Horrible phrase; Work Life Balance: redolent of our hectic modern lives and therefore a reminder of it. This last year, though, has for me been characterised by a struggle to maintain some kind of equilibrium between my work and my life; more specifically, my work and my fishing.
On February 20th last year I began a three week work placement at a location in the Cotswolds. At the time I thought little of it. Getting there meant an hour's commute each way, but my firm provided a car and were paying me for the travel time, and it was only three weeks. I'm still there.
The client must like the cut of my jib as they've extended the contract again and again and the original three weeks has become almost a year. As a result the conflicting interests of the need to earn a decent living against doing the things one actually enjoys has, for the first time in my working life, become an issue. On the one hand there are the undoubted benefits of my current situation; principally the experience I'm gaining from the work, the vast sums of money it's generating for my firm, and the modest pay rise they've granted me as a result. The downside, however, is the time it's taking out of my life.
I've never been a career-oriented person. I've never had a job any real distance from my home. My current 'commute' (when I'm not sent elsewhere by my firm) is a seven minute bike ride. over the years I've known colleagues who travelled what seemed to me to be inordinate distances to their jobs. Sometimes the reasons were obvious - big salaries, a dearth of local employment - sometimes the motivation has been more difficult to discern. One thing common to all of them was the amount of commute-related whinging they did. It appears that I have now become one of them.
I mentioned earlier that I am regularly sent to work in other places in the country. This is an aspect of my job that, generally, I enjoy. We are put up in hotels or rented accommodation and it's an opportunity to get to know - and fish - unfamiliar territory. The current contract's relative proximity to home, however, means a commute, and the resulting 12 hour day.
Throughout the summer the placement was a boon, fishing-wise. Last year was my first as a member of a club offering fly-fishing on the Windrush, Coln, Leach, Dickler and Glyme among others. As Spring approached I realised that I'd be working within a shortish cast of many of the beats now available to me. This meant that I could fish after work on the way home. If I had been in my office I would have had to hoof it up the A40 in rush hour. This was a good thing. I enjoyed many a pleasant evening's fishing without incurring travel expenditure, which would have been not insubstantial. Initial hopes of a few week's 'free' fishing, as it were, grew into the reality of an entire season sans travel costs. Indeed, I was able to fish these lovely streams much more often than would otherwise have been the case.
It got better: the club allows coarse fishing outside the fly fishing season and I took advantage. The results were disappointing though, catches mainly consisting of out-of-season trout. Although there were some good fish - a couple of four pounders amongst them - the ease of their capture on trotted bread or maggot served only to underline the lack of success I had trying to trick such monsters on the dry fly earlier in the year. Additionally, there was the nagging sense of unsporting behaviour at catching fish out of season, so I haven't fished there since late Autumn.
The upshot of all of this is that I haven't fished nearly as much through this winter as I would have wished. For lightweights such as me there's no after-work fishing at this time of year and, frankly, I've been too tired after getting home to do much more than pour a large one, have a bath, eat dinner, and so to bed. The weekends, too, have proved problematic. Chores I would normally do during the week get rescheduled as weekend jobs, leaving little time for piscatorial activity. Further, there's been the weather, which has conspired to be foul at all the wrong times, namely weekends. The fishing on my side of the Cotswold escarpment consists largely of Big River and it's tributaries, all of which have been off limits to all but the most reckless anglers for weeks.
The current contract has another 20 days to run, but that means nothing. Last time it was extended on the afternoon of my final day and with the winning post in sight. Who knows? perhaps I'll get another travel-free season out of it...
In the meantime, though, I've booked a day's leave on Monday and I will go fishing even if conditions are bad. I'm missing the smell of winter riverbanks and I'm in need of a dose of chub slime.