and we can’t live if we’re too afraid to die

I warned my census coordinator a week ago that I would not be in Brum Tuesday-Thursday this week; as I’m on 15 hours a week (ostensibly, it’s taking almost twice as long now we’re in Phase 2) we are not expected to be constantly on-call (which was implied by the job description and confirmed in the classroom; “very part time” was chosen so that I *could* take some days off to go home; I would have signed up for a full-time contract otherwise.) She did not particularly like it but agreed to meet up Friday for the workload. She is now saying I’ve breached contract and claims that discussion did not happen. This is horseshit, it really is. I really hope there are no long-term repercussions; that aside, I won’t really mind if I lose the last week of the job. It has become not enough fun and was never enough money, probably less of both than if I’d taken up waiting tables over Easter, and anyway I could probably use the time on revision and uni work. Ugh. Texted her back as politely as possible. Back in her court.

The reason for this absence, a three-day jaunt as hired hand, secateur monkey, food-sponge, strimmer jockey, laptop tech support and walking encyclopaedia of military hardware at Castle Reeve, was exactly as fun as expected, which is to say: fun on a bun. I had booked (terrifyingly expensive, even in advance) train tickets down from Brum a few days before I learned Mum and Dad would be bringing Olly up to Cov on the Monday. Derrrrp. But! My train went through Bristol, so after coming out for a massive all-I-could-eat at the Coventry branch of Cosmo (which I didn’t realise was even a chain), they gave me a lift home, and I got a couple hours more of what turned out not to be nearly enough sleep anyway.

Then on Tuesday morning, a long train journey through idyllic sunlit south coast to Newton Abbot, and from there to Castle Reeve, where there were days of ruminatin’ on stories and creative processes and writing by committee and the internet and media and publishing, and afternoons of interesting Reevefriends to provide conversation on law/acting/music/careers/COMPUTERS, and evenings of tea and hobnobs and Victoria sponge and strawberries & cream. Also Gainful Employ, mainly involving one form or other of violence towards plants.

I shredded bamboo and brambles with wild and gay abandon while Mr Reeve pulled up bulrushes in the more Passchendaele-esque end of his lake, rooted up dandelions and such with a trowel (which held some strange fascination for Frodo the Reevepoodle), chopped up thistles with a thistle-chopper-upper (one particularly glorious specimen got held up like the head of Medusa), and, as a highlight, turned unruly overgrown banks into nice grassy knolls with My First Strimmer. I love machines like this; I like the petrol-stink and the ponderous heft, the whir and torque and heat of the motor, the shoulder harness that makes me feel like Vasquez with a smartgun rather than a glorified 21st-century reaper with a glorified 21st-century scythe mowing down small green xenomorphs. Most of all I loved having its half-controlled power in my hands: feeling rather than hearing the motor’s thrum and fighting the weight and torque of it, seeing grassy verges and patches of reeds dissolve as chlorophyll-coloured plant viscera spatters on my hands and face like a palette-flipped splatter film.


So that was all good wholesome fun, and a shining beacon of shiny beacon-ness in what’s otherwise been a pretty shitty Easter. Could be worse; at least I didn’t get nailed to a cross or anything.


7 thoughts on “and we can’t live if we’re too afraid to die

  1. So.
    You’ve learned a valuable lesson of the nature of employment…

    If you discuss something with someone, as in part-time hours and conditions, you reach an agreement, and then?….


    Lesson learned I feel.

    Management are bastards, they’ll always lie to you.

  2. Since you enjoy gardening so much, I have some weedeating that needs doing on my side of the pond. I think I like the term ‘strimmer’ much better than ‘weedeater’ (although mine is electric, so you probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much, as the motor doesn’t really thrum, and there’s no smell…in short, not as much opportunity to fantasize).

    1. Certainly, though I’ll need to claim the plane tickets as expenses. Or boat tickets. I have never been on a long boat trip, and I’m always up for exciting new experiences, like weeks of boredom and getting ravished by sailors.

      1. Now you’ve got me curious as to just how many trans-Atlantic trips are still made on cruise lines (as opposed to sneaking into a cargo ship in some way, which would be a lot cheaper for me, and we do have a large cargo port here in Virginia, so you most likely would end up here – again, much cheaper for me ).

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