- Philip Bryer
The Slippery Slope
Updated: Apr 15, 2020
I didn’t take it personally when I was made redundant last year from a role I had held for fifteen years. How could I? After all, the axe-wielding major publishing company hadn’t just taken against me; by shutting down the entire operation they made it clear they had it in for all 300 of us.
I walked away with a few quid, what they used to call a good wedge. Enough buy some time and invest in striking out on my own. But as I took off down another blind alley only to spy a further false dawn manned by a time-wasting cheapskate, I began to wonder. I know Mrs B was wondering too, but she never wavered in her support and kept her fears to herself. But for me, the outlook was worrying, because what I could see on the bleak horizon was the prospect of A PROPER JOB. Not just ending up on a grim industrial estate where the highlight of the day would be the arrival of the sandwich van, but going through the whole CV, application, interview, second interview process, which quite frankly, at my time of life, compares rather unfavourably with, well, just about anything.
Then, something happened. A Turkish translation company emailed to say that if I wanted to be considered for work as an English language copy editor I must complete profiles on two online platforms. Which I spent a day on. Only for them to advise me, and most swiftly too, that I lacked the necessary experience. This was a low point, indeed a low blow. I took the next day off, helped out with the housework, didn’t switch on the laptop or check emails, instead I went to the pub for a couple of beers and an Inspector Morse-style think. I came away all set to swallow my pride, forget about the fact that despite having the ideas, the time, the money, and the support, I hadn't backed a winner and must now seek out A PROPER JOB.
Less than 24 hours later, I had an email from a Russian chap. He had seen my profile on one of the waste-of-time online platforms and asked me to edit some Russian/English translations. A few more followed, and it was a bit hit-and-miss, but it was a start.
One day I had a follow-up to something I had pitched for, and almost forgotten about, on a web noticeboard for translation and editing. Would I mind doing a test? Not in the least.
“It’ll be good if I get it,” I said to Mrs B. “Regular work. Global virtual office. Good rates. Take the pressure off.”
Everything panned out nicely. Test, brief Skype interview, bit of (paid!) training.
“I’m starting on Tuesday.”
“Great!” Sandra replied. “I was starting to worry.”
“Just one thing,” I said, “I have to get up at 4:30 a.m.”
“Right, first day, early start, show willing, I suppose?”
“Er. Nope. Tuesday to Friday, 4:30 every day.”
“Just four days a week?”
“No, I get a lie in on Sunday. Until 5:30.”
A few months on, that’s where we are. Asleep by 10 p.m., generally. Slip out of bed silently at 4:30, tiptoe downstairs, make tea, scoop up breakfast things I laid out the night before, protein bar, banana, and an apple, and switch on the laptop. Three hours or so writing summaries of press articles for a major corporation's email which has to land in staff inboxes at the start of their working day. I do most of my work in slippers these days to a soundtrack of quiet classical music and a Spotify playlist which I call, 'Belt Up'. The other day at 4:30, I was greeted by Carly Simon with her gorgeous version of In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning. Oh, how we laughed. Quietly, mind.