Friday, 12.40pm, sitting on a wall outside a BMW dealership in Hull, South Yorkshire. There’s ten minutes to go before what seems an appropriate time to walk in to reception at the packaging pre press company next door.
I have flown over from Dublin at the crack of dawn for a 1 o’clock appointment with the production manager at Britain’s largest flexo plate manufacturer. I am here for an interview for a retouching position, the job I used to do before trying to make it as a cabinet maker.
Sun’s out. Never been to Hull before, it’s nothing like the shithole I imagined it to be. Full of grand, historical buildings, with a rich maritime history. I chuckled coming out of the train station, right opposite is a large, unashamed shopfront for a sex shop you can’t see into. It’s a far cry from where I live in Ireland, a grocery shop, two pubs and more cows to be seen than people.
So I’m killing time, I’ve already been in the Café down the road to compose myself. First time I’ve ever been in a place where you can order a ‘Cup-a-Soup’. Go back to the wall corralling the Beemers, next door to the packaging place. Palms a little sweaty, I look at the backs of my hands and count the cuts, little nicks that are part and parcel of this life, trying to make a living from woodworking. 13 Cuts, no major bleeders, just the little scrapes from last weeks exertions, ripping up a floor and laying a new one.
Do I want to do this anymore?
The meeting goes well, I manage to get through an intensive interrogation by the colour manager without cracking.
It was a long time ago that I did all that stuff, but it seems like only yesterday. I get the grand tour, I normally wouldn’t use the word ‘awesome’, but it is the only way I can describe this place. A sea of Mac operators producing artwork and plate ready files for the biggest brands in the business. I worked hard to get where I was before, but then that company closed down, a victim of devaluation, dollar vs euro. I spent my redundancy on a workshop and van to make furniture and do woodworking.
It hasn’t worked out that well though.
The first two years before the banking crisis were the best, with work lined up at one point five months ahead of me. Now it’s up and down, but mostly down. The wardrobe I finished last week has been the only furniture project of 2014, prior to that was just a couple of weeks work painting and decorating and laying an oak floor.
They offered me the job anyway. The pay is good, healthcare and pension, steady income and security in an industry I used to love being part of.
Do I want to do this again?
On the plus side, there’s a good income, I’m sick of having no money in my pocket, the orange fuel light blinks up at me far too often in the van. How nice it would be to swipe in in the morning and swipe out at night, paid for every minute I’m there, time and a half too after 37.5 hrs, a long time since I had that luxury.
The down side is having to jet off and find a place to live, leaving my family and home for two weeks at a time.
I never imagined it would come to this.
What to do, what to do…