Monday, 11 September 2006

Free time

Life as a consultant can be extremely variable, depending very much on the clients one has.

At one extreme (and I hope this is an extreme) I spend around 13 hours each day either at the client's site, or commuting to the client's site. This is the downside of most of the interesting work being in London.

At the other extreme would be the "no work" scenario. Fortunately in ten years' being a consultant there have only been around 3 months where I had no work. Given that without my income the life of my family would grind pretty much to a halt, long may this trend continue.

I did manage a halfway house once, though, which was great while it lasted. I had a great contract with a prestigious client, advising them at quite a high level about technology. Made a name for myself and found myself working on all kinds of stuff throughout the bank as a kind of evangelist. The client got taken over, and the order came to get rid of people. I suppose I was fortunate to last longer than most, but the writing was on the wall and in truth, by the end of the contract, it was quite an unpleasant place to be. All of the (top quality) programme managers I'd worked with had been replaced in favour of talentless individuals whose only role was to downsize.

Anyway, I ended up in a situation where the client wanted to get rid of me, but couldn't afford to get rid of me. So, we compromised on a three-day week. For me personally, absolutely brilliant. For them, a waste of time - having me out of the office much of the time simply led to my doing less when I was in the office. Still, I wasn't complaining (especially since they were paying me more, then, for three days' work than I earn currently for five days' work!)

Having those extra two days, aside from the weekend, really made things tick at home. There was always time to do things like keeping the garden tidy etc. etc.

I hark back to this situation because, these days, there seems to be so little time for anything.

We had a great weekend just gone. On Saturday we went to the Romsey Show and spent a good six hours or so strolling around, seeing what was there. A typical agricultural show, there were tents full of cattle and sheep. Other animals there included otters, alpacas and birds of prey, giving demonstrations. Alice got to stroke an owl. There was a wonderful food tent with all manner of delicacies - this was so good that we bought our lunch from there and left the picnic in the car. To round the day off, Alice and I went for a ride on a big wheel, part of a small fairground set up there. Excellent day, but tiring and we were all fit to drop by the time we got home.

Sunday, I had the luxury of a lie in until around 11 o'clock (well, I did get up between around 7-8 to watch Match of the Day, with my boyhood heroes, the mighty Everton thrashing local rivals Liverpool 3-0), and then we headed off out. The original plan was to head into Bournemouth to get some breakfast in the Sainsbury's cafe, but we'd left it so late that I suggested going for lunch at the Old Beams in Ibsley instead. So rather than a bacon sandwich I ended up having a roast dinner!

Totally stuffed, we then continued on to Sainsbury's in any case, for the weekly shop. Food shopping when stuffed is a very good idea - we were both so put off by the idea of food at that point that the shop came to only £40 - about half of the normal weekly cost. So, paying to go out for Sunday lunch does have some advantages!

Taking advantage of the Indian summer, instead of going home we headed for the beach at Boscombe. Ironic really, Alice had been a little bugger all day and she got to play in the sand (her idea of heaven) for ninety minutes. But it was nice for Jacqueline and I too, just to sit on the sand for a while.

Lovely. Jacqueline loves it. For me, Bournemouth is a little tame, but it would be great to end up by the sea at some point. If we ever get to the stage where we are financially secure you can bet we'll be heading for Cornwall (or Brittany!) for good.

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