My week in capitalism: Is it like this for you, too?


Came home from work on Thursday evening, lay on the bedroom carpet with the dogs and cried little tiny gasping sobs in between lobbing tennis balls around for my mutts to chase. It’s quite hard to take yourself seriously as a sad person when you can cry and simultaneously wrestle with excited puppies and chuck balls around as they jump up and down with glee. Still.

Why was I crying? I don’t know. It could be because I’d spend the bulk of the week staring at Excel spreadsheets and trying to make business cases for things that I’m honestly not sure can be adequately business cased. How does one predict the dollar outcome of investment into educational quality? It’s a question that’s dogged me for my entire career and one that I veer between taking very seriously (I love a good challenge!) and letting me collapse into utter despondency (It’s not possible! Education should be free!). Sometimes I crave the simplicity that comes from working in sales or marketing. Either you’re bringing home the bacon or you’re not. Pounds and pence are a lovely, clear way of measuring your success at work. The relationship between educational quality and a successful education business is a lot more opaque. You’d like to think there is one, but the closer you look, the fuzzier the picture gets.

Anyway, I might just have been crying because it was that time of the month when I feel sad and helpless for about 24 hours and then pinball right back to feeling blithely optimistic about everything like usual. Still, for that one day each month, whatever it is that’s upsetting me, it feels as though the ancient band aid covering the slowly seeping wounds of society peels back enough for me to see the real horror of the festering mess inside. It feels like the truth, in other words.


On Saturday, husband and I cycled down to our new allotment and spent a pleasant hour or so pottering in the cold sunlight. He dug out a bed and I pruned an unkempt grape vine – something I’d never done before. Pruning any plant requires you first to spend a lot of time appraising your subject, understanding how its limbs work in relation to each other, where there is strength and where there is weakness, where there is potential for vigorous growth come spring. Grape vines are lovely, complex, twisty plants, and although this one was relatively small, it took me a good hour to get it into shape. Husband thinks I prune things much too hard, but in my experience the harder you prune, the happier the plant seems to be. We shall see whether I’m right again in a few months.

Talking about capitalism

On Saturday evening we visited some friends and talked about capitalism. I described my sense of despair on the Thursday, and the others shared similar stories. ‘How much DO you earn?’ asked my friend. I answered immediately, and it felt shockingly taboo but also extremely cathartic to be talking about it. I have a sense, lately, that the normal state of affairs around money is shifting. I feel more inclined to admit when I’m skint, for example, or talk about the credit card debts I have, both with strangers and with close friends. It’s as though we’re looking around, seeing the state of things and starting to ask – is it like this for you, too?