Jonathan Brown: 'Working from home is billed as a kind of one-way ticket to personal nirvana'

Home And Away

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One of the big attractions when it came to swapping London life for the charms of Yorkshire was the opportunity to work from home.

For me, this meant no more commuting nights of hell aboard the vomit comet as it thundered – or should that be chundered – through the Essex countryside each Friday laden with a cargo of post-pub office workers. No more trudging to the station on a rainy Monday morning to discover that a 60-minute journey has suddenly morphed into a three-hour odyssey aboard the replacement bus as it weaves interminably through the back streets of Basildon. Indeed no more paying through the nose for the privilege of it all and spending the best part of three hours a day riding up and down the same old stretch of railway track.

Perhaps unsurprisingly in this era of the ever more pressurised workplace, the prospect of plying one's trade from the comfort of one's own abode has become one of the great desires of the modern worker. Like eating five portions of fresh fruit a day or cutting back on alcohol units, many of us are convinced it will make us happy and healthy.

I too shared that dream. But the reality of the past 18 months working alone from the sanctuary of my garden office, a space carved lovingly and at some cost out of an unused section of our garage, has steadily disabused me of the notion that this is some quick fix to personal nirvana.

Don't get me wrong, there have been some great moments. Teaching my daughter to ride to school on her little pink Disney Princess bicycle. Getting to know the other mums and dads, and generally being a part of everybody's life, rather than an absent and occasionally brooding presence, has been wonderfully enjoyable. But there have been downsides too, and I began to rather miss certain things, the most surprising of which was the dreaded train. For where else in the maelstrom of everyday life with two small children can you sit down for an hour or so of uninterrupted reading time? And rather like those psychologically ill-adjusted US soldiers who found themselves whisked by jet plane from the horrors of jungle warfare in Vietnam one day, to a ticker-tape parade down Main Street the next, I long for the leisurely troopship of the commute to bring me sailing slowly back down to earth after a hard day at the office.

And then of course there is the fact that working on your own means that work is precisely that. There are no football matches to dissect with friendly colleagues, no brains to pick, no impromptu slipping out to the pub. Tasks that could take days in the office can be achieved in just a few hours without the interruption of banter and laughter. So, rather like a smoker who must find something to do with their hands after quitting, I decided that maybe having a guitar to strum during the natural pauses in the working day would help go some way towards filling the gap.

Yet this too has had unseen consequences – most notably that I have once again started to harbour fantasies about rock stardom, despite such dreams having been safely put away some two decades past. Older and wiser now, I am realistic enough to accept it won't be the sex and drugs and rock n' roll rollercoaster I previously envisaged. No, this will be of the credible, widely-admired-by-people-in-the-know kind of success: the occasional appearance on Later with Jools Holland, a few medium-sized arena tours, an album released directly on the internet – that kind of thing. In more rational moments I accept these thoughts are the delusional desires of a man who has recently turned 40, one who spends a bit too much time in his own company. But then again, I reason, it sure beats riding that train.

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