Friday, 21 November 2008

Stuff the job!

Well, dear reader, I resigned.
Or rather, I decided not to sign the contract they finally managed to send me from the college. Same thing really.
You may remember we've been waiting all term for our shiny new contracts with a number of hours to be filled during the academic year, and a monthly salary, and - we were led to believe - an hourly pay rise. For the last few years I've been working there the tutors have actually told us to claim for more hours than we're doing, because the pay is so abysmal. That was one of the major reasons for sorting it all out and going on contract instead of monthly claim forms. At least I thought it was.
I got home from a full day yesterday to find a large envelope from the college. It contained yet another police Disclosure form to fill in, a pair of forms relating to the pension scheme and how to opt out of it, and two copies of our contract to be signed. I would be expected to do 105 hours over the year (I've already done 60 of those this term) - at exactly the same rate as before, £7.34 an hour.
I was dismayed.
I considered how much I have paid out in petrol already this term - £4-5 per round trip depending on pump price, often twice a week. I revisited the work I've turned down at £10/hr, and even £12/hr, because I have been prioritising this one as my 'main job'. I wondered whether it was appropriate to feel angry and let down, rehearsing arguments until 2am. Even Adult Learning and Leisure pay over £8/hr, PLUS travel costs, and they're considered stingy...
And I crawled out of bed this morning, showered, left at 8.20 am to get there by 9am for an hour and a half session, thinking 'I'll be home by 11.15 if I'm lucky, charge them for 2 hours, that's still under £15, petrol costs of £4 - is this worth it? I think not.'
Went to see the Head of Department straight from work. He's not in until the afternoon. So wrote him a letter and left it with all their forms returned. I said I'd honour the bookings already made unless they can find anyone else to cover them - I like to be professional even if it's against my interests - but will not be signing the contract or returning next term.
So there.
It's hard work valuing myself, but I'm getting there, gradually.
I was in tears on the way home.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Ah, more relaxed thank you...

...due to a (free) shiatsu session lasting over an hour, from a friend who's in training and needs people to practice on. She comes to my poetry course on Tuesdays.
This week was more manageable, but I still had to lie down for a long time yesterday, after four hours working at the private school, two hours choir and another two hours in town catching up with an old friend and going to the preview of an Art exhibition. It reminded me of how Chronic Fatigue felt, and I don't want to go there again.
I did have to go in for periods 1&2 this morning, but I've found a friend (from choir) who should be able to do Friday mornings for them now. I'll be back working at the college from next week anyway.
The first double period on a Thursday morning is with a different tutor, teaching BTech Art rather than A level. She's enthusiastic, friendly, dynamic and inspiring, and had them drawing lots of quick poses and even a moving series (I was walking around the big table, slowly) right from the start. The second week was a 'measuring' intensive with longer poses, and all the students said Thank You to me again at the end. The main tutor (Head of Art) always refers to me as 'the model', not by name, and talks about 'the hips, the breasts' etc. I feel dehumanised, somehow, and it's hard to connect with the students in his classes. Maybe that's the idea. Can't have impressionable young things from moneyed backgrounds fraternising with the model now, can we?
Anyway, the Adult Learning classes are a delight in comparison. I mean, exposing my 48 year old body to other mature adults (especially the retired gentlemen) is considerably more flattering than the unspoken but unmistakable Yuk reaction of teens who probably equate me with their mothers... in fact I have two children older than them myself. The Adult classes are chatty, we have a laugh, and everyone apologises for how they've depicted me (it really doesn't bother me, I can't draw for toffee myself so anything they do is better than my own attempt would be). This week the tutor had a 'crib sheet' printed out on cardboard which they were all supposed to attach to the tops of their easels. As she went through it I mimed the things she told them to watch out for (angles of rib cage and hips, negative shapes, weight on one foot, overall shape of pose on the paper etc) and by the second class I added the aircraft gestures for emergency exits; we made a passable comedy double act. Unfortunately I won't see them again as she's booked other models for the remaining three weeks. The upside is that I can send my monthly claim sheets in today and might even get paid by the end of the month, that would be very useful. (Don't mention the C word, please).
My shiatsu therapist told me she's doing some modelling in a couple of weeks, for a private Friday morning group in a village hall which I've done before. She asked for some tips, as she's new to this. I told her to think of it as yoga, count breaths, relax every muscle which doesn't have to be used, and don't do a pose with arms above the head for longer than ten minutes. Most of it is a matter of experience, learning what artists want and like, and how your body feels comfortable for long periods. I forgot to tell her to stretch lots in-between, but I'm sure she'll work that out for herself. I'm waiting to compare notes with my choir friend after her first session at the private school too.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Time to slow down

OK, I've been doing too much and I have to cut down.
It was really hard to get up this morning (Sunday) to be at my friend's for 9.30 am to do some video of us performing poetry - they all said 'Are you all right?'
So now I know that 6 different jobs in a week is too much, especially when added to a day for my Diploma course, teaching my own course Tues eve, a gym session, a 2-hour choir rehearsal and a poets meeting. Oh, and the usual mothering stuff of course. Plus going to visit a dear friend for 24 hours because she's in pain and can't get out much.
The first 2 jobs were fine, Adult Learning classes, I like the tutor (she plays music in the sessions) and it was the same format for both. The 2nd was in a new town and venue, just a little bit too far for me to travel though. Thursday was a very long day, 4 hours at the private school with an early start, then another 2 1/2 that evening for an untutored group of artists. They booked me months ago, and it was cash in hand, but again a longish drive and I wasn't back home until 10.15 pm.
Friday morning was supposed to be my slow morning, but the private school secretary had phoned in a panic on Thursday afternoon saying their other model had let them down, and could I possibly do periods 1 & 2 for them? Reluctantly, I dragged myself over there to start work before 9am, heading straight off afterwards to do 5 hours for the degree students at the college. At least they were kind to me! It was my last session for them, and I asked the tutor what was happening about my monthly salary, because I still have no idea when I'm getting paid, or how much, and I'm really out of pocket now with all the money I keep spending on petrol...
'It's all in hand,' he assured me.
So pretty grumpy today. I need time off and I need some money. Unfortunately the two rarely go together.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

A bloody nuisance

If you're male, or particularly squeamish, you may not want to read this post. It gets a bit bloody.
It's half term for most of us, but not for the prestigious private school a mere few miles away, who had booked me for Thurs and Fri morning this week from 8.45-12.30. 'There'll be breaks,' she said, 'and we'll pay you for four hours.' They have someone else for the other Fridays which I can't do because of my college work, but I'll be doing Thurs mornings for them until the end of term. Cash work, ie it goes into my self-employed accounts with invoices, greatly appreciated.
Two days before starting the Arts secretary phoned me again and said I didn't need to come in until 11.00 on the first day 'but we'll pay you the four hours, as agreed.' OK, no complaints my end.
As it happened, it was just as well I didn't have to be there early. I woke up to find my period had just started, unexpectedly and without warning. And I'd run out of tampons. So at least I had time to call in a supermarket on the way and stock up.
The class were Lower Sixth and it was their first time with a life model. The Secretary flapped around worrying that it was too cold in the room for me - the sudden cold snap had caught them on the hop, heating repairs or something - so I assured her that I'd worked in colder situations before and that I'd cope with the fan heater.
The room has changed since the last time I worked there, some years back. They now have a large roughly oval table-cum-bench in the centre of the room, with lots of drawers beneath it, and the easels set up all around. 'I've got you a duvet,' she said proudly, 'and some clean sheets from Housekeeping.' (It's a boarding school with local day pupils too). I changed in the girls toilets and sat on the edge of the table in my dressing gown, watching the students file in and waiting for the tutor to arrive.
He's very 'old school'. And the whole focus of the class and his teaching is on pleasing the A-level examiners. So no friendly chat, no introducing the model by name, everyone called him Sir and they were straight into a whole double session of ten minute poses, outline only, no details, using pencil on A3 or A2 paper. The girls seem to be terribly thin and the boys have bizarrely-gelled 'windswept' hairstyles. I don't really enjoy this particular job, but there is a lot of good art-work to look at, and from my vantage point on the tables I can see the tops of some glorious Autumnal trees (oak and beech I think), and a Scots pine. I concentrated on staring out of the window and let the students get used to seeing and drawing a naked woman their mothers' age. It's always a shock to start with.
By the end of the session I was indeed freezing, it took me the rest of the day to warm up again, and the news was full of the freak hailstorm and floods in a Devon village not 100 miles from here. My oldest daughter was trying to get home by train and kept texting me to apologise for further delays, cancellations and re-routings.
That night I was bleeding heavily and had to keep getting up for loo visits. On Friday I was in the Arts office all changed and ready to work before 9am, but just as the tutor came to collect me I felt a drip on my leg - it was bright red. Panic stations. I told him I'd just nip to the loo on my way over, and hastily stuffed a second tampon in over the first - not recommended, girls, but needs must in this case.
I spent the whole double period (no pun intended) hoping I wouldn't leak onto their nice clean sheets, while doing exactly the same ten-minute poses as the day before but for a different class. This time I asked for an extension lead and put the fan heater on the table with me. Much warmer.
Back to the Arts office to make myself coffee, and the Secretary agreed to pay me monthly by invoice, asking the tutor to sign a chitty so she could go and get the cash. I thought I might have a whole hour's break before the next class, if it was indeed going to run, but no. Suddenly the tutor re-appeared and said, 'Right, the Upper Sixth have decided they do need some more life drawings in their portfolios.' And off I went to fill in the second half of their single period with yet more ten minute poses.
Then it was the real break - but I could go home now they said. 'Sorry we're still working out the sessions...' said the tutor. 'Take the money and run,' advised the secretary.
I pocketed the eighty quid and lounged around the Art Exhibition downstairs instead - figure drawings, some from local artists I know. Great stuff.