Feedback Joys

I had a job interview last week for an acting up position ahead of a restructure. I didn’t get the role, for which I’m thankful, as reading closely made it very clear that it was a hugely poisonous chalice and a set of stresses that I’m glad I’ve dodged.

Why did I go for it then? Mostly because I did some soul searching and recognised that I’ve now been a lot healthier for longer than I was very ill – and so I really need to stop drifting so much. As a result I knew that I needed to get some practice in for interviews at a more strategic level than simply managing teams on a daily/weekly/monthly/annual basis for frontline services.

Applying for this role would be very good at giving me sight of the sort of questions to expect, and more importantly structured feedback afterwards.

In this I have not been disappointed. While theres always a stress involved in getting proper feedback that goes in at nitpicking level I was very lucky to have it done by someone not only that I already have a working relationship with but who is also invested in seeing me succeed and grow within the organisation.

It has given me both plenty of food for thought, but also reassurance that I’m doing most of the right things. It’s just a matter now of polishing those extra sparkles to stand out in terms of wider context of roles, a little deeper precision in examples, and not being too successful at hiding the steel behind my convivial smile.

I can do that.

Slow week

Well, I say that but its actually been really busy. In addition to general post-MCM blues and tiredness I had a job interview for an acting up role (unsuccessful) and have spent a lot of time ferrying Lady M between walk-in centre, GP, and hospital appointments.

In addition to ongoing problems with her knees, we’ve also discovered that she is currently suffering from shingles. As a result there was a flurry of messaging and calling people we’d met recently to warn them – especially checking they’d already had chickenpox .

Oh, and we’re sorting out a mortgage. As you do.

I should have booked two weeks off…

Chaos and Gameplay


Monday night gaming has officially restarted, and now I’ve a small mountain of new maps to make in my downtime – so that should keep me out of trouble. If you believe that, you’ll believe anything. As with anything, the worries and anxieties around restarting it all were far worse than the actual event – which actually progressed the plot and motivations of the characters more than expected. It also featured a giant burrowing monster chasing the group through collapsing tunnels and an impromptu pub bard competition; as these things do. It did give me a good excuse to play a slightly NSFW YouTube video of the Wessex Pistols to my players as a soundtrack to that part of the game session, so I can’t complain.

I’ve also been picking through the tangled notes left over from a rather drunken phone call I received from a friend about designing a tattoo. These largely boiled down to a series of key words (presumably concepts to be represented), a very rough outline sketch that seems related to them, and a Latin phrase that appears to be based on the motto that Lady M and I used on our wedding invitations. This broadly translates to “I love you but you do sometimes irritate me”. I have texted the friend involved to see if this is something he actually wants to have done, or if sobriety and time have reasserted the status quo. Even if he doesn’t go through with it I’ll do some sketches as there’s the core of a nice idea in there somewhere. In the worse case scenario I’ll put it up here for everyone to see.

In the meantime, Charleesi is in the middle of her first week of college, and seems extremely enthusiastic about everything. She’s made a number of new friends, and I’ve been put on best behaviour to not wind her up too much about how one of those new friends is a boy and his name keeps cropping up in conversations. I may produce a bingo card of certain phrases and distribute them to friends and family to keep track.

The phone interview went, largely, well enough, but my rustiness on Project Management buzz words counted against me so we won’t be continuing the conversation in a formal setting. There was some very useful advice around structuring my CV, and about considering going back into contracting to get my feet wet again before coming back for another run. There’s an invitation to make connections on LinkedIn and various other positive noises, so it’s not as devastating as it could have been. I have some thinking to do about how to proceed from here however, especially with regard to how any changes would impact on household budgets and arrangements. I shall do my best not to brood.

Right, time to start typing up notes. Relative normality appears to be lurking on the horizon – how unusual…

Frenetic Weekend

I seem to be running round in circles at the moment. Work has just been very very busy now the school holidays have started so I’m usually feeling quite drawn out by the evening and in no mood to blog. That said, we did manage to top up our Awesome Quota this weekend with a trip to Godalming on Saturday night with Sir S and Lady M to see the Wessex Pistols. We’d hoped to get Lady P along as well, but she’d made other plans, so we all hopped in the car in search of chaos.

They were just setting up as we got there and Banjo Bob seemed a bit surprised to see us. The concept that we might have driven out to watch them play seemed a bit bizarre to him somehow. It was almost sweet really, seeing him appear so touched we’d made the effort to get there The gig, as ever, was excellent, and we danced, sang and heckled with the best of them in a crowd who were highly appreciative, especially when drinks were being stolen.

A brief journey home after, and we chattered until the very early hours of the morning. I took Sir S home in the morning and spent most of the rest of the day updating and revising my CV for a job that Lady M has been nudging me towards. This was far more draining than expected, as we tried to rewrite and refocus it away from local government phrases to more private sector orientated language, and we got quite snappy with each other from time to time.

On top of that it was also a day of hearing about people’s troubles and of their health scares so by the time we’ve got to Monday morning I’ve been feeling quite saturated with worries. It really doesn’t feel like I’ve stopped. I’m definitely looking forward to my upcoming holiday.

Looking To The Future

I’ve wanted to get further training in counselling skills for a number of years. When I started volunteering with the Surrey Drug and Alcohol Careline (as it was then called), I took part in their training programme which served as an introduction to counselling. This only confirmed what I’d already picked up from many long conversations over the years in self-help groups and friends – that I seem to have a knack and aptitude for listening and helping people talk things through.

It’s an impression that my counsellor has confirmed across thirteen years of treatment – to the degree that she’s now helping me pick through the poorly documented and irritatingly diverse number of types of accreditation and training available. It’s proving an uphill and frustrating struggle, but I shall soldier on.

All Hands To The Pump

So today has been the day when t’other half has had to start filling out forms for the job centre to see if we qualify for any assistance –  even though she has interviews lined up this week.
The great fantasy of course is that she’ll be able to secure a new job before the paperwork needs to progress. If nothing else the paperwork is so intrusive that its as disruptive and unsettling for me as it is for her.
Don’t get me wrong, I know its all part of reducing the possibility of fraud; it is just galling that it feels as if the assumption is that we’re trying it on. For me, it shakes up all sorts of unpleasant echoes of not being believed about things, so I obviously still need to let go so that I can focus on supporting others. Grrr, and indeed arghhh.

In more positive news I’ve finally got some regular part time work, but I’ve had to put the paid writing
on hiatus while I get a regular shift pattern sorted out.  At least I’ve been getting more work done on the novel…

Autumn at last – or is that again?

We’ve had some oddly hot weather here the last few days but the bite in the air today tells me that the seasonal yoyo effect may be winding down and heading into true autumn at last. That said, even now looking out of my window, I can see clear blue skies and sunlight with a few fluffy white clouds which if not for the stiff breeze whistling past the balcony door would conspire to tempt me to be drinking some coffee in the open air for a quick break.

But no, there are increasing markers that its a change of season again – I’ve just had another eye exam to check my eyesight isn’t evaporating due to diabetic retinopathy, which had me battling with blurriness and light sensitivity yesterday while the drugs wore off – I should get the results in about four weeks – and we’ve another round of people moving out of and into some of the flats downstairs – along with the obligatory late night leaving party and vehicle doors slamming at odd hours late at night.

I’m aware I’m sounding grumpy, saying that – but even if I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn at the moment, my partner does – and she gets very grumpy if her sleep is disturbed, so if she gets grumpy, I get grumpy…

and in other news, yes still writing – though not as coherently as I might like at the moment – here’s hoping I can give myself a good kick up the backside and get on with things: In the meantime here’s a couple of random pieces that may or may not get used for something. The first was an attempt to find another way to encapsulate what is happening in the novel:

Death was stalking the streets of West London and for some reason was using a non-descript end-terrace house to keep score. You couldn’t have told it from the outside or from the weather which in any Hollywood movie would have at least had the decency to start forming ominous clouds above the street – instead we had an Indian Summer of bright sunlight and gentle breezes that had the weather forecasters scratching their heads.

The second piece here just wrote itself as a standalone piece just begging for expansion:

Vai drew himself up to his full height, his bare scalp brushing the ceiling with a faint rasp. “Let me be clear about things. There isn’t going to be a happy ending here.” The dark swirling tattoos climbing along his torso seemed to quiver in anticipation.

So we’ll see about him…

Right – back to putting together a service provision proposal I’ve been trying to cost properly…

Fiction Fragment and some Random Ramblings

So today has been almost productive – between nearly breaking the hoover and being moderately amazed at the amount of hair that seemed to be forming its own ecosystem in there, through to prepping for tonight’s meal (chicken rogan josh), and transferring novel notes into my copy of OneNote so that I can crossreference all the weird and wonderful orphaned paragraphs like the one below:

The antiques shop was crammed between a motorbike shop and a dusty newsagents with its windows almost entirely smothered in small ads and posters for local events. It made for an interesting wander between bikes and cheap bookshelves filled with old paperbacks. The mess was so overlapped that I began to wonder if both business were owned by the same people. The entire frontage of the shop was open to the street, with furniture seeming almost to tumble out of the vaguely wedge shaped unit like archaic fruit from some alternative cornucopia of wooden furniture, books, records and other less identifiable objects.

and to begin to organise the ones suitable for the current novel away from ones that can be used for other purposes. Then it was back to wander across to the Authonomy website to re-register my account and work out my best strategy for updating the text currently lurking offline there.

Oh, and chased up a business who are being tardy in paying me an invoice and even made some job applications.

Must be why I’m feeling tired, and nothing at all to do with the mattress of doom that seems bent on wrecking my back. Or it could be that I’ve been cutting back on my coffee intake and so have only had one cup today, prompting my metabolism to cry foul…again…

New (Re)connections

Last week wasn’t the most productive on the writing front, mainly as I had my daughter staying over and I wanted to make the most of the time with her. There was a job interview on the Monday which wasn’t successful, and my first paid gig doing some basic support work for a local firm on the Tuesday morning – but otherwise it was a week of playing Halo, reading and generally kicking back.

This week has been a little more focussed, with some writing actually occurring – I’m writing up descriptions and back stories for some characters that meet sticky ends in the main novel. The text may not end up being used in the final narrative but they should give me inspiration for incidental details of their surroundings when I write their proper scenes.

The big impacts this week though have been some fairly “out of the blue” reconnections with people I either used to work with or have friendships that have been a bit long-distance over the last few years. I suppose if there’s one thing that these encounters have underlined is just how much has changed over the last couple of years for me as I seem to be coming away from these meetings with an extremely dry throat from reeling out all the edited highlights. Its also flagged up for me just how complex so many other people’s lives have been over the last couple of years, with each person relaying sometimes complex and frequently heartwrenching tales of trials and tribulations.

Objectively, some of these stories I’ve been listening to with a little voice at the back of my head asking if they’ve learned from these stories – others I’ve listened and had to make sure not to spool out my own worries and fears alongside theirs – and others have been heard with a rueful grin and shared sense of winning despite the best efforts of those around us.

Many of the tales have figured one or more person who has been a rock and foundation for their narrator – most have included some moment of self-sabotage – and all have concluded with a slightly dazed “infodump shock” moment as all concerned try to mentally update their mental image of the other.

Now to make sure that anything I use as a detail in my stories isn’t immediately attributable 😉

Self Employment

So… that’s the paperwork off, and a long day spent at the HMRC on a couple of seminars… and didn’t I start doing this last year? So what’s different this time?

I’ve just registered as self-employed for the purposes of concentrating on the writing, and in common with a number of people I’ve encountered recently – including the spouses of HMRC employees – I’m partly doing it to get the powers that be to back off and let me get on with my life without having to trudge down to the Job Centre and be patronised at length on a regular basis. With my other half back in work and bringing in enough to cover the household I believe that the small amounts of Class 2 National Insurance and the calculated Class 4 and self-assessed tax is worth the peace of mind to not feel like people are peering over my shoulder and trying to meddle all the time.

And any additional income I do manage to generate is a nice bonus for running the household – but in the meantime I can be useful being a househusband and concentrating on the writing which I’ve been wanting to do, while doing the training for the Surrey Drug and Alcohol Careline which will hopefully then lead to being able to retrain as a counsellor.

As a nice bonus we’ve had some good weather this week so I’ve been able to feel a little smug about not being trapped in an office, and in being able to restock the kitchen without having to trip over too many small children.

And now to field test a revised lemon chicken dish I recently made – shouldn’t take long and if it works I’ll post the recipe