Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Small flashes and larger words

Goodness, what a literary day today. The boss is back too, so we have to look super-professional and cutting-edge. Not that we don’t always look like that, of course – it’s just that we have to expunge that tell-tale trace of panic from our eyes …

Anyway, did a fair amount of website stuff, which I always enjoy, mainly on the Mentoring site, and we have plans for the Health Centre site too. Hurrah. About time it got updated. I’m sure we still have stuff about the Bubonic plague up there somewhere, if I looked closely enough. Groan.

And what fun I’ve had with the University rejiggling of the bank holidays. A concept which is seriously pissing me off, if only for the complexity of the new regime we have to do – but frankly I can’t be arsed to make a fuss. For once. Anyway, the powers that be have decided that bank holidays and University closure days are not fair for part-timers, as those part-timers (such as myself) who work the beginning of a week get to take and enjoy more bank holidays than those who work the end of a week. A concept, I admit, that even I can understand. However, instead of doing the sensible thing and just chucking in a few more holiday days for those people who work the end of the week – as I would have done – they’ve decided to subject the bank holidays of all part-time people to a series of mathematical formulae designed to work out an even balance. Allegedly. So, David and I have pored over this, sighed a lot and finally worked out that I am (possibly) allowed to have 9 bank holiday/University closure days in one academic year. However, as there are actually 13 in total, this means I owe the University four days up to and including March 2008. As a result, I have to either work an extra day in a bank holiday week, or take it as part of my leave, or as unpaid leave up to the value of four. Ye gods, no wonder Higher Education is struggling. So now I have a natty little spreadsheet designed to work it all out as I go along, which I have designed myself, and a pretty nifty headache.

To cap it all, my case is easy, as at least I work full days when I am here. Those people, such as Andrea in the Dean of Students’ Office, who only work partial days have to work it all out in hours. It’s astonishing we have time for anything else at all, really.

Had a UniSWriters meeting at lunchtime, which was thin on the ground as some people were sick (we missed you, Julia! – hope you’re better soon) or on training days, but we had some very good discussions about the manuscripts and about the publishing business. They were also very helpful about cuts and changes I needed to make to the poem I took along too, so that was great. Oh, and Jenny at the Library is going to come to next week’s Book Circle discussion of A Dangerous Man (http://www.flamebooks.com) and has even read it in preparation (thanks, Jenny!), so at least there might be more than a couple of people there. Which will be nice. I’ve decided now that if there’s only a few of us and we run out of things to say, then we can always sneak off early to the pub. Heck, I’m sure Michael would approve.

Oh, and Angela who used to come to UniSWriters but left the University last year rang up for some emergency publishing information. I don’t see myself as the font of all knowledge, in any area, but it was lovely to talk to her again. My advice was, as always: send stuff out to agents/publishers before trying the self-publishing route. After all, I’m very much for having both routes to markets open (as you well know). In any case, I strongly advised her against using AuthorHouse, which she was initially keen to do – their reputation isn’t good, from what I’ve heard. Thankfully, I think I convinced her.

Back with my colleagues, we’ve had an in-depth discussion about the injustices of the social/work system with regard to non-child producing people. Now, I know I’m not a great fan of the concept of The Child, but I would like to say that I entirely agree with the provisions of maternity/paternity leave and think it’s a Good Thing. However, at the same time, I’ve always felt it discriminates strongly (as society does, to my mind) against those people who choose not to have children. I mean: hey, where’s my nice lot of leave when I produce something valuable or simply want to take a long tranche of paid/partially paid time off, eh? I don’t see why people without children can’t have some similar perks also. We all work hard enough, after all. However, I feel I’m a lone voice in this – well, Ruth at work agrees too, so perhaps together we can form a small splinter group. Child-free too.

Tonight, I’m off to Guildford Writers with the start of Chapter Three of The Gifting, so hope to get helpful comments on that. I’m still worrying about my last chapter, darn it. I did scribble down a couple of paragraphs last night, but hadn’t really got to the crux of the scene. Ah well. Perhaps it’ll all be all right on the night. You never know.

And I've written a piece of flash fiction for the next Writewords (http://www.writewords.org.uk) group challenge:

Carbon Copy
Genevieve lay back on the couch and sighed. At her feet, two scantily-clad young men massaged her lascivious toes. Bliss. They’d work their way upwards. In time. It had been a while since she’d been able to afford enough tokens for a double session and once again she thanked her long-dead grandmother for the ancient typewriter and carbon paper she’d recently discovered in the attic. It was amazing what the authorities would believe. These days.

Today’s nice things:

1. UniSWriters
2. Writing a piece of flash fiction
3. Guildford Writers

Anne Brooke


Cathy said...

Would you like to have poorly paid time off and then come back to find your job had been significantly changed in your absence? Or to be told in the run up to your leave that you could not return? Would you like to have a 24/7 job...no getting away from it at the weekends or on holiday?

Don't forget that it will be our kids who will pay for whatever is left of the NHS/state pensions etc when we get old and they will also be paying for your share.

I'd swap places anytime, I mean time to write, nap in the day, take relaxing holidays abroad, go to the theatre...



Anne Brooke said...

Oh dear, thought people might get the wrong end of the stick with this one!

Let me say this: if people want children then they should have them of course. All I'm saying is non-child people need a bite at the cherry too!

I didn't even mention the rough side of the child coin - that's not part of what I was saying!!


Anonymous said...

The place I am temping at work out bank holidays pro-rata for part- time people.

They have a little spreadsheet too because it can get really complicated with the different hours people work, then it is added to their main holiday quota.

It is good. Like you Anne I used to do the beginning of the week so always benefited.

As a temp I just don't get paid for it unless I've banked the hours. But you win some and you lose some.

I think that's why I couldn't work in HR long term, it's way too complicated.

Sue xx

Cathy said...

Anne, I didn't get the wrong end of the stick at all.

I understand what you are saying but....maternity/paternity leave is not holiday, it's bloody hard work. OK, things are a little more generous now than when I had my kids, but I didn't get paid very much at all when I was off and I was effectively made redundant during my first pregnancy so had no job security to return to anyway.

The bank holiday gripe I do understand but that is nothing to do with being childless or otherwise, it is to do with working part-time. I also work part-time ( for my husband) and he has never given me time in lieu of bank holidays, simply because I work flexibly from home anyway!

I can see why childless employees get irked when parents have to leave spot on time to pick up kids etc and they are left to meet deadlines. To be fair that should be rewarded by salary adjustments or time off in lieu. In practice it doesn't happen and that is one reason that I didn't go back to my old profession, because it was so male dominated and inflexible that it would have caused huge child care issues.

Lots of employers, including unis, will give unpaid/ sabbatical leave...have you ever asked? Is there anything to stop you taking all your annual leave at once? I'm afraid that I see your argument as wanting to have your cake and eat it...we'll just have to agree to disagree, in the friendliest way possible, of course!



Anonymous said...

Hey Cathy

We ought to adopt the Australian way of doing things. When you've been with a company for a few years you are allowed to take something like 13 weeks leave to go off and do something you'd really like.

The company I am working at currently offer a variation of this where you can bank your holidays for a few years and then take a lump of holiday which would be good.

I know what you mean about having to take time out and again I have been there where it's frowned on because you've got children. I also didn't appreciate the other side of the coin till I had some!

Again this company I work for have such a flexible attitude it should be adopted everywhere. It certainly keeps staff (fairly) happy. And because they work flexi time it works for everyone.

Sue xx

Anne Brooke said...

Sorry, but I still really don't accept the argument that because children are hard work then allowances should be made. Children are a life choice just like any other - if you choose that life, then you have to take the rough with the smooth. Much like writing a novel really - there are good days and bad days.

And I partially agree with Sue's flexible time thing, but think we should go all the way - if women who want to get pregnant don't have to wait a few years to have a child in order to get the time off, then why should non-child bearing people have to wait for their enjoyment either?

Yes, I know I'm a hardliner and don't see having a child as anything more special than any other life choice, but that's the way it is!


Jackie Luben said...

What an interesting discussion. I never went back to (paid) work after my children were born, because I couldn't see how I could possibly do the juggling required. My daughter in law returned to work when each of the children was five months old. She found this very hard, and would willingly have stayed with them, if she could have afforded to. Women, often reluctantly, feel obliged to return to work, otherwise they will lose their place on the career ladder. But industry, commerce, etc. also needs these people to return, otherwise they are constantly training people who they will very soon lose. It is in the interest of the country not to lose valuable people from the workplace, and it is also in the interest of the country to ensure that women are fit to work and their babies are not abandoned at this most crucial time of their lives.

In addition, having a baby is equivalent to a major operation, and you would hope that in a civilised society, people would be given time to recover from their sickness.

I don't think any employer would willingly give out more holidays than they were required to do, and they're not particularly happy about maternity leave either.

Anne Brooke said...

Yes, you're right, Jackie - shame some employers do still see pregnancy as a sickness though - I'm sure my last employer used to see it this way, according to my friends from there who are mothers!!