Monthly Archives: June 2017

The future of work

Ronnie runs June 2017


Can it be that my regular dose of the much-vaunted runner’s high makes me believe in a green-tinted utopia?

Possibly, but in these scary and frankly unstable (whatever Mrs May say) days leading up to the election I would rather be researching modern utopias than impending dystopia, which is why the Green Party manifesto is the only one I really want to read and believe.

The case for a universal basic income, which Caroline Lucas explained neatly a year or so ago, makes a welcome second appearance in the manifesto, and would suit me down to the ground.

As a self-employed writer and editor, my career hit the buffers during the credit crunch, when the work dried up, and the little work I could find was paying me roughly 60% less (sometimes I was offered no money at all, just expenses) than I was paid pre-crunch.

So I did that retraining thing, working as an assistant in a school sixth form for a few years, while keeping on writing about running and fitness, then took the plunge and secured myself a (very mature) student loan to qualify as a personal trainer. I reckoned that working to inspire people to love what you love would be a job made in heaven.

(although some people really HATE running, and come to me for personal training with nebulous goals to lose a bit of weight and become ‘more toned’ while insisting they don’t want to use the most obvious means to do so, but that’s another story).

My coaches on the personal training course told me I could earn fantastic money as a personal trainer – particularly if I trained rich people for seven hours a day and charged them the going central London rate of £50/hour.

The only problem being I’m not very good at asking people for money, and I cannot charge Lewisham folk that much, and training others for seven hours a day means I can’t do much of my own training.

So I work far less often, charge less, but still pay the bills with my coaching work and a little bit of writing and reviewing and ducking and diving. And it’s do-able, provided my trips to Berlin to see grandson Charlie Catford (and the odd overseas marathon!) are my only luxury.

If I were paid the basic income, though, I would train people and charge nothing. I would volunteer more for my athletics club. I would work at FoodCycle and other local community concerns, like the people who wander the River Ravensbourne in waders pulling out shopping trolleys and old computers. And I would lead more walking/running/fitness groups to improve participants’ mental health. In short, I would make sure I really earned my basic wage.

Yes, I suppose it is all a bit idealistic. And a superannuated Pollyanna like me probably has no business greenwashing in her blog like this, when so many young people cannot get on the housing ladder and feel obliged to work as account managers for ghastly big corporations for £40k/year so that they can save for a deposit. I would love to see a pilot scheme for the universal basic income launch in this country, though (there’s one ongoing in Finland, I believe), and see if it would reduce the stress borne of applying for benefits and justifying your need to do so. Would carers feel better able to care? Would charitable organisations benefit from a new influx of volunteers keen to do something worthwhile, not just toiling for a wage packet?

It would be fascinating to see outdated attitudes to work/life balance and the toll such attitudes take on mental health be properly addressed by a political party, but I live in a safe Labour seat, and though the Labour party considered the universal basic income, they didn’t run with it.

I’m happy to report though, that our Labour candidate Heidi Alexander, does run with us, giving up half an hour of her precious time to Hillyfields parkrun once in a while, and I can only hope she feels the runner’s high when she does so.

My own last brush with that high came at last Thursday’s Assembly League 5k in Battersea Park, which I enjoyed greatly (as is evident from the picture), even though my time suggested rather more leisurely running than the energy I expended.

It was a cheap night out: cycled there, cycled back, paid £1 for my race entry and dined on a pint of ale and a packet of ready salted. My basic income can definitely cover a great night out like that.