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The night before the beginning of term

January 3, 2010

Kevin has been blogging today,” I mentioned in passing conversation as me and Significant Other devoured our starters Blackheath’s Bella Vista on New Year’s Day.

“Hasn’t he got anything better to do?” came the reply.

Thankfully, that was the extent to which we talked about work on New Year’s Day. Thank God. That brief moment was akin to wiping something unexpected and unpleasant up from the kitchen floor. Why was it necessary to deal with? How had it got there exactly?

The analogy may be a little strained. My point is that after what feels like days of incessant and largely boring introspection about the process of allowing myself to be on leave from work and finally relaxing into the whole process, New Year’s Day reminded me I didn’t have to think about work-related matters and to do so on a public holiday felt like a relatively dirty experience.

Looking at Kevin’s blog post again this evening I’m reminded I can deny the inevitable no longer however. Tomorrow is a work day.

Don’t get me wrong. I do love my job. I love my work too. If you were to don a white coat and wave your clipboard in my face outside White City tube station at the end of a particularly stressful day you’d be guaranteed I’d still nod and grin and say “yes, of course I love working there”. Who wouldn’t. Those BBC blocks you see at the end of a TV programme are what get me going in the morning – there aren’t many at the BBC who would confess that.

Work should be like love, you see. Yeah it might be a bit rocky sometimes, but you know deep down you’re quite happy with stuff, that you wouldn’t want it any other way.

The prospect of going into work tomorrow is still daunting however.

First, there’s the journey. It’s normally an hour long effort. All I have to do is get to the train station, change for a tube train, change for another tube train, get off at the right station and then shuffle up towards the White City building. That’s all that’s involved. Easy.

But there’ll be people in the way. People moaning. People walking at a snail’s pace. People with a nasty aroma about them. There’ll be people dressed head to toe in the outfits they got from loved ones for Christmas. Others will be jamming their way onto already packed tube carriages with the hefty tomes they promised themselves and the people who gave them they’d read. Their books will provide a physical barrier against the other equally irritated commuters and the idea of going to work. Unfortunately, I’ve not got a paperback and I’m sure as hell not taking my large-size books about the Festival of Britainor Benjamin Britten’s college years. They’re far too special for a commute. I’ll take a notebook and pen instead, making notes about everyone else.

Just to throw in a little more jeopardy into tomorrow morning’s journey-to-work-mix I’m banking on re-introducing the partial cycle to work.

This happens every year. I spend two weeks at home with even less exercise than I have done for the rest of the year, seeing my unloved and unused mountain bike outside the kitchen window withstanding the nippy conditions of the season and I end up resolving to use my return to work as a way of introducing a new regime.

I don’t want to lose weight, you understand. That would be a cliche. That would be way too late-thirty-something-vain-homosexual of me. I can’t do that. I’d look like a twat.

No. This is just trying to implement a new set of habits, like ironing the sheets or making a note of every piece of expenditure so I can cross-check it against my bank statement at the end of the month.

They are the kind of habits I’d like to implement and still be following a month later but which I also know I will have discarded like a piece of cheap kitchen towel by the end of the first week.

They’re not resolutions either. They’re just my vain attempt at carrying forward the habits I’ve got into whilst I’ve been on leave, a measure in itself that after a rocky start to my Christmas leave,  I have actually relaxed. It’s only now I’m reminded that it is actually OK to relax. It’s acceptable. It’s allowed.

But it’s because of that desire to “carry over” a few habits into the seemingly laughable pressures we endure in working life, I feel myself going through exactly the same routine I used to go through the night before the beginning of school term.

Back then it was about emptying my pencil case, sharpening all the pencils and replacing all the cartridges. I’d spend time drawing up a fresh new timetable for the inside of my Oxford Mathematics set, parsimoniously sticking it to the lid with sellotape.

When the pencil case was complete, in it would slip into it’s allotted place in my briefcase alongside weathered but loved exercise books of subjects I couldn’t stand but was prepared to give a second chance. I knew damn well that respect would be discarded within hours of being at school, but still the idea of going into things with the best intentions seemed plausible.

So it is this evening. I’ve made a list of the things I want to get done tomorrow. I’ve worked out which train I’d like to get from the station, calculating when I need to leave the house to cycle to the station and when I need to get up. My arrival at work is carefully calculated to include an extra half-hour just to make up the time others might feel I need to make up (whoever they are may wish to make themselves known to me) but is focused squarely on a specific and immovable departure time. It’s this which impacts on the amount of time I’ll have to read my new Christmas books at home slumped on the sofa in a bid to not think about work and so prepare myself for the following day. It’s all a careful balance designed to maximise effectiveness at work and limit stress at home.

It will work tomorrow. I fully expect it to fail the day after that.

And of course, in addition to the things I need to do tomorrow, I should also spare some time to think about what Kevin reckons journos should be thinking about in 2010. He’s bound to ask me, especially now. I reckon those plans of mine will come crashing down some time after the editorial meeting tomorrow morning.

I’ll keep you posted.

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