South of the River – Holidays In the Sun

Compass-SouthComment logo 2We are approaching another Bank Holiday Monday, but neither my Other Half nor I are particularly looking forward to it.

It’s not the British bank holiday’s poor reputation for bad weather that’s putting us off. I’m a self employed ‘freelancer’ and my Other Half works in an ‘out of hours’ service – evenings, weekends and, of course, bank holidays.

Whether I work or not on a bank holiday now depends on whatever project I’m working on and whether I’ve got a deadline to meet. This Monday I will be racing to get the September newspaper finished and the files uploaded to the printers.

We spent 30 years of our careers in Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 jobs. Then a bank holiday meant a three day weekend followed by a four day week – definitely something to look forward to. We would plan trips, or even get excited about DIY projects.

I guess we are lucky that we both changed pace at the same time and that our children are grown up. When the bank holiday is special to part, but not all of the family it’s a recipe for problems.

Of course our working arrangements are not all bad. Last week we spent two days in the Lake District because they fell between her shifts and August is slow enough for news that I wasn’t missed at South Leeds Towers. But you do have to make the effort, there is no fixed punctuation in the week or the year – weekends and bank holidays are all but meaningless, as are school holidays once the kids have grown up.

The flexibility is great, I can walk the dog every morning without getting up extra early (and in the dark during the winter months) just so I can arrive at work on time. In fact I will often have put in an hour or two before the walk. The downside is that I don’t really switch off, there’s always something else on the to do list that ought to be fitted in. There are no cleaners hovering around you to tell you that you’re working far too late.

Add to this the marvel that is the digital age. We have phones and tablets and laptops with more computing power than NASA used for the Apollo missions. We have televisions that you can pause whilst you check your emails (A note to any would be burglars: we don’t have a fancy TV like that, I was using the ‘we’ in the collective sense that lots of people have such things).

The answer, I suppose, is to make your own boundaries. My other half has set one by booking leave in September and telling me I’ve not to do any South Leeds Life work whilst she’s off. I’m promised decorating, household accounts and the odd day trip as my reward. We’ll see how that works out.

Unless your job happens in real time – on an assembly line or call centre, for example – then I think most people end up working harder before, or after a holiday. Sometimes it doesn’t seem worth taking the break, but downtime is valuable.

My advice is to pick a destination where there’s no mobile signal or wi-fi, like the more interesting parts of the Lake District. Memo to self: remember to go for longer next time.

I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.



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