When people ask me what I ‘do’ I generally tell them that I have a ‘portfolio’ career. By which I mean I do a number of poorly paid jobs with little security and no pension.
OK, so I may end up a geriatric bag lady begging outside Subway (hold the red onion) but there are upsides to working in this way.
The upsides include wasting hours scrolling through my Twitter feed in the name of research or binge watching whole series of ‘The Good Wife’ and telling my husband I’ve been studying points of law.
The best upside is that I have very little interaction with actual bosses. Most of my work is freelance, or I myself am in charge of a small team. And that’s how I like it.
I have always had something of an issue with authority and, as I face down Executive Youth, I don’t think that’s going to change. In fact, it’s getting worse.
At school I’d be sent out of a class for doing something which challenged the status quo. Never anything malicious but it would invariably involve the sort of uncontrollable laughter that made a cogent response to the teacher impossible.
And everybody knows that laughter in school is tantamount to insolence.
I learnt as much standing outside the classroom as I had in it. In the cloisters near the Headmaster’s office I memorised the list of the Old Boys who had fallen in the two World Wars. Directly outside his office there was a framed ‘Letter from an Airman’ who’d bought it in a battle in the skies and of whom the school was justly proud.
In the letter the chap claimed to ‘have no fear of death, only a queer elation.’ If you read it fast it sounded like he had a ‘queer relation’, which, back in 1985, both thrilled and amused me in equal measure.
You can see how seriously I took punishment.
I need authority I can respect.
I have a sign in my kitchen which reads ‘What Would Elvis Do?’ I know. Hilarious. And rubbish. Elvis liked peanut butter and vanilla sex. He is not the reservoir of wisdom and experimental practice I hoped he might be.
No, for wisdom I’ve come to rely on a source much closer to home. I need a sign which reads: What Would Dad Do?
My dad was a probation officer whose beat encompassed the depressing precincts of East London. His working life was full of men whose eyes were barely discernible through the tattooed webs obscuring great tracts of face.
My dad was (is) a kind and compassionate man. He is intelligent and articulate, with a gentle voice and good manners.
He was also sixteen stone and built like a brick outhouse.
He could handle himself. And that’s what the ‘clients’ responded to. He wore a Savile Row suit, drove a pink Ford Capri and took absolutely no shit. And young men, leading chaotic, criminal lives, respected him.
I need to respect the authority figures in my life. But they don’t half make it difficult.
This week I received an invitation to join a team-building exercise somewhere in the Midlands, where I can build a raft (yes, a raft in the land-locked Midlands) and ‘discover [my] inner child.’
My first instinct is to tell them that even when I was a child, I never had an ‘inner child.’
When other children were reading ‘The Borrowers’ I was investigating revolutionary socialism (same principles). Nobody wants to meet that ‘inner child.’
My second instinct is to tell them to save their money.
I don’t need them to provide games or construction exercises. I just want them to send me e mails with accurate spelling and grammar.
I want them to make and communicate clear decisions. I want them to have a vision rather than continually bugging me with consultation documents whereby I supply the ideas and they keep drawing monumental salaries for having the job of supplying ideas.
I want bosses, leaders and decision-makers to be people of strength and integrity. I want them to keep the promises they make and to say things they really mean.
You’ll understand then, why I find myself switching off the news and going back to The Good Wife instead. The indecisive, the visionless, the breakers of promises, the self-seeking, the indulged and the witless have taken over the world! And we’re paying their salaries and their pensions!
If there’s a raft to be built, I’m building it with Dave from Showaddywaddy and we’re heading off to start a new life in the Cayman Islands. I’m pretty sure it’s what Dad would do.