In the UK, and probably other parts of the world, the terms “gardening leave” is used to describe the practice where an employee leaving a job is instructed to stay out of the office during the notice period. It is thought that the term was coined because the employee, legally unable to work during the notice period, would take up a hobby to pass the time, such as gardening.
But I also think it can be used to describe the time between jobs…
This is possibly the last day of my unemployment and my 3 months “gardening leave”. Since we arrived back in London seven (!) months ago I have been working as a consultant or on a freelance basis while seeking the next step in my career.
For those that know me, you will understand that I don’t deal with boredom very well. I need to be doing something – all the time. If I am not working, I am socialising or keeping busy with writing or travelling.
This year I have worked less than 3 weeks and devoted myself to finding a fulltime job, which seems to be a fulltime job in itself. But after the networking, numerous phone calls to recruitment companies, online searching and constantly updating my CV, there seemed to be a lot of time during the day that countless episodes of Friends just can’t fill. With no job I have no income. And since I have been in this situation in London previously, there are very few budget friendly activities that I can do in and around London that I haven’t already done.
But I am grateful for the time I have spent off work this year. It means that I have stepped up my game and done things that I never thought I would do.
Like develop my cooking skills. While my mother is a great cook and confident in the kitchen, I am a novice. Until recently, with the exception of Spaghetti Bolognese and nachos, my kitchen skills have been somewhat dismal. But with more time and patience I have started to get creative. Now, I can make a decent gluten free (yes, I am on the band wagon) sponge cake and I have perfected my version of a slow-cooked, Hungarian goulash.
But most bizarrely, I have been trying my hand at gardening and I think I like it. It’s finally spring in the UK, so the daffodils are out in full colour and it’s the perfect time to get the garden ready for summer.
We purchased a pitch fork, some hand spades, a couple of buckets, some lawn seed and several pairs of gardening gloves just to see what would happen. Over three days on two weekends, we worked in the garden, digging up weeds with roots over 40cm long and history like you have never seen before. From the amount of rubbish we binned and the antique items we unearthed, I would think that it has been at least six decades since someone cared for this garden.
We pruned back the apple trees, but left enough so that we can hopefully make some cider or desserts with the apples that will drop in the months to come. We dug up enough bricks and pavers in the earth to edge two garden beds. And I planted flowers in the garden beds that we created. We even sprinkled grass seed and have been watering diligently – and it’s finally paying off!
Despite the back breaking effort, every muscle in my body aching, the pigeons eating our grass seed and the sunburn (can you believe I got sunburnt in 7deg!), I look out over our (half) finished garden and I am proud of the work we have done (so far).
It turns out that sometimes living in London is not all about parties, musicals and pop up restaurants. Perhaps we are beyond the grown-up-gap-year. Could it be that we are growing up and putting down roots, just a little?
Nah, it’s not all about settling down.
We have been enjoying our time in London, like celebrating the Persian New Year last week with friends.
Last weekend we spent two days on the South Coast exploring the Portsmouth where the first fleet departed to Australia in 1787 and treating ourselves to some delicious meals.
But with my first day of my new contact starting next week, there is nothing left to do but wait for the grass to grow (not entertaining at all), by a cider press, and work out how much we can get on eBay for our recently acquired Victorian rope edge garden tiles made by Doulton in the early part of last century…