Time for a change

I left my job today.

Since I graduated from university I have only ever worked for two companies, albeit in a lot of different roles that have included being a software developer, a business analyst, a business manager and a project, programme and portfolio manager, sometimes with multiple hats on at the same time. I feel very lucky to have started my career by landing in an amazing team and for all of the education and opportunities that then stemmed from this. Leaving my first company after 11 years in 2010 felt like a giant step — I remember worrying whether I was just good at working at that firm or whether I had value to offer more generally. My fears were soon allayed once I started and it gave me a massive confidence boost to know that I could make a switch to something new. I continued to learn, working with interesting people on challenging problems across a wide variety of different functions. The past seven years at this company were very different and it has been great to get access to senior people and a breadth of understanding of how an investment bank works, things that would be much harder to do in a larger firm.

As of tomorrow I will be working for myself for the first time, offering my services to clients as a portfolio, programme or project manager. I’ve always considered myself to be a very risk-averse person when it comes to employment so deciding to ‘go solo’ is a big change for me. I’m excited by the challenge — it will be motivating to be judged solely on how happy my clients are and whether I am continuing to add value to them. Over the past few weeks I have had to get to grips with small business accounting, insurances of many different kinds (both for my new small company as well as my family) and getting used to the idea of no longer being an employee. Hopefully I have everything covered and I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough if I haven’t. My new working life — and a new adventure — starts on Monday and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Rediscovered this tune recently. From 2:40 onwards all I can think about is Toe Jam and Earl. In a good way.

A little respect

Raiders tournament, June 2017

Berkhamsted Raiders tournament, June 2017

A couple of weekends ago I spent an entire Sunday sitting in a field watching my two young boys competing in the Berkhamsted Raiders football tournament which traditionally marks the end of our season. Raiders is a great club to be a part of — we have won FA and European recognition for the club, and particularly how it is run in the spirit of respect and fair play.

If you turn up at a match at our club you will always find someone has put up a ‘respect barrier’ rope along one of the lengths of the pitch, the idea being that the supporters from both teams stand behind this to watch the match. This gives the players, coaches and referee a bit of distance — a brilliant idea, particularly when the match is getting heated and temperatures are running high. It’s always the job of the home team to get the respect barrier up before the game. If the person putting it up has managed to untangle the rope and get the support poles into the frozen ground, an aerial view of it would look like this:

Typically when the supporters turn up they cluster at each end with people that they know. Here they are, eight supporters of each team closely watching the ball which is dangerously close to the goal on the left:

The problem with this setup, especially when the ball is close to the line near the respect barrier, is that not everyone can see. If the action is directly in front of you it’s fine but if you are at the other end of the pitch or even a few people deep, the angle to the ball means it becomes very hard to maintain a clear line of sight. Everyone is straining to see which only makes the situation worse:

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a solution to this problem! I’d love to take credit for it but it has to go to a fellow parent from another Raiders team who suggested it to me. Instead of having the respect barrier completely parallel to the length of the pitch, it can be configured in a ‘V’ shape as shown below:

Assuming that people don’t push so far forward that they strain or break the respect barrier (showing very little respect in the process), everyone at the front should then have a reasonable chance of seeing the action wherever it is on the pitch. Occasionally this can be difficult to do where one pitch sits alongside another one, however the ‘V’ doesn’t have to be very deep in order to have a massive impact on visibility:

Hopefully, armed with this knowledge we’ll be able to go into next season being able see even more on-pitch action than before. Well, at least at our home games.

One of the cats killed a jackdaw (😡) and all of its other jackdaw friends went Hitchcock-level crazy. As they should.

Mary MacLane

I stumbled across Mary MacLane’s first book on the Melville House Publishing website where it features as part of their Neversink Library series. Instead of picking that up, I discovered Human Days: A Mary MacLane Reader and bought it with the hope that it would give me all three of her books as well as historical context and commentary.

MacLane has been called ‘the first blogger’ and I think that this is a fitting description. Her first book, The Story of Mary MacLane (also known as I Await The Devil’s Coming) reads like an introspective LiveJournal, all meandering thoughts, feelings and rumination on her place in the world. Completely fascinating.

Whenever I pick up an old book I am regularly jarred by the contrast between my automatic assumption that it will be a difficult text and the reality of how readable and modern the thoughts and feelings of the author can be. When you look at pictures of MacLane it seems that she belongs to another world but upon reading her it feels as though she would not have been out of place whatsoever on an early blogging platform 100 years later.

The book is in equal parts compelling and frustrating. In retrospect, reading a ‘complete works’ in one go was probably the wrong thing to do. My initial excitement about her writing wore off somewhat when I read the articles she had published once her first book was a success. Her second book, My Friend Annabel Lee was much less enjoyable and felt more contrived — as I read it I could feel that this was someone who knowingly had an audience and was now performing in public.

I would have loved to have had more context and commentary about MacLane the person and her works, particularly at this point, but the text that had been added was very brief and devoid of detail. I appreciate that this addition could have added massively to the length of the book but I felt that as presented there was little advantage to buying all of the books together, unless you wanted to read all of her non-book articles as well.

By the time we got to her third book, I, Mary MacLane, it had started to feel like a bit of a slog. I was reading so much of her thoughts but felt I was learning so little; perhaps that was her intent. A couple of times I thought about stopping but as soon as I did so I would get hit by a brilliant chapter and be compelled to keep going. Highlights for me at this point were the following chapters, which are worth reading by anyone:

I regularly found myself going off to look up some of the names that she mentions, for example Theda Bara, a famous actress of her time but now tragically unwatched due to her films being largely lost in a 1937 fire. There are many of these rabbit holes to disappear down. At the end of the book I discovered an extensive notes section which I only wish was hyperlinked in the eBook so that I could have read them in real time — going back to notes on a chapter some 600 pages before was not that useful.

So, overall this is well worth picking up but be warned — for me this was like diving into the ‘director’s cut extended special edition’ when I wasn’t even sure if I was going to like the main feature in the first place.