For many years I thought of myself as “a Bookseller fallen upon Hard Times and obliged to take up a Menial Occupation” – as a computer programmer. But these days I seem to have become a sort of journalist, writing short pieces about careers and education. Not that I have ever had a career, and my education stopped at the secondary level. But when was ignorance ever an impediment to a journalist?
My parents always told me I was born in the rather posh inner London suburb of Chelsea, but when I recently, and for the first time, read my birth certificate, it plainly states Hammersmith, which is distinctly down-market, famous mainly for its flyover and the Hammersmith Odeon, where bands like Black Sabbath used to play.
When I was eleven, we moved to a small village near Cambridge. And when I say small, there wasn’t even a speed limit, or name board as you arrived, and the houses had no numbers, just names. The story was that a man from the Post Office once came with a map, but could not match it to the houses, and went away again.
Later, when my father was obliged to relocate to Birmingham, I stayed behind in Cambridge, where I worked in a bookshop. I had by then dropped out of a law degree, not having that kind of brain, and found where I really belonged, or so I thought.
Good times never last, they just seem to slowly evaporate. One day I looked around and thought – why am I here? I moved to a chain of college bookshops in the suburbs around London, and then, increasingly aware that bookselling paid badly and went nowhere except management, hit the eject button and landed in a computer bureau.
From being a bookshop chain manager to working as an invoice clerk my pay doubled. Then I got into programming, which was serious fun. I felt I had again found my future. Which it was for over two decades.
But first one of the back-stories that I won’t bother you with saw me in Australia, as a souvenir brought back by my now wife. Programming and bringing up three children kept me busy until the Tech Wreck dumped me into an insurance company running IBM mainframes as the only option for my increasingly obsolescent skills.
Enter another of the back-stories, I chucked IT and took to writing, first on a short contract with Fairfax Digital, and then freelance for The Age. After the ‘Rivers of Gold’, the classified ads, went online I took a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing at Box Hill Institute. This was so much fun that I followed it with a degree of the same name from Swinburne.
Since then, one way or another, I have made little progress with the novel I began at Box Hill, or the TV adaptation of a Victorian novel that I was inspired to attempt after a visit to a National Trust castle in England.
Currently we are sheltering against the COVID-19 virus, making our daily photo and verse journal, gardening when the weather allows. I have, after years of havering, used some of the government’s ‘economic incentive’ money to buy a viola, which I’m learning through lessons via Zoom.
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