Wednesday, 13 November 2019

A new start, possibly

My last blog post (published on October 29th) was me rambling on about work and how I came to be a freelancer and how much I enjoy what I do and how flexible it is for my family.

A coincidental week later, I received a phone call from a friend, who also happens to be a manager at the place I freelance for. She was ringing to see how I was... and to break some news that her freelancer budget was being cut and I might be short of work next year. Fortunately, there is a job available for me, and she offered to send me details.

I've spent the past 2 weeks contemplating going back to work full-time. I've spent 14 years of my life as a freelancer. Could I find more freelance work elsewhere? Yes of course I can (I'm regularly offered work via LinkedIn and I always turn it down with thanks for considering me). But do I want to spend the next few years worrying about being paid and finding work?

I have stayed as a freelancer for so long because of my children. R works in London and occasionally has to travel, or he gets stuck in the city if the trains break down. It has been convenient not to have to worry about childcare, sick children, school holidays, getting home early enough to pick them up from after-school club.

My children are now old enough to not need me at home all the time. School holidays are spent at friend's houses, out at the park, or on a computer. I rarely see them even if I'm at home. After-school they travel home themselves, they make snacks, do their homework. They are resilient.

Perhaps I need them more than they need me.

I've updated my CV, written a cover letter, and applied for the job offered. The salary is just enough and the hours are flexible. As R points out (and I always forget), I have valuable skills. Hopefully HR aren't tricky with the negotiations. There is still a lot to work out and it might all come to nothing, but I have at least tried to break out of my comfort zone.

My next worry is if I do go back is that I will be "the old one". And I have no idea where my P45 is.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019


This week has started well; I have passed two papers for publication, put in an invoice, and begun editing another paper. I feel very productive so far this week.

The final push to proofread and pass a paper for publication always seems to drag out my day and makes me feel sluggish and tired, but once done I feel invincible and ready to take on a new challenge! The new edit I have been assigned this week seems quite important and on an interesting topic, which means I am fairly engaged and feel sure I can get it finished quickly. When I am not interested in a piece of research it seems to take me ages to get through it, unless it is superbly written (quite a rarity). The paper I finished editing last week (within 3 days, which is almost a record!) was also really interesting, although needed a fair bit of work to make it readable and look nice, but I still finished it well within my deadline.

Everything I am assigned seems to be urgent at the moment. In August and September we edit papers for "conference season"; even though conferences are spaced throughout the year most seem to be around the latter third of the year. So those come in and need doing quickly. Then we get nearer Christmas and everyone wants their work published before the New Year (fair enough). I look forward to a rest in the New Year when research seems to slow down and nothing comes in.

The company I freelance for publish a wide range of journals on many different topics, from general medicine to the environment, and technical subjects like digital medicine. It all makes for interesting and varied work, and a constant source of short deadlines as paper might get accepted but then be needed for the next print or online issue. I can't complain though, with more new journals in the pipeline for next year I will be well-stocked with freelance work.

I might also have shorter deadlines due to being perceived as "more experienced" than other editors. I've been freelance for 14 years in January, and before then I was employed for 8 years as an editor in various roles.

I miss working with my colleagues in the office; many have moved on but several have remained and are now in senior positions. Do I regret not staying and missing out on these promotions? Not really (maybe a little!). I have managed to keep myself busy with work while being at home for my children, able to attend parents evenings and random school assemblies, take time off when they are sick or on half term, and with no worries about finding childcare. It is a sacrifice, but with my children now teenagers (or very nearly), I am almost at that point when I am thinking about a return to the office.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Meal Planning Monday

I'm restarting Meal Planning Monday posts because I want to see if planning meals helps keep our food bill down. I made this plan last night while doing the Tesco shop. The shop ended up a lot more expensive than usual so I don't know where I went wrong, but it might have a lot to do with wine currently being on "Buy 6 Bottles Get 25% off", and I am a sucker for that deal.

Beef casserole with green beans

I have casserole steak in the freezer so will add this to a casserole dish with potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion, then pop it in the oven on 140 C for 4-5 hours. Slow-cooked casseroles are perfect for our family as I can prepare them in the morning before work, then they are ready when everyone gets home. We sometimes eat at different times too, with evening activities to think about, so a casserole means everyone can feed themselves when they are ready.

Chicken stew

R requested a thick chicken stew for Tuesday's dinner. We used to live off these when we had just graduated and were poor. We bought a whole chicken for Sunday, then made chicken curry for one night, chicken stew for another, then soup. The stew is characterised by double-carbs (potatoes and pasta) and chicken thighs, which break up almost into threads and are so tasty. I'll add some veggies to the stew: carrots, onion, celery, and maybe marrowfat peas.

Fish pie

I want to try to get more fish in our diets, and with fish pie mix on offer currently I thought this would be a good way. Also ticks my "can make in advance" box.

Chilli and rice

Another easy dinner I can slow-cook. I add chickpeas and red kidney beans because they make the dinner go further: I can generally get two meals from a pack of mince, although tonight N has friend's coming for tea so it will probably all get used up.

Fakeaway, either fish and chips, fajitas, or chicken curry

Pork steaks, potato wedges, and veggies, with pepper sauce

Roast dinner

Always planning something

It's Monday again (these seem to come around with alarming regularity) and another chance for me to reflect on my weekend.

The clocks went back on Sunday, which was a nice surprise as I had forgotten this was happening. I woke up at 7 am on Sunday feeling thoroughly refreshed and slightly perplexed, until I realised why. I managed to reset the clocks on the microwave and the cooker, which entailed rather a lot of button poking until things flashed in the correct places.

This weekend was another busy one for our family, and I mentioned to R that we hadn't actually spent a weekend together as a family in over a month, due to cub camp, him doing Three Peaks, another Scout camp this weekend, and something else that I have forgotten what it was. Anyway, 4 weekends of spending time away from each other means next weekend we need to do something memorable as a family (we have already discussed going to MK to do some Christmas shopping, which is unheard of for us as we usually favour the last-minute Amazon prime approach to Christmas).

On Friday night I drove R, C and his friend O to Gilwell Park near Chingford in Essex for Scarefest, a Halloween-themed camp for Cubs, Scouts, and Explorers. C and O are Explorers and R is an Explorer leader now. I've never been to Gilwell, so it was nice to experience the place, albeit in the dark. I was slightly worried at the already-quite-high levels of mud, which was on a dry day, and the fact C had only brought one pair of boots with him and no waterproofs (he announced this in the car as we pulled up to drop off). After berating him at length for being an idiot (and in front of his friend, who was bemused and possibly a bit scared of getting a similar telling-off) I left the three of them for the weekend.

On Saturday I received an early-morning message: essential kit had been left behind, could I bring it to camp please? The regulators for the new cadacs had been left behind, which connect the stoves to the gas bottles. So they couldn't make breakfast. I traipsed back to Gilwell with N in tow, with the kit, R's pillow, and a spare pair of boots for C. For my trouble I received a sausage muffin and a cup of tea, so all was not bad. However, it did highlight to me the potential for illegal entry on-site, since I was not challenged while walking through the campsite and there was no security border or official entrance. I made a note to never bring my Cubs to Gilwell for this reason, I couldn't cope with worrying about them wandering off!

N and I decided to go via our friend's cafe on the way home for an early lunch, since we had been made to get up early. We visited Box of Cakes in Stotfold for ice cream waffles and sausage rolls, very nutritious. Then instead of going home, we headed to Boyd Scout campsite in Henlow, because I had planned to recce a walk route for the Cubs in a few weeks. We had a fun 3 mile walk in the rain, finishing at the park and then the pub (Five Bells); decision made that we wouldn't take the Cubs on this walk as it was a bit too far, so I need to recce another route next weekend. We finally arrived home 5 hours after we had left that morning, and it was lovely to get the heating on and our boots off.

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