Unfolding the crumpled map of my working life…

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This morning I shall be sitting down with a careers adviser to unfold the crumpled map of my working life.

A while back I wrote about offering advice on my daughter’s CV, and then wondering about my own list of things done and achieved (or not done and not achieved). A friendly footnote from a former colleague suggested taking my CV along to the National Careers Advice centre in York, so that’s what I am doing.

Curriculum vitae is Latin and translates roughly as “the course of life”; being suspicious of such foreign expressions, the Americans instead go for “resumé”.

According to the Oxford Dictionaries Online, a CV is “a brief account of a person’s education, qualifications, and previous occupations, typically sent with a job application”.

I had what amounted to the same job for 27 years, so my CV lay at the bottom of an unopened drawer for ages and there was a lot of dust to blow off when I first took the thing out again.

Thinking of my CV, and any deficiencies I may discover this morning, took me back to the original purpose of this ledge-bound blog. My idea was to chart my life post-redundancy, and that is what I have done, off and on, but there are only so many times you can point out that you no longer have a job you once used to love. The obvious retort to such splashing around in the self-pity puddle is to say: well go and get another one.

To date I have not been successful in that, although I have sold quite a few features now as a freelance. You see what I really wanted to do – what I still want to do – is earn a living from pushing words around; to write for a living seems just the thing, until you try it.

I have not given up on words yet, and don’t intend to until they give up on me. But I need a job, and can be found wandering around the internet mumbling “Gizza job” to editors like some latter-day Yosser Hughes with pretentions to being a writer of some sort or other.

What an era-defining phrase that was from Alan Bleasdale, writer of Boys From the Blackstuff – a flat echo in the big empty box that was the go-getting Thatcherite Eighties.

On the BBC Liverpool page, you will discover quite a lot about Blackstuff and Bleasdale, including the following: “When it was first shown on BBC Two on 10 October, 1982, Alan Bleasdale’s Boys from the Blackstuff made such an impact that it was swiftly repeated on BBC One nine weeks later. The drama, set in Liverpool, captured the public mood as rising unemployment began to bite across the country. Following the stories of five unemployed tarmac gang workers as they struggled to find work, the series won a BAFTA award for best drama series of 1982.”

I’d been a reporter for a couple of years then, and discovered that Bernard Hill, who played Yosser so memorably, lived in my south east London patch, so I interviewed him for a feature. A happy memory still to this day.

Blackstuff gangs used to roam around the streets, offering to cover people’s drives, as I recall; usually with a job lot of dodgy tar and grit. Perhaps I could consider going from door to door, saying: “Have you got any words you’d like laying anywhere?”

Working with words, stacking them on top of each other, is to me a satisfying occupation, but it’s not an occupation if it doesn’t pay. So let’s see what the careers adviser has to say about my CV.

I’ve just had another read and it seems okay, if not exactly like me; maybe that’s the point, to exaggerate and heighten, to lay a few lines of words until you stand a little taller. Although perhaps I should cross off that Pulitzer Prize, as I don’t think things that happen in dreams really count.


Footnote: Just return and the experience was better than expected, with useful advice delivered in a friendly manner.

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