Now that I'm back on the freelance trail again, the emails on spec have been going out to contacts, programmers and the generally powerful who can make sure I eat and clothe myself for the next few months by putting me behind their microphones.
So far so good - 96.6 TFM (the Teesside station which was fab to me last year) has given me some Christmas and New Year cover and I'll be on Pure FM in Stockport more often over the festive period too.
Many of us seated around this particular table at Blogland are freelancers in our fields, for whom life revolves around gaining a decent enough reputation in order for the offers and commissions to float in. Although the driving at times knocked my pan out (you haven't lived until you've pulled in to an M42 layby at 8am and slept for three hours while the rush hour rages past you), the variety of work and the feeling of being wanted (we all love that) made it all worthwhile.
This is something I wrote on Media UK's forums on 30th December 2005, having just done an impossible week of non-stop driving, sleeping and broadcasting...
What fun I’ve had. Maybe this could be of interest…
Years ago, when I was a kiddy beginner at Hallam FM, I was doing some seat-of-your-pants mid-morning cover and Tony Howard, ex-Capital and top bloke whom I’d got to know a bit through being on at the same time as him at weekends, walked in to do his last day of cover on Magic AM’s afternoon shift.
Tony was his ever-pleasant self and said hi, but he looked knackered. He was unkempt, unshaven and baggy-eyed. A feature duly appeared in Radio magazine the following week about the reason for this; as well as afternoons in Sheffield that week, he was also doing breakfast in Carlisle and lates somewhere else The rest of the time he was either driving his car or sleeping in it.
This is the week I’m now having. It’s only (ha ha ha - only??) two gigs a day rather than Tony’s three - overnights in Gateshead, drivetime in Sheffield, but the distance between the two cities and the fact I live in Hull and therefore have no practical reason for going home means that I’ve been reclining my driver’s seat in some Little Chef car park on the A1 somewhere, twice a day, for three hours at a time. This will end later today (Fri) when I’ll go home, shattered but somehow with a sense of achievement, after completing my last booked gig in Sheffield.
The plan initially was to borrow the flat in Scarborough currently occupied by Media UK’s own champion beard-stroker Wesley Mallin and deploy it as a halfway house, but the exacerbation caused by the weather, which made every A-road out of Scarborough undriveable, put an abrupt halt to this plan. I vacated Wesley’s premises on Wednesday morning and took to the road for accommodation instead.
It’s actually been fun in many ways, although I’ve no doubt that I absolutely stink and the now well-documented lack of gritting on the lesser A-roads in the north east have made the journey to and from Century more tough at times, although the A1 and A19 were fine.
I’ve done ablutions and clothing changes in service stations and radio station washroom facilities, and have only had one tumultuously tired spell at the wheel without time to stop (that was after attending a football match on Wednesday night instead of kipping, a decision vindicated by a fine 2-0 win). I already knew the A1 pretty well - now I can about reel it off by heart - and the real joy of working with Scott Makin again in Gateshead while also being back at Herries Road and talking up Howard Pressman’s show (is it 1997 again?) on Magic, albeit for just four days, has made any uncomfortable spells more than worthwhile. On top of that, the shows have gone well (subjective of course - let’s see if I’m asked back…) and there’s naturally a few quid to claim.
When I went freelance - not through choice - back in May, I wondered what lay ahead for me. The year’s actually turned out pretty well and this week’s eventful, eye-opening (paradox?), semi-sacrificial experiences actually come highly recommended, provided you can cope with your paranoia about personal hygiene and keep the engine running to provide heating for your sleepy spells while the world rages at -5c outside. The taxman will help you recompense Mr Esso for the fuel.
I’m naturally aware that there will be barren weeks ahead when regular jocks return from their Christmas breaks, but I’m ready for a rest, actually. That might not come as a surprise to you all…
My wife-to-be, my own bed, my shower and my Bassets await me at about 8pm tonight (Fri) as I depart Sheffield and head back, finally, to my lovely home east of Hull. I’m ready for them! Then it’s a ten hour club gig to bring in the New Year… *yawn*…
Much has changed in the nigh on three years since that wild week. There are now more radio stations that are either networking or voicetracking their off-peak output, thereby negating the need not only for holiday relief or locum jocks like me, but for the regular jock I'd have been depping for in the first place. That means there are more of us scratching around for the spare shifts than ever before, and so any work I get will be as much about timing as it is about ability. Wish me luck.