When I’m in the UK I work in a proper office, not from home. I often work late. I feel I need to give them, the powers that be, their money’s worth in exchange for allowing me to work from home, when home happens to be France.
Because I work late I frequently see the cleaners. This trip back there has been a new cleaner, new to me anyway. He is an exceptionally pleasant man, I’d say in his 40s, and we always exchange a few words, have a short conversation about this or that.
Yesterday I apologised for having used two bins where one would have done. He replied that it was his job after all, and then added that it wouldn’t be for much longer.
It turns out that he is an aeronautical engineering lecturer at home. He’s in the UK with his wife who is just about to finish her PhD, and then they’ll return. He has found it difficult just filling in time, a three year holiday, something I can sympathise with after the three years we spent in Paris.
I find the story remarkable in several ways: first that he’s prepared to give up three years of seniority in his career to further his wife’s; second that his employer can let him have three years’ unpaid leave even though I know it’s easier in academic circles; and third that he’s prepared to take on a cleaning job for something to do.