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Deborah C Dooley Headshot

Proper Job

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I have never had one of these. A proper job, I mean.
If I was writing this piece for the Daily Mail, an opener like this would immediately provoke howls of derision, liberally laced with the imaginative terms 'benefit scrounger' and 'state handouts'. Righteous (and right wing) readers would read no further before signing in and signing up to a cocktail of scorn and bile, poured liberally into the online pages of this iconic publication.
Within the more liberal confines of the Huffington Post however, I feel secure in making this announcement, before qualifying it with the information that I have worked - often very hard - for the past thirty five years.
Leaving school at 15 was perhaps not the best idea. But hey, hindsight, as we know, makes us wise and in 1976, ditching French grammar and English verbs for the seductive appeal of a hot summer spent by a swimming pool, seemed like an obvious career choice. Three months and a deep tan later, the need to earn a crust kicked in and after years of waitressing, bartending, shop work, babysitting, house cleaning, house painting, teaching aerobics and mothering, I finally made a heady acquaintance with freelance writing and journalism.
Oh the joy of discovering that I could actually make a decent living from something I loved doing - and choose my working hours. That I need never miss a sports day or nativity play and that sometimes, when the sun shone, I could rush off to the beach. As long as I was prepared to burn the midnight oil, of course.
A few years ago, writing for a living gave way to opening a writers' retreat. An occupation that is not remotely proper, or even job-like. Irregular hours, packed with fun and interest and stuffed with nice food and wine. Madly sociable, fuelled by the need to entertain charming and interesting people, and offering the opportunity to continue my own writing. As demonstrated by this blog post.
Occasionally, I envy those with proper jobs. I understand that on or around the same date every month, an agreed amount of money appears in their bank accounts. And that when they are on holiday, that amount stays unwaveringly the same. Even when sickness strikes, those with a proper job receive some - a percentage, I think, of their wage. And rightly so. But despite all this, I know now that I will never have a proper job. It is too late for me - and to be frank, it appeals not one bit.
I have attempted, over the years, to lighten and sweeten the words 'proper job', by abbreviating them to a rather winsome pj.
'I've never had a pj,' I cry gaily, hoping vaguely that people will assume it's a kind of minor gynaecological disorder and carry on talking. Inevitably though, they make further enquiries and I am frequently saddened by the still common reaction to my lack of pj. All too often this euphemistic attempt falls firmly on its swiftly labelled work-shy face. (See opening paragraph.) Accordingly, for me the words 'proper job' have come to represent something which could be seen as a black spot in my life.
Imagine then my delight when, upon moving to Devon, I discovered that in this part of the country, the term 'proper job' is used to describe something different entirely from the daily grind.
Example, 'Proper job' - said with an approving nod and sometimes a broad smile as well.