I'm having an interesting week. On Tuesday, I heard, out of the blue, via Friends Reunited from a very old friend, whose lifestyle means he's very prone to fall out of contact for long periods. The last I'd heard from him was nearly five years ago, when he acknowledged the invitation to our wedding. We've emailled a few times this week, and his tone seems to mirror my own euphoria.
The following day, there was a rush invitation to an all-hands briefing. We're quite sensibly merging our IT function with that in another sector of the parent group. There will inevitably be redundacies. Since my skills aren't specific to our business, I'm right in the firing line. I won't find out for another six weeks, which should at least regulate the runaway rate at which this year has been elapsing. It feels more shocking than last year. I'd had more of a instinctive feeling ahead of the announcement then, prompted by the feeling that being paid to be on the bench was too good to be true. But after informally being briefed that this employer was a safe harbour in which to weather the recession, this feels like a bit of a betrayal. I am angry at the way the job losses have been communicated. The first manager to address us yesterday hedged and dissembled, using the word “impact” until it gradually emerged that he meanyt redundancies. The last manager of the day actually tried to put a positive spin on events – the high level equivalent of David Brent's “I've got some good news and some bad news”.
There was some laudable stoicism among my peers, but this turn has upset me more than I could have forseen. I was very snippy at home that evening, and a mess of autovocalising insecurity the following morning. I'm really not optimistic about my chances, and preparing for the worst. The good side is that I'd welcome a couple of months garden leave, and that it may be time to look for a more high profile role than the one I have now. I'm 43 now, and my “port in a storm” job perhaps doesn't exploit as much of my experience as it could. I would miss Glasgow, though. I like the work/home hygeine the commute enforces.
Thankfully, I had an appointment in London on Thursday, doing some freelance Doctor Who work, which took my mind off more maudlin matters. It was blissful to spend four hours formalising my childhood memories on my netbook on the way down, deliver them to my client in the afternoon, and see some more old friends in the evening. By coincidence, it was the first Thursday of the month, which is when Doctor Who fans in the London area informally gather at The Fitzroy Tavern in Bloomsbury. I started going to this occasionally in 1984, and regularly from 1990 to 1996. It was highly evocative to be sitting in the same alcoves that held so many memories from my twenties, with, as it happened, many of the same people.
At eleven o'clock, I made my farewells and strolled up Tottenham Court Road to Euston to catch the sleeper train to Edinburgh. The Caledonian Sleeper service is one of the great secret treasures of Britain. If booked well enough in advance, it's far cheaper than a London hotel room. Departing at around 11:40, it delivers you to the other end by 07:00 in a frame of mind far calmer than if you'd been a polluting bastard and flown. Furthermore, it delivers you to the heart of the city you're visiting, so you don't have to disembark and spend another hour travelling in. I've been at London meetings by 08:00. The question I'm always asked concerns sharing a berth (that's the little sleeping compartments, containing an upper and lower bunk, confusingly also called berths). “Isn't it a bit, you know, intimate?” Not really. I book the lower berth, get there 20 minutes early, stow my belongings, and change into loose-fitting clothes. There's no point trying to sleep straight away, as you have to let your subconcious noise-reduction system sample and absorb the clanks and rattles of the train, so it's a good chance to read a bit, or listen to headphones. There's a shaver socket above the sink, so you can charge all your thirsty devices. I'd planned to watch The Prisoner last night, but felt drowsy after a couple of chapters, and nodded straight off. The berths have individual lights, so you can read without disturbing your neighbour. I have found said neighbours to be either mute or timid, and beyond exchanging a quick “Evening” or “Cheerio, then” seldom keen to share their insights. Invariably, on arrival at the far end, one of the sharers will depart immediately, leaving the other to wash, shave, and otherwise spruce himself up for the day's business. They don't kick you off the train until you've consumed the continental breakfast they've brought you in bed.
Having left it too late to book to Glasgow (where I work), I had booked to Edinburgh, and parambulated across the Waverly concourse to catch the commuter shuttle. I am now at a table for four which is fully-occupied and feeling my privacy far more compromised than I did with my mystery companion last night. I feel ready for work. Isn't that ironic?