Thursday, 3 June 2010

Weeks 33-35 (normal service to resume with another post tomorrow!)

(written Week 34)
Last Sunday, I said goodbye to Will for a few days when he drove to Marseilles for a work assignment. As much as I like my own company, I knew I was ready for his return when I actually enjoyed a 20-minute phone conversation with an employee from a mobile phone company.

Mobile phone lady: How are you today, Christina?
Me: Fine thanks. How are you?
Mobile phone lady: Good, thank you. How's your day going?
Me: Er ... yes, very well thanks. 

Will was due back on Thursday night but alas, I received a text from him that evening saying that he couldn't withdraw any money from his bank, meaning he was unable to pay for petrol and road tolls. Oh dear. After various frantic phone calls and money transfers which proved fruitless, it became clear that Will would be spending the night in his car.

The following day, I embarked on a mercy mission to Marseilles to secure his safe return with my trusty friend, Visa. This involved a 9-hour bus journey. It was all a bit of a rush and I just about had time to buy myself a bottle of water and a Twix before boarding.

Right, I said to myself as I settled into my seat. This journey is going to last nine hours and you only have a Twix to keep you going. Consume with caution!

I snaffled the entire thing before we had left Barcelona.

With the Twix taken care of, I spent the rest of the journey trying and failing to read my book, listening to the driver's choice of music - Haddaway, The Corrs, Spanish-sounding stuff - and looking at vineyards and the cities of Perpignan and Montpellier.

We finally rolled into Marseilles at 10pm on Friday night where I was greeted by a tired and hungry Will. I treated us to a McDonalds in the bus station, then we got in the car and drove straight back to Barcelona again. So just to clarify, I travelled 1000km in 18 hours to rescue my boyfriend from another night of sleeping in his car. I intend to use this as my Get Out of Jail Free card for some time to come.

The cleaning ladies make their presence known at a rally for workers' rights

(written yesterday)
        Imagine the look on a plumber’s face if he finished a job for you and you said “right, I’m happy with that, so send me your invoice and I’ll look into paying you around 45 days after I receive it. Unless I’m busy, or I make up some rule that says you have to wait longer.” You would, I think, end up with no water, and quite possibly a spanner where it wasn’t welcome.
                This, however, is exactly how the Finance People from publishing companies talk to freelancers: despite working for large organisations with high turnover, they’ll often hold off paying until they feel like it. I landed in Marseille the other week with three different companies owing me money, but none of them had paid on time. My meagre cash flow had dried up, and I had no money to buy petrol for the drive back to Barcelona. I also have no credit card. I ended up sleeping in my car twice and waiting under a flyover for 30 hours until Christina arrived with a working bank-card. She had to take the bus, a nine-hour journey.
               I know of one freelancer who tearfully phoned a company for whom she’d done a month’s work, begging to be paid (I believe she had invoiced some 6 weeks earlier) so that she could make her mortgage payment. I also happen to know that the finance director of that particular company had a rule that freelancers should not be paid if it meant the company going into the red at the end of the month, thereby saving the company the interest they’d have to pay if they went overdrawn. He probably earned five times what she did, and he put her home at risk to save a few quid. This is something a freelancer learns: finance people aren’t there to make sure you’re paid – they make sure you aren’t paid, or at least not until it’s convenient for them.
         What do finance people even do? I can see the need for an accountant, but what is the point of someone who takes six weeks to press a key to make a BACS payment? Wouldn’t a pigeon be more effective?
         Anyway, that’s why we haven’t posted in ages – I’ve gone insane with rage. I spent the last three weeks jumping up and down on the spot, my face a mask of beetroot-red apoplexy, screaming obscenities and punching myself in the nuts. It helps me to relax.

EDIT: I should just point out that it's only finance people I have a beef with. Editors and features editors are nice, hard-working people who are never any bother, and if it was up to the people who actually create the magazines, I'm sure they'd pay me bang on time. Please continue to commission me. Thanks. I love you.
Molasses and sugar in massive quantities. I want to get in there and muck about.

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