Like many self employed dads comedian Tiernan Douieb saw his 2020 plans upended by coronavirus. Now he’s looking to the future, at the same time as managing a toddler.
I know everyone started running during the lockdown, but I’ve decided to wait until it was uncool before I gave it a go. I remember within seconds of everyone finding out they’d be trapped indoors for months on end, that suddenly our road was filled with people who’d magically pulled full running gear out of some lock-up that they’d been saving just in-case of a global pandemic. Whoosh, down the road they all wheezed, trying their best to not spread or catch the ‘rona by doing really big breathings all over the place.
Not me, I spent three months eating crisps and now I am happily on week four of the Couch to 5K, knowing full well that I’d be brilliantly equipped to run away from anyone or anything that pursued me as long as it took breaks after every three minutes and an American man shouted at me throughout.
My motivation for running? Mainly knowing that every second I’m doing a run, I’m not doing parenting or searching for work. I am literally running away from my problems. Even though I do often think that I could walk to the park then just stand very still under a tree instead of the actual exercise bit, but I’m concerned that would scare other families and the police would make me go home again.
It has taken me nearly five months to even begin to wrap my head around knowing the work that I do, or rather did, won’t be coming back anytime soon and so, I need to be looking for something else.
This isn’t particularly easy for me, not least because for what was probably the first time in my entire self-employed life as a jack of really stupid trades, I had a very secure diary for a whole year, full of things I was excited about doing and getting paid to do them. Turns out, absolutely none of those things were remotely virus proof.
The hard lesson I’ve learned is that I should’ve listened all along to some fellow clubbers at that rave in a car park somewhere in Kent, circa 1999, when they told me a boiler suit really suited me.
I’ve not had to look at, let alone rewrite my CV since 2007 when I sent it in for a temp job at Camden council that mainly involved people shouting at me. I only took because it allowed me the flexibility to say ‘I’m not coming in next week, I’ll be shouting jokes at people in Hull’. But now, after 13 years of getting work often based on the work I’d just done or people I’d already worked with, I’m not entirely sure how to apply for things anymore, especially in a post-coronavirus world where it seems everyone is doing the same thing.
What are my transferable skills? Well if you’re part of a large drunk stag do and you shout things at me, I’ll be able to very quickly put you down with a series of retorts that you’ll be too wasted to understand but everyone else will enjoy until you get too leary and security have to intervene. I am an expert at finding things about my own life funny. And if you need it, I’ve got a long list of the best service stations in the UK to stop at on the way home from a show at 3am.
Is any of that useful in any other industry? Job applications now want experience in a series of acronyms I have no understanding of. What’s FinTech? Armour for fish? I’m guessing an SEO is like a lower ranking CEO? And I’m sure B2B were a dance group in the 90’s.
Why does every online application form or site need you to retype your CV in a completely different way to everywhere else, in a box that reformats all your experience, so it looks like a frantic haiku? On one, I listed an annual event I used to host that included among other things working with city officials that I decided to specify. I hit return and suddenly it listed my job title as ‘chief of police’. Sure, I guess it’s higher ranking than a, er, sergeant of police, and it’ll get me a decent pension. But I can’t imagine they’ll be too pleased when I deal with a criminal by insulting their balaclava a few times and asking if they learned to rob banks in a helicopter.
On top of all this, I need to find something that, much like the self-employed privilege I had before, also allowed me to do childcare for my two-year-old daughter. She is a toddler that can puncture any focus with unbelievably efficient speed.
While I try to grapple with making anything I’ve done before sound remotely useful, she pipes up that a song on the radio must be by ‘Jeremy Raspberry’. Where has that name come from? Is it a new musician that I’m too out of the loop to understand? How will I be able to think about anything else today? Why are there chewed bits of apple peel on my leg? Why is the TV remote in the plant pot? And there you go, suddenly I have no recollection of what sentence I was typing beforehand, and now I don’t have the confidence I temporarily had that maybe I should be applying for this chief of police job anyway.
Back in March, April, May, June, I wished for anything to do except watch The Piglet Movie for the 700th time that day and work out what to cook that my daughter would yet again not eat. So, in a way, scrabbling for work, it’s nice having something to do again, to aim for. Even if I don’t know quite what it is or what I’m aiming with or how to fire it without getting in trouble. But on the other hand, it’d obviously be more fun if bills weren’t dependent on it, or there was someone who’d happily try to work out Jeremy Raspberry’s top hits so I could get on with actually finding something.
For someone who has had a lifetime of the variation, financial insecurity and general gambling that comes with self-employment, its odd for the first time ever to actually feel worried about the uncertainty of what to do next. And so now feels like a much more appropriate time to run than before. But only of course, because an American man keeps shouting at me.
Tiernan Douieb is a comedian and podcaster, listen to his Partly Political Broadcast podcast here