Jed and I resulting in an absolutely wonderful weekend.

Friday night was a rather boozy dinner at our friend Tom’s house, in a part of the local area I’d not been to before. Gorgeous house and garden, lovely food, and fun conversation. Tom is a DJ, of sorts, so we all had fun for a while mixing up songs on his kit.

Saturday was spent with a hangover (horrid one- me, mild one – Jed) while we wandered around IKEA buying bookshelves and a bed base. As well as mucking around on the gas lift bar stools, crashing out on one of the beds, having a pillow fight and dancing to our own beat-box music next to one of the displays. To quote Jed: “Can I marry you? We just went through IKEA and didn’t have a fight, I didn’t have to take a coffee break mid-way through, and we had a pillow fight”. We then wandered around East Croydon shops, I had a bra fitting as I’ve no idea what my size is here. This turned into a 1.5 epic as there was a line for fitting, a chatty shop assistant, then I had to find a couple that I liked, and then line up to pay. This was supposed to be a quick nip in to get a bra on sale. Sigh. Finally we had a lovely very late lunch at an Italian restaurant while it rained lightly outside, then caught the train home with our purchases, riffing about Donkey Banks on the way home (I forget how it started, but we were in fits of giggles at the silliness).

Sunday I made ricotta and berries on toasted brioche for our breakfast (thank you much missed Satellite café for the inspiration). I can highly recommend keeping a bottle of Monin sugar syrup in the cupboard for such breakfasts, it tied the whole dish together.

After breakfast we canvassed the options for the day:
Quiet day around the house, then head to a friend’s place around 2 for a beer, then walk to Reigate
Got to Crawley to get some things Jed found the previous day while I was bra shopping, but could n’t be bothered waiting in the really long queue for
Or, eventually after we’d agreed on option 1:
Go to Brighton and buy a Lego set each.

Not surprisingly we chose option 3. It was a really lovely day, we have friends in Brighton, it’s about 40mins away on a direct train, and well, Lego! I am now the proud owner of this set, which I’ve had my eye on since last July, and I spent most of yesterday evening working on it. I’ve completed the first two storeys. Will do the final one this evening. It’s perfect for display on a bookshelf (which we purchased on Saturday) and has a flat side to be a stylish bookend. Or certain girls who stay over could play with it. It is Lego after all. Jed got 3 Space Police sets, so now has a couple of bug-eyed monsters, a robot dog and a space policeman, which amused him greatly. He resisted the Millennium Falcon model, although I’m sure that will be purchased in the future. Photos of the model will be up in the next week, for gloating purposes J

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New Rhythms

During my final weeks in Australia, while living with my sister, I read a book on a woman who moved from Venice to a small town in Umbria and her reflections on life there. It was also a chronicle of the food of the region, which always intrigues me. One line in the book spoke of deliberately choosing to live a quieter life, and that therefore they were not anxious to quickly create habits and structures to their new life, but rather to let these build slowly and to find a new rhythm.

This struck a chord at the time, and still does.

I’m still building habits and structures for this life. Some have solidified through choice, some have been inherited as part of moving into someone else’s life, and some I have acquired through drift. I’m also at a stage of worn-outed-ness such that some positive habits I was creating have slipped back into my previous not-so-positive ones. I was getting good at meal planning and preparing myself for work before I went to bed. I was getting good at getting through to-do lists. These have slipped, although I suspect I’m a bit sick/exhausted at the moment, so this will pick up again.

Partially, I suspect these structures and habits will build once we’re in our own house, rather than sharing a flat, and all my stuff is out of boxes. Maybe.

On the other hand there’s been a lot of negotiation around the even more basic life assumptions, like communication between partners, how the past affects reactions in the present, how children are dealt with, what the expected levels of house maintenance are, and building knowledge and confidence in various areas that I really shouldn’t surprised that I’m worn-out.

The one habit I’m not acquiring, but would like to have, think I should have is correspondence. There’s many lovely people who have written me emails, and I have failed to respond. There’s many lovely people who have not written me emails, mostly as they don’t have my address (ex-work colleagues for instance). The problem is finding time and a voice. I don’t feel I can write these emails during work hours, DECC’s restriction on personal mail systems knocked that out of me, but I am tired and don’t feel like writing when I am at home. Anyway, if you have written me, thank you, I’ve loved the thought and reading about what’s going on. I’m really sorry for not responding, yet.

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On Monday, I didn’t go to Windsor Races. Negotiating getting out there and back home to Surrey without a car was too much. It can take up to 1.5 hours to get home from London after peak hour on a weeknight, and I’m still not feeling proficient enough at navigating around England and organising myself and Jed to get to events on a school night.

However, I did decide to apply for a permanent position in the newly created Department of Energy and Climate Change (yes, that’s right, another DECC) as they had a general recruitment round closing on 6 July, one of which was a set of positions titled “policy adviser”. I rang their contact to see what the deal was, and it seems there are 70 positions going over 7 pay grades. I spent most of the week getting this application ready, which was sent off yesterday afternoon. Either I’m a shoe-in as I have the experience they’re after, or I completely misjudged the position description and they are after a middle manager. Doing a direct comparison of pay scales would lead me to believe the first, but there was a criterion about leading and developing a team which concerns me. Oh well, all will be revealed in time.

We had lovely tapas meal in Reigate on Wednesday night, to allow us both time to recover from a rather emotional Tuesday night. It was the predicted 3-month blow-up of reality hitting home. This has all been a bit tougher than I was letting myself acknowledge it would be before I left. This time round my move overseas is semi-permanent and I’m doing it without a support network. Dealing with my own slight panic at the lack of taken-for-granted security that comes with knowledge of a society and a wide network of people to interact with, while emotionally supporting a partner who aches for a different life but doesn’t quite see how to achieve it, nor really believes he (we) can do it, and also doesn’t ever seem to have had anyone tell him he’s doing a good job.

Work [1] has also been a bit slow of late, with many of my projects either waiting on feedback, being taken to meetings for approval without me being informed, or decisions being made without telling me so I can keep up. This was fixed later in the week, but it’s made me realise that this position is one of those that has lots of potential, but the working practices will eventually drive me batty. Perhaps I’m not cut out for local government work? The constituency is too close and too apparent, and hence upper management reacts more easily.

Friday night I cooked an experimental Japanese dinner, which was very tasty. Although, since a large plate of gyoza was the centrepiece of the meal it would have been hard to make it untasty. J

Saturday and Sunday Leylah was over after a week in France, and we mostly stayed around the house. It must be an odd space for her (and hence for us when she’s over) as she spends half her time there but I suspect it’s not really ‘home’. Partially there’s no space that is specifically hers, so at frequent intervals she will declare that she is ‘bored!’, but listening to the tone of voice I suspect that she is actually ‘lost’, not knowing what to do, and not feeling she has permission to make changes that would stop her being bored. Previously it was a house of two Bachelors where a girl child would come to visit, and mostly get waited on. Since I’ve arrived we’ve created a bit more structure, furniture and belongings have been moved around so the place is a bit nicer to be in and she can get to glasses and plates (and has been told she can use the microwave to reheat food!). It’s a work in progress, but will probably only improve in a big way when we move somewhere else, sometime in October.

Lastly, on Saturday night I saw my beloved Cat Empire in concert in London. Which made it the 7th concert of their’s I’ve been to in 2.5 years. They are that enjoyable and varied. I went with 4 of Jed’s friends (there was a last minute mix-up with Leylah so Jed stayed at home) who had not heard their music before and I’m glad to say they loved it. However, they also made me go to the Australian themed walkabout pub nearby (where I proceeded to have a rant that it wasn’t an actual Australian pub, there was no Cooper’s available, and there was no beetroot on the burgers), and then we had Australian themed meat pies afterwards. The pies were really good. The pub wasn’t.

[1] I know I’ve not actually said what I’m doing. Short story: it’s pick-up project work for a London Local Authority, initial 3 month contract, which will likely get extended unless I find permanent work.

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