Almost 2 months into my contract – an overview


In a change from the usual stuff I broadcast on here, here’s my “mini-review” of the first 7.5 weeks of my second contract role.

It’s been a steep learning curve in the current role but it’s been a good experience so far. Lots of my skills are being used on a regular basis (esp. Excel and Visio) which I’m glad that I’d used (and abused) in previous roles and/or whatever I’d picked up at home via online training and being self-taught. The space taken up in my head with the knowledge of previous software packages are slowly being erased to make room for the new systems that I have to learn about :)


The long and very hot summer has meant that I’ve been able to walk to/from work each day and I’m getting used to planning my weekly working times so that I can leave early on a Friday and get back to Stockport at a useful hour.

Especially if it’s a “Foodie Friday” date as I then put in some extra overtime during Monday through to Thursday to ensure that I can leave around lunchtime and get back home even earlier. All that’s left to do then is bung the week’s worth of clothes in the washing machine and be waiting in the Remedy bar before 5pm for the other half and various ex-colleagues to turn up. It’s these little things in life that are worth looking forward to when you’re ~160+ miles away :)

It’s not all been plain sailing though. There’s still a few things that I’m still finding odd and/or difficult to get my head around:

a) Living in the countryside for 4-5 nights a week. The B&B I stay in is great but if it wasn’t for the earplugs, I couldn’t sleep with the windows open at all, even in this heat. I miss and can generally sleep through the city-type noises – such as police cars whizzing along the A6 in the early hours.

However, down here in the countryside, it’s the numerous forms of wildlife letting me know that they’re active and, if they’re awake, why aren’t I?

The plus point is that I have my camera down here and I take it out occasionally and get some really nice nature-themed pictures to upload onto Instagram. I keep seeing a red kite (at least I think that’s what it is) circling the fields from time to time. Although this one seems rather skilled in detecting if I have my camera: if not, I miss all kinds of long lens shots of it circling around looking for hares. It seems to save these views for when I only have my non-optical zoom phone-based camera with me.

I’ve seen the aftermath of its kills from time to time: I’m just glad I’m too big a meal for it :)

b) The B&B I stay at is part of a dairy farm. Lots of cows = lots of manure and the “oh my god what is *that* smell” attacks on my nasal passages once in a while. I thought one week that I’d missed being overwhelmed as I saw the tractor heading down the road. Attached to it was a huge trailer full of manure, so much that it was overflowing onto the road. This ensured that there was an overpowering whiff, but breathing through my mouth got me past that. Until I got to the front of the dairy farm and *another* tractor was about to leave with another trailer-full. I nearly hughied-and-ralphed there and then! The “townie gene” is still going strong in my veins.

c) Local pubs (for local people). My first ever night at the B&B was the day before my starting date. I walked into the local village with my camera, taking shots of this and that (as amateur snappers do) and I got the first pub (out of two in the village) and went in for a pint. Cue the locals staring at me.

It was a red-hot evening, so to save any more staring, I sat outside the bar, under the shade and supped away. Then I heard the local “comedian” shout out “Hey, have you seen Father Christmas outside in the shade!”. Suffice to say that was the last time I’ll venture into that pub.

Instead, every Wednesday, myself and a couple of other contractor colleagues go to the other pub in the village and enjoy the offerings there. A local business turns up with their portable pizza oven and that makes a nice change from the various Mug-Shot “meals” I’ve been having whilst the funds dwindled away as I waited for my first pay-day ….

d) Not being paid at the end of a month is something I’ve got to get used to. After a decade of arranging all of my direct debits to come out on/just after the 28th of the month, I now have to remember to make sure that there are enough funds in my company account and that also I pay myself in time to cover it all.

If it wasn’t for my 3.5 week stint in Media City, I would have been up a particular (financial) creek without a paddle. Going from being out of work for near enough 4 months, through to having to work 6 weeks without any wage, would have been impossible. Also being able to pick up some much-needed Confluence working knowledge has helped me out a lot in the current role too. My thanks go to Auden for hiring me and enabling me to survive :)

End note:

This is all part of the learning curve for being self-employed and there will be, no doubt, many more hoops on the horizon for me to jump through.

However, the whole point of doing this is that (hopefully) I won’t have to return to being a permanent, under-appreciated, salaried staff member any time soon. Especially with some of my previous experiences that I definitely wouldn’t want to repeat, nor would I expect anyone else to have to put up with.

I still have my Redundo Tour t-shirt to remind me :)

Latest ISTC article now available – Creating User Forms (Part 3).

I’ve updated the ISTC articles page with my latest one which continues my article series covering the creation of user forms for your own VBA projects.

This is the article where I lay bare a form from my Word Toolbox and explain how it all works: from the initialisation of the form, through to the variable definitions and how it handles the interaction with the user. Whilst this sounds very grand, there’s less than 40 lines of actual code in the user form :-)

The next article will split into two separate sections: the first half will continue with the VBA user form controls as I’ll cover drop-down (aka combo) boxes. The other part of the article will be something special as it’s the Communicator’s 50th issue :)