Musings on free time

With 9 weeks to go until Spawn of Harris is due, I’ve been musing on free time.

Since changing job last August from a 3 night a week youth worker to a 9-5 office jober, I’ve gained free time. It is amazing. I am also less tired at weekends. So I read more than I did. It is odd however, that other activities have reduced rather than increased.

What follows are some thoughts on what I might like to do, and what I have done in the past. All may be fantasy with baby on the way, but I often hear that it is important for both parents to have a hobby/ activity that they do for themselves.


Less so in the South West, but back in Peterborough I co-ran and hosted a very popular open mic poetry and drama night – A Pint of Poetry & A Dash of Drama. I also wrote and performed poetry for it. Every time I do some I mean to do more, and I have kept writing. I though moving closer to Bristol would make it easier to get involved in the spoken word scene, but I haven’t managed it yet…

I’m pretty sure that Yate doesn’t have an open mic poetry night (prove me wrong?) so maybe I could start one here?


There was a time, dear reader when I was a member of the UK Labour party, went to meetings at ward and city level. I’m not any more, and although making some encouraging noises, I don’t think I’m quite ready yet to rejoin – no least because they seemed to be constantly asking for money. My wife has suggested, and several friends have agreed that I might like to have a go at local politics myself, maybe as an independent. If I was to be elected to Yate Town Council there is a chance I could become mayor! I have however just missed the Annual Town Council meeting. It could be a very rewarding experience, or I could end up hearing about pot holes, dog poo and car parking issues. I hear that Town Councils actual have a lot of underused powers, but I think I need to be a bit more settled in this community first…

Trade Union Activity

As a youth worker I was very active in the Community & Youth Workers section of Unite the Union. Since making the switch to local authority, I have been less so. Building a branch is hard work, and again whilst a rewarding thing to do needs more than one person to really make it work. SO perhaps I need to find some like minded people at work…

Board Games

I love board games. I was a regular at Chippenham Board Games Club – they also have a Facebook group. I could carry on going there – it’s not that far away, or maybe it is time to start the Yate & Chipping Sodbury Board Game Club?


Exercise and everything! Sadly my Crohn’s and related issues have stopped me doing that for a while. One day…


See ‘Climbing’.


As well as being active in the union I supported the ChooseYouth movement – and there is no reason why I couldn’t make a return to that. I’ve also come across recently a wave of activism around Crohn’s & Ulcerative Colitis – for example the #getyourbellyout campaign – so could be time to get involved in some of that stuff?


I am also a lapsed CAMRA member. I do love real ale, but again the Crohn’s doesn’t like it that much. Maybe I should just go to the pub more…


So looking back it seems I was a very busy person – maybe I should just enjoy the calm before the storm. Cletus is coming, look busy!

Some thoughts on pay…


Photo from (Creative Commons)

This week it was agreed by the elected members at Wiltshire Council to raise the pay of senior managers (corporate directors and heads of service) by almost 16%. This meets a contractual obligation to pay staff the ‘national median salary’ and following a review it was found that this was not the case. See the article in the local press here.

Now, as a trade unionist and member of staff, you might expect me to not very happy with this. And some colleagues I’ve spoken to since it was announced are not happy, and it does feel a bit rubbish as those of us employed on NJC terms and conditions (the national negotiated terms and conditions for local government employees) have just had a 1% pay rise after 3 years of pay freeze. However, I am an optimist, and take some heart from the words of the council leader Jane Scott and other cabinet members.

1. They recognise that fewer people are going to be doing more work. There is a reorganisation going on at service head level. The rise will actually, when this is done, mean the senior staff bill is lower than it is currently. And that is true for all the staff at Wiltshire Council. We just lost 250 people! So that must apply to everyone.

2. They recognise that to keep and attract good people, you need to pay a competitive salary. Now whilst NJC terms are national, people need motivation to stay with the council at a time when we are having to work harder with fewer resources, and not go off to other big local employers, or start up their own ventures. 

3. The business plan backs growth and staff. The newly agreed business plan sets out to ‘To stimulate economic growth’ and ‘To develop the knowledge, skills, behaviours and leadership of our workforce’. And because local government workers are mainly employed where they live, and 52p in every £ paid in wages is spent in your local community, paying you local government staff more boost the local economy, 

So, there are fewer of us, so the wage bill will still be lower than before the cuts. We spend our money locally boosting the local economy and contributing to growth, and if you going to invest in people to make them better at what they do, then you want to keep them. A real terms 16% wage cut since 2008 has not been easy as the cost of living continues to rise for everyone (staff and managers). So as the consultation on the 2014 pay claim starts for union members let’s apply these principles of pay award for senior managers to all staff, and let Wiltshire Council lead the way in saying our staff matter, and the deserve to be paid a fair days wage for a fair days work when it goes to the Local Government Association (LGA). 

After all, if Everybody Matters, wouldn’t that be fair?

New Job

So a week ago I started a new job. I am now the CAF Coordinator (Gateway) for the same local authority. This has been a massive change for me, but it was a change that seemed to be necessary. 

Leaving Youth Work

The first big, and obvious change is that I am no longer a youth worker. That was not an easy decision to take, to move away from the job and profession I have done for 8 years. That I paid Durham University to train me in. A profession that I have fought to protect as a member of the Community & Youth Worker section of Unite the Union.

So had I become disillusioned? Discovered I was in a job I hate? Feared for the future? No. This was a very personal decision, and one that as time goes on and the impact becomes clearer feels less and less heavy inside. Let me explain.

Living with Crohn’s Disease

In February this year the diagnosis of my inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) was changed from ulcerative colitis to Crohn’s disease. Now both diseases attack the digestive tract, causing ulceration which can bleed and cause painful cramps and bouts of diarrhea, however ulcerative colitis is limited to the large bowel, whereas Crohn’s disease is limited to the large bowel (colon) – more information about both conditions is available from Crohn’s & Colitis UK. Now back in 2005 surgeons removed my colon, and although there have been residual issues with the bits of the body that are that tissue and this was mostly controlled with medication, potentially now I could have the cramping, bleeding and other ill effects from an a attack in any other part of my digestive tract. Hopefully the medication I am on will keep the risk of that to a minimum, but it did make me think about my lifestyle.

My Life as a Youth Worker

So in my youth work role I worked 3 evenings a week – so was finishing work at 21.15 – 21.45. It takes about 25 – 30 minutes for me to then drive home from where I was working. Then I needed to get dinner, unwind, and go to bed. Now on those days I tried not to go in until 2pm, and after a period of illness was instructed not to do what in youth work were called ‘3 session days’. That was good for me, but meant I sometimes missed stuff I wanted to do, or felt I needed to do to perform well at my job. I want to emphasise that this was about me, not my employer, who has been very supportive. So Monday – Wednesday I did late nights, then Thursday & Friday normal hours until 37 hours a week were done. The need to unwind though left me tired, sore and not up for doing much at the weekends. This was OK for a while, but long term was a strain on my relationship.

Healthy eating is something that is important to manage any health condition, as well as in life generally, and one of my other issues with the youth worker life style was that it was not conjusive to that. Now there are youth workers (and shift workers) out there who manage it – I didn’t.

So these factors, long term, added up and it was time for a change. In my next post I’ll tell you about what I have discovered since the new job started, including bathroom rotas, evenings and a social life in Chippenham…