This is incredible. Myself and the wife and the boy have managed to juggle schedules in such a way that we now have a week off. I'm not entirely sure how we did this. Sorcery may have been involved, souls bartered, something dark and unnatural that will one day tear us asunder. But hey, a week off is a week off.
And it's not just a regular week off, watching Columbo and painting our toenails – we're going on holiday. I've heard whispers from other freelancers that such a thing is possible, but always assumed it was an urban legend or perhaps a meme I didn't understand. Yet here I am with my lovely family, on a train bound for Keswick and peaceful lakeside frolics.
Not travelling with us today: the computer, the inbox, the admin, the reading, the writing, the tweets, the pins, the job. For the next seven days, I am not a designer.
Oh now this really is very nice. I don't know why we don't do it more often. The rental cottage is delightful, the sun is shining, the scenery is … I mean, it's all very … did I … did I turn my computer off? It'll be okay, won't it? It's not as if it'll just burst into flames without me there. But now I think about it, did I send that email with the thing about the thing? And what if I've received an urgent and meaty brief that needs immediate attention? Was my last pre-holiday tweet inadvertently massively offensive? Did that invoice get paid? Ack, what the hell am I doing all the way out here in the middle of this damp nowhere, ignoring my livelihood?
I shouldn't worry, I'm sure it's all fine. Maybe tomorrow I'll just check up on things.
Just. Just is a snake of word. Could you just do this one job? Could you just pop in for a meeting? Sir, could we just have a word about the airline’s dress code? Just has no place being on holiday. Just should've stayed at home. And yet here I am, pacing the shores of Derwentwater, waving my phone around to get a half-decent reception so that I can just have a quick look at my inbox.
This professional itch is taking far too long to scratch, and there’s only so many rocks I can precariously perch upon. In my head I can hear the computerised mantra from Duncan Jones' Moon: searching for long-range comms … searching for long-range comms … signal failure on long-range comms. The view from Friar's Crag is all well and nice, but if I can't get a steady 3G signal then damn it all to picturesque hell.
The Pencil Museum! Cumbria may be one enormous phone network oversight, but if anything can distract and bring joy to a wandering designer, it's a critical mass of stationery. Pencils! The world's biggest pencil! Colour pencils! Espionage pencils concealing tiny maps! More pencils! An enormous and horrifying pointillist portrait of Chris Evans made of nothing but pencils! Pencils!
And do you know what's particularly brilliant about the Pencil Museum, aside from the pencils? The wifi. I don't know if it technically constitutes loitering, but we've certainly dawdled in the gift shop for longer than is considered acceptable, leeching as much broadband as possible. Sure enough, important emails have appeared. Important emails that I can do nothing about. Never mind, I'm on holiday and I've got souvenirs that I can doodle with.
Cheese. Mostly cheese.
Somewhere, somehow, another email crept through. Maybe I crossed a ley line or something? Anyway, I've been asked to chip in on a quick vox pop thing for a design website. Quick is almost as evil as just, but I have this unbearable need to please. Fortunately, whilst getting well and truly lost in the wilds of slightly-outside-Keswick, we came across a nice little cafe with the holy trinity of coffee, wifi and Victoria Sponge. It's another slight deviation from the plan of a week away from work, but I simply couldn't live with myself if I left a pop un-voxxed. I'm not a monster.
Homeward bound. It's been amazing, but work seeped into the rest and play. Only now, travelling in the wrong direction, do I feel completely distanced from all those things I was meant to leave behind. When we get in, maybe I'll pop online and book us another holiday. Just a little one.
Originally published in Creative Review.