I’m Sorry

…to have abandoned North Seven for so long. I still don’t have a job and, after the UN fiasco which is yet to be concluded, I decided I needed to focus on something new, something purely pleasurable and totally indulgent. And I’m afraid North Seven didn’t seem to be it.

In fact the one thing that I turn to on days when I’m feeling a bit worn out by job searching, and freelancing, and wondering where’s next, is cooking. I’ve really got back into it in the last six months or so, especially baking. And since lots of my friends ask for the recipes I use, I’ve been wondering about putting them in one place, online. That way I can send a link to someone, or find a link myself, whenever I want to know the ingredients list or method, particularly when I’m away from my bits of paper and cookery books. So though I am still physically in N7, virtually I am here, probably for good.

Because much as I like the idea of writing about the place where I am, and where I’m going, I honestly don’t know where that is at the moment. Frankly, I’m a bit fed up with thinking and reflecting. When I looked at my blank blackboard after my last job interview was cancelled, all I could think about was a shopping list, a food shopping list. I didn’t want any other ‘to do’ list. I was done. I wanted to put my apron on, get my hands covered in flour and bake a cake. So I did. And that’s why right now I spend most of my time in my tiny kitchen, not thinking, just baking and wondering how to get out of the washing up…


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Or Maybe Not…

For the second time in a week I’ve been put on hold. I chased the UN HR department last Friday (what a pleasure chasing those departments always is) and was told that the recruitment decision had been delayed for ‘some more weeks’. I emailed back to ask whether that meant June or July but didn’t get a reply…This process is a bit like unrequited love: you don’t dare write, for fear of offending the desired party; when you get a reply you eagerly respond and then wonder what you said that put them off writing back.

And, since I was told today that I was coming to the end of my freelancing, I am back to square one. So tonight I cleaned off my kitchen blackboard. Tomorrow I’ll decide what to put on it, what’s next.

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Maybe Tomorrow?

The title of this Stereophonics song has been in my head a lot this week. I was interviewed at the UN on April 29th and the interview panel told me I’d hear at the end of May. There are now only three working days (Germany’s bank holiday was last Monday not next) left in May and I’m still hopeful that maybe tomorrow I’ll hear.

It’s the perfect job for me at the moment. I want to use my languages and editing skills to make a difference in the world which, in job-speak, becomes multi-lingual public service in a global organisation. And that’s what this job is. Even though I met all the required criteria, I couldn’t quite believe I was shortlisted, then interviewed. But now that I have been I know that I really want it, that it is, like Goldilocks and baby bear’s bed and porridge, just right. Toes crossed.

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A Comedy of Errors?

I was supposed to have an interview tomorrow. But this morning, 24 hours before it was due to take place, the government body in question emailed me to say that the interviews had been put on hold because of ‘budget constraints’. It didn’t take long for Con-Demn’s cuts to hit me then. I should have seen it coming though; the application process for this job has been the worst I’ve ever encountered.

I applied for the job on February 16th. Six days later I received confirmation of my application. On March 2nd I received another confirmation, and notification that shortlisting would take place by March 12th. If I hadn’t heard by then I was unsuccessful. But on March 12th they emailed to say that the shortlisting would take place on March 18th…seeing a pattern yet? I heard nothing on the 18th and felt quite miserable. This was an editorial manager’s job; I’d done it for years, I could do it standing on my head, with my eyes closed and my feet in a bucket of porridge. If I wasn’t even being shortlisted for this then, hmm, the market was much worse than I thought and I needed to think fast about my contingency plans. Like how to pay the mortgage. And eat.

The next morning I received another email. They hadn’t actually shortlisted yet, because someone in the recruitment team was ill. So I hadn’t been rejected. They emailed me a few more times to say ‘sorry, but they hadn’t progressed any further’ and then they finally told me, on April 21st, that shortlisting would take place on the 27th. And hallelujah, they kept to that date and, as I set off for my UN interview, I discovered that I was on the shortlist.

On May 13th they confirmed that my interview would be on May 27th and asked me, ha, to email by return (their stress) that I could make it. Reader I didn’t. I could have done but, do you know what, I thought they could bear to wait a few days after making me wait three months.

I’ve spent every evening this week reading their website, answering and mocking up questions and as I walked to my freelance job this morning I felt very well prepared. And then they sent me their last email: it was cancelled. I’m cross but oddly not surprised. After all, they’re not very efficient. I always keep emails relating to a job app, but I’ve never had fourteen to keep before. No wonder the government wants to cut their budget.

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I’m not a fan of drilling. Not in the dentist sense… I have no fear of dentists since I inherited the sort of teeth that confound them. ‘Oh ho ho, you haven’t been for two years? Well we may have some work to do’ is where they usually start. Then they quickly stop rubbing their hands in greedy glee and start scratching their heads, astonished that I have never had a filling and don’t yet need one. No, the drills that disturb me are the sort required for putting up shelves, and rails, and pictures. Decorating is one thing, but drilling? All of that marking a straight line and getting out the spirit level makes me much more nervous than the words ‘now open wide’. I’m always convinced I’m going to make a mess of it, and either wreck the wall or be forever irritated by the crookedness of my handiwork.

So I have been putting off the rather fiddly task of removing some shelves from a built-in cupboard, in order to turn the space into a much needed wardrobe. Even though my clothes have been in the study, even though I have been certain that my plan will work, I have been trying to think of ways to leave the shelves and live with my clothes somewhere else. But last weekend it was raining, the word ‘rail!’ was at the top of my ‘to do’ list, and my ‘across the balcony’ neighbour Mark who spends weekends building all sorts of stuff, pooh-poohed my anxiety about the drill and said ‘just think about the glow of achievement’ when you’ve finished it.

And off I went. I emptied the cupboard (I should have taken a before picture of that; it was rather overflowing), I took out all the shelves, I got the funny little tube-cutter out and trimmed the rail I’d bought to the right length, I went to the building supplies shop and bought new screws and rawl plugs, I marked up the wall for the rail fixings and then I borrowed my neighbour’s drill. Perhaps because I had the right screws, and rawl plugs, perhaps because I’d taken the time to make sure the rail and its fixings would fit…whatever the reason, the drilling was noisy but painless. It worked! The plugs and screws fitted, the rail and its fixings went in and ta-dah, the cupboard was transformed.

Well, not quite. There was the small matter of the filthy paint which I should have dealt with a) before the floor went in and b) before the rail went in. You can see it in close up here…

But, on a wave of enthusiasm, I simply masked off the rail and floor with tape and dustsheets and clunched the wall. Hey presto…

Tonight, I took all the tape off, removed the dust sheet, hoovered the floorboards and, hurrah, installed my clothes.

I know it might not seem much but oh the satisfaction. Not only getting it done but getting it off the list and using it! Mark was right; I am positively glowing at my own self-sufficiency. I may even have to go and buy my own drill…

PS And yes, those disgusting over-varnished eighties doors will be removed at the earliest opportunity but, despite this drill success, I am sensible enough to leave carpentry to the professionals.

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A Room of My Own

I have finally finished decorating my bedroom! Or rather I have finally finished the parts that I can do anything about. Except for the blind/curtains. And the wardrobe rail. And putting up some pictures. Okay, I have finally finished the big jobs…

It has been a long haul, mainly because my bedroom is an awkward loft space full of triangles, brick walls and corners and it not only took me ages to choose anything, like the ceiling paint (which, just to confuse you, is also wall paint)…

and the type of floor…

(one on the left? one on the right? I went for the one on the right) but also having fallen ill on the long weekend I was supposed to do all the work, I have since been squeezing in each job between work and prep for my interview with the UN. But it was worth it. Instead of primrose yellow walls and a filthy once-white ceiling (the picture below shows the room just after I moved in)

I have a rather sophisticated palette of dark grey and a sort of linen colour (called Clunch, I love that name).

And instead of a carpet so grubby that even the carpet cleaner told me to replace it not clean it…

I have ‘antique oak’ floorboards…

…they’re far from antique, but still! And, to crown it all, instead of a rather tired old duvet (I decided that 16 years of service was enough for any quilt, but particularly an IKEA one) I bought a new one, along with some rather spiffy white cotton linen.

Oh it was such bliss going to bed last night. I forgot all about the fact that the floor fitters took off several bed-legs worth of newly applied paint whilst manoeuvring the boards into place. And that applying emulsion to brick offers almost as much, or rather as little pleasure as doing a multiple-choice exam (all those little holes to fill in). Or even that I still had nowhere to put my clothes. No, as I sank into the White Company’s finest, I felt that, nine, no ten, months in, I’d made my room my own. It’s not perfect. But it is mine.


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What a Difference a Month Makes

I disappeared a month ago, into the daily life of an office, and the back and forth of commuting, making sandwiches, trying to do all home admin in the gaps around a working day, and thus my blog disappeared too. I thought I’d make an effort to come back though, by telling you about the good and the bad.

The good is I should be in Germany right now, having an interview with the UN. I applied for a job back in Feb, did a 10-page editing test in March and then, on April 1st I was told I had an interview. I have been ridiculously excited ever since, though the small matter of an Icelandic volcano and trying to buy a suit in spring have rather dampened my enthusiasm. Ashgate has meant I can’t fly and the interview has been postponed; Suitgate almost meant I had nothing to wear. After ten years in publishing, my smartest outfits involve posh jeans and some nice boots, but nothing that would pass muster beyond the literati. And last week, after two nights of trying on everything in Covent Garden and on Regent’s Street I was starting to wonder if I’d be wearing my jeans to Bonn after all. Then Bloomsbury saved me. Tucked away in the Brunswick Centre is a branch of Hobbs, a shop I abandoned when I lost weight and stopped wearing matching jackets and trousers but a shop that still, unlike so many others, realises that women need to buy suits in the sunshine (someone in Esprit asked me ‘why are you buying a suit at this time of year?’). And, what’s more, it was empty and instead of fighting to try on clothes in a space too small for a battery hen, and screaming down the corridor for help, I had a changing room and an assistant all to myself. £400 and 40 minutes later, I was in proud possession of a suitably black and demure suit and heels. I was feeling very smug and ready for the trip until the ash continued spreading.

It will still happen, just not yet. And it feels like the perfect job: editing in a multilingual public service organisation. Fingers and beautifully shod toes crossed.

The bad is I started decorating my bedroom (ripped out carpet, blind and all comforts) and then had to spend two days in the aforementioned and now somewhat cell-like room, nursing a rotten cold in bed. It was Easter, I ate no chocolate, had no lamb and, since my laptop had just died and was refusing resurrection, I couldn’t even surf to my heart’s content in bed. Not the best way to spend a four-day holiday. What’s more, since I’m now at work full-time, and have spent the last two weeks swotting up for my job, I’m still sleeping in the rather monastic bedroom until I get a chance to finish off the painting. Perhaps DIM needs to become PSE (pay someone else).

Finally, I went to a selection day to become a Samaritan and was refused, mainly because I’m too proactive. Oh and apparently, since I take anti-depressants, I’m in recovery. Recovery? From what? My genes? Life? But now I’m rather glad that they’re not taking me; I don’t think they have the Samaritans in Bonn…

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