|Posted by Mark Cantrell on July 27, 2017 at 3:35 PM|
Don't give up on the day job...
Mark Cantrell muses on the ironies of life and work. Back in June, he wasn't expecting to share something in common with the protagonist of his latest novel – then he found himself out of a job...
FATE, it seems, certainly has a sense of irony.
My day job came to an abrupt and unexpected end the day after June's general election. The company that had employed me for more than a decade was declared bust – so we were all redundant. Ouch! Since then it's been more than a month of Sundays; well, more like Mondays.
Redundancy, in itself, is hardly ironic. But this is. The last story I wrote for the Housing magazine website was about the former housing minister, Gavin Barwell, losing his job (his parliamentary seat for Croydon Central) – an hour or so later I lost my own job.
Barwell quickly landed another role, the jammy sod, working as chief of staff to the Prime Minister, Theresa May. Quite how long that one will last is anyone's guess, but for me it was a case of scraping the rust off the old job-hunting skills and ploughing on with the hard slog. Onwards and upwards, then; nil carborundum, no crying in the cheap seats, please!
There's another layer of irony to this sorry tale, though, and it's this: next month the independent small press, Inspired Quill (IQ) publishes my novel, Citizen Zero. August not only promises to hit prospective readers with an exciting new edition –far surpassing the version I self-published back in 2010 – it also marks the novel's paperback début. But that's enough of the gratuitous plugs.
Back to the irony: the novel's protagonist, David Mills, is unemployed and on the verge of sinking into the ranks of a destitute underclass known as 'zeros'. Then he's offered a chance to claw his way back into society, courtesy of the advanced virtual reality JobNet scheme. Of course, Citizen Zero is a dystopian science fiction thriller, so you know it's all going to go horribly wrong.
Well, now I’m currently a ‘zero’ myself, so I've got something in common with poor David, but hopefully that's as far as life is going to go in imitating art. I can't say I fancy the nightmare that's awaiting him in the novel. Well, it's fiction; I should be safe enough (touch wood). Meanwhile, back in the real world, it's a case of making the most of this unexpected interregnum.
For those that don't know, my last job was at Excel Publishing in Manchester (latterly Excel Media Solutions), writing (mainly) for a magazine covering the social housing industry. Yes, it could be as gritty as it sounds, writing about Britain's rather dystopian housing crisis, but for a hack attracted to social and political issues, it was pretty much right up my street.
The company's sudden closure was a sad end to a venture that had been ploughing its own eccentric furrow since 1991. Not just for those of us directly affected, either. There's already too few media publishing businesses in the North of England as it is. One less now, of course, but this isn't the time or the place to launch into an essay on industry diversity and plurality. Some other time, maybe.
Some might say the Excel was just too eccentric to survive in this day and age; maybe they're right, but its oddities and its oddball characters (some might well class me as one of them!) certainly made it an interesting place to work.
Looking back, I'd have to say the company's strengths were its weaknesses and its weaknesses were its strengths, but don't ask me to expand on that cryptic observation. It's more a gut reaction than a cerebral analysis.
For me, I gained a platform for my writing I certainly didn't expect to find, back in May 2006 when I first walked through the door to begin working for a B2B magazine publisher. In some respects, you might say I got more than I bargained for, but it offered me the scope to write social political commentary and some gritty issues-led journalism of the kind I have long been drawn towards.
So I guess I got a lot out of Excel, as a writer. But in the end, I don't think it was the writing that kept me there for so long. No, when it comes right down to it, it's people that make you want to stick around. So it was with Excel; there was a good crew in place and I was lucky to be part of it.
The individuals concerned know who they are (I hope) so I won't leave them red-faced by dropping names. Sadly, our little community is dispersed now. Such is life.
Businesses live and die, same as the rest of us. That's the way of things. For now, it's a matter of brushing up on my job-hunting skills. So, then, Yozzer, how did it go? Ah, yes: “Gizza job. I can do that!”
Catch me in the next chapter, then – and don't forget to buy my book!