30 March 2009

A lost day, or not fit to work

I skived off from work for a couple of days last week.

Thursday I just wasn't in the mood for work, so I pottered around the house instead and surfed the net, and just generally lazed. I did use some of the time productively, to berate my utilities company for not changing my meters - the previous tenants were on prepayment card meters, no use to me as I have epilepsy, and if I have a seizure then the credit runs out, I'll be cut off for hours before I'm well enough to go to the shop to buy a top-up for the gas or leccy. If the gas goes, I'll have no heating or hot water. If the electricity runs out, it's even worse, as the boiler needs electricity to power it, so I'd be left without heating, hot water and power. I've asked the utility company 8 times this year to change the meters, and told them 4 times I have a disability. Each time, I was told that as I'm disabled, special provision could be made. Unfortunately, the utility company still didn't bother to record my request for a meter change, or the fact that I'm disabled. My berating did produce a result - a date for the meter change - so I felt a bit better about skiving.

On Friday, I caught up with an email backlog, then lunched with a bunch of digerati colleagues and friends in town. A quick dash home for 2 hours to sift through more mail and the news, then I was off again to an NUJ meeting and I didn't get home till late.

So on Sunday, I settled at the PC with the aim of catching up on some of the work backlog. I managed to get several hours of solid copy-editing work done and was nearly at the end when I suddenly "weirded out". This is how I describe having a simple partial seizure. Not everyone's simple partial is the same. Mine generally involve feeling weird (and I really can't get more specific than that), with a horrible rushing sensation. I did what I always do - lie on the floor.

I do this for 2 reasons. 1) it's better than being at the desk in case it turns into a full-blown seizure and I come round to find QWERTYUIOP imprinted backwards on my forehead. Admittedly, this would be very rare for me, but why take the risk? 2) I usually throw up after a seizure and I definitely do not want to puke on my keyboard. Have you ever tried to clean vomit off one of the most complex components of a PC?

The SP lasted about 90 seconds. So far it's cost me 24 hours of my life.

I stayed on the floor for a good 10 minutes after the weirdness subsided. Then I tentatively got up and sat back at the computer. I abandoned work as my brain was too scrambled, but pottered on Twitter while waiting to see if I might still throw up, as I felt horribly nauseous. In the end, I wasn't sick, but I ate nothing for supper and I was so tired I went to bed at 9pm.

I managed 9 hours' sleep, but it was a restless 9 hours, with plenty of wakings, flinging the duvet off and on, and struggling to get comfortable. So I awoke this morning feeling a bit groggy.

- never mind, I thought, I'll be fine once I've had a cuppa and woken up a bit.

Ha ha! I spoke too soon. I felt even more exhausted as the day unfolded. Vague plans for a nap had to be abandoned as my desk editor sent back urgent chapter amends for the book I'm working on.

90 seconds - the only difference between a simple partial and a tonic-clonic seizure is that the former doesn't usually give you a post-ictal headache. But you still lose a whole day of your life recovering...

Another early night beckons.
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28 March 2009


Dear blog,

Once again I have neglected you. Please accept my sincere apology.

I wasn't ignoring you deliberately, honest. Most days, I've logged in and thought "I must blog later", then later arrived and usually I was too tired, or still working, or I'd forgotten what I wanted to say, even though I'd worked it out so elegantly in my head earlier on.

Then again, you could blame the evil Twitter zombies, who have sucked me in and have yet to spit me out. Time spent Twittering is time not spent blogging.

I promise to try harder.

Yours sincerely,

09 March 2009

Subbing - the debate rumbles on

I wonder if Roy Greenslade honestly still believes that newspapers and magazines don't need subeditors?

Judging by the high level of commentary circulating on the internet, he seems to be in a class of one.

Last week, Tim Luckhurst, a professor of journalism, made a cogent case for teaching subbing skills to every single student hack, as it would equip them with skills for life. I couldn't agree more. Practically every journo I know cheerfully admits that they'd hate to sub their own work, even when they feel they have the skills to sub others'.

The Press Gazette has been hot on Luckhurst's heels today. First it published the subs' howlers hit list, which tickled my funny bone. Every publication I've ever worked on kept one of these and, like the one mentioned in PG, it was usually very lengthy. Then PG printed another leaked rant by Simon Heffer, the Telegraph's "style guru" about the appalling number of errors appearing in copy (clearly, the Daily Dreadnought's subs' desk could do with some intensive training by Prof. Luckhurst!). I feel cheered that people care enough still to keep flagging up why publications cannot afford to ditch their subeditors.

Journalism.co.uk published a link to the copy editor's lament (courtesy of Common Sense Journalism). The song is a hoot and the lyrics are conveniently provided.

It's not just the press that needs skilled copy-editors. Many of my own clients are commercial organisations. Only today, I saved one from the potentially huge embarrassment of putting out a document that stated somewhere in the copy a reference to an "£18 billion pubic service programme".


Somehow, I think Greenslade is losing the fight here. Time to throw the towel in, Roy. You're never going to win this particular argument, expecially when your own blog is full of howlers.