I did a Sunday shift today for the first time this year. Up until the end of last year I had become an overtime whore, working every shift God would send and believed it was the thing to do and for all the money was good, I came to the conclusion that this was no way to live.
At the time, there was a fair bit of uncertainty about my financial future as my employer had lost the contract we’d been working on and they were not in a great financial position. We’d been assured under the rules of TUPE we’d be moved to a different company and our contracts continued but it was still a step into the unknown and rumours about redundancies were rife. Driven by the fear of being skint and that bloody minded Protestant work-ethic, I took every shift going. It left me with a reasonably healthy bank balance, tired and perpetually grumpy (as was pointed out by my very tolerant girlfriend). I’d be falling asleep in company, nodding off in restaurants and missing all kinds of fun. She was not best pleased when I couldn’t keep my eyes open at a Cleo Laine concert which she’d paid good money to treat me to a ticket and I literally missed the Slow Boat to China. Every other aspect of my life was suffering and in particular my art. I was forced to come to the conclusion that if you’re working so hard you have time for nothing else, then you’re not living and that, to me, is the biggest sin of all. Things were going to have to change. I wanted my weekends back and to get painting again. I figured I’d rather take the chance of being able to exhibit, sell the odd painting and being happy than continue living like a half sleeping zombie work-slave.
It turned out I didn’t really need to make any decisions. We started work with the new company on January of this year; there was no overtime on offer and hours of work were never more than a basic 40 hour week but as a bonus, we were getting previously unheard of early finishes. I have time to do more important stuff. Happy days. I had less money and with the economy in its present state, that’s no laughing matter; everything seems to have gone up and my income has dropped. Thankfully I know how to pull the belt in and get by; being a frugal Scot who knows how to catch a rabbit, cook a pan of broth and survive on porridge is useful in these testing times. If society ever breaks down completely, the junk food junkies and ready meal slobs will be the first to starve.
It’s been great to get back to my easel and feel like and artist again; I’m currently getting on with converting my spare room into a small studio space and have promised myself to get paintings in exhibitions within the year. I did a talk a few evenings ago for the Durham Caledonian Society about my work as an artist and the response was very positive. All these things give me energy and conviction that maybe my life is pointed in the right direction after all.
So why the hell was I doing overtime today, on a Sunday? It’s simple; the opportunity was there and I could use the money. I’m not beating myself up about it either; it was a beautiful day, I was finished by lunchtime, got a load of firewood and picked enough brambles for a crumble. No ready-meal puddings for this boy.