3 August 2013

That’s no way to make a living

So, I jumped ship. Decided that the 9-5 wasn’t for me (although let’s be honest it was 9-6 and then some). Freelance, that’s the way to go.

My first contract was a short bus ride away or a 40-45 minute walk. I usually walked. This meant that for the first few months of this year I wasn’t reading on my daily commute. For the previous couple of years I’d been able to get 15-20 minute per journey, 40 minutes a day, now I was down to nothing. It’s very easy to let it slip away. At the moment I’m in West London, a bus and two tube journeys give me around 60 minutes a day to dedicate to the Kindle and maybe sneak in 20 minutes at lunchtime in the park near J M Barrie’s house.

This causes me a dilemma; I have to work, no work, no money and I need money to survive, pay bills, pay the mortgage, buy food etc. There are no rich uncles in the background with an unexpected legacy to set me up for life, unlike the current mob running the country, who all could pack it in tomorrow and still have a comfortable life for the rest of their days, I’m on a treadmill; stop and I get thrown off.

Therefore, if I have to work then I want it to be as pleasurable as possible. So, when I’m offered a couple of contracts which coincide, I have to weigh up all the options: the work; the people; the environment; and… whether I’ll be able to read on my way in.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always read on the tube, it makes the journey seem quicker and when you get stuck or delayed it’s just an excuse to read another chapter, as long as you’ve not got the Kindle battery warning pop-up! I even take a book to football to read on the way and on the way back (I keep that quiet as we’re all drunken right-wing hooligans and I don’t want to spoil the stereotype).

In the past month or so I’ve been able to catch up on my to-read pile (the digital one at least) and only once have I got on the wrong Central Line train because I was concentrating on I, Claudius rather the destination, in the past I’ve missed stops and have to crossover and go back, I blame Charles Dickens for that.

Once upon a time, when a bit of bad planning together with broken down train left me on a platform with time to kill and no book, I had an idea: Railway Station Lending Libraries. Each station could have a few books which passengers could pick-up and drop back or even drop-off at a different station; the books would be replenished by donations from passengers as they passed through or from lost books left on trains. People like me could pick-up a book if faced with an unexpected delay and drop it off at my local station when I’d finished. I can’t see how to make money out of this idea so I’m not sure that TfL would be interested. But sidestepping the hawkers trying to force a free magazine or newspaper onto you and heading for the shelf of paperbacks has to be a much more pleasant way to start the day than a paper cup of coffee and yesterday’s gossip.


  1. What a fantastic idea. When I visit London my first tube ride is to Hatchard's and from then on I am all set for the rest of my visit (tube ride wise)... But books I cold just borrow in the tube ... for a membership fee? That sounds awesome. Imagine getting on the Picadilly at terminal 5, and I can read Neverwhere or Unlondon to mentally prepare me on my ride in! I'm in!

  2. The socialist in me would make it free, no membership, just pick up a book and away you go, books would get distributed around the network. I was thinking of holiday hotels where they have a room off reception which has a few books you could borrow and even leave behind...