28 January 2009

Gresham's Law

Yesterday was a revelation. I capped a good day's work with an astonishingly good run with the Amblers. I set out fast, having been left behind as I tied my shoelaces, but soon began to catch and pass clubmates until I found myself running with Dave, Sarah and Trish - all of whom have been consistently faster than me for as long as I can remember. I stayed with them for the whole distance, and actually got back first of that group - which proves nothing, of course, as there's no way of knowing how hard they were trying, they had all been competing much more recently than me, and at least one had been unwell in the recent past. Nevertheless, I stayed with them.
This morning the work side of my life began to unravel. I had a poor night's sleep, pre-occupied with work I think, nd before leaving for London had to attend to feeding the ponies. I arrived too late for the first off-peak train, and the next one was so late that I might as well have waited the extra time to get another one-third off he price of my ticket. But whatever time one travels, one pays through the nose for an inferior and often late service.
The client I was hurrying to meet was not too worried, however, because contrary to what she had told me about having to be finished by a particular time it seemed she now had another hour at her disposal. I need not have rushed quite so much.
The fact that my phone refused to pick up emails all morning made the whole experience more depressing. Time spent waiting for a train is lost time, and time on a train trying in vain to pick up emails is equally lost. An incoming call interrupted my attempt to go on-line, but as I was in the quiet carriage I rejected the call. Instead of leaving a message, the same person (or another withheld number, possibly) called again, so again I rejected the call, then left my seat so I could listen to the anticipated message. When none came, it did not improve my frame of mind.
At the office, when finally I got there, I ddedicated the afternoon to pursuing recalcitrant clients. I don't have a lot of unpaid bills, but those that I have rankle. The biggest, by far, are two bills to the same end client who seems oblivious to them. Should they require further work in the future, at least fees on account will be needed and I am minded to refuse to work for them any more. When there is a hole in your budget of such a size, the time devoted not only to chasing but also to worrying and feeling depressed - both of which sap the will to work - soon outweighs the value of the bill.
The other debtors, depressingly, are all clients for whom I have been particularly accomodating, delaying billing until a website was up abd running, charging only for one trade mark application but filing two, or simply doing a large part of the work for free. Is it inevitable that clients will take such advantage? No, beacuse another client has recently paid an invoice, by bank transfer, on the very day of receipt.
I left the office later than planned, too late to catch the train I wanted, and in such a rush that my reading glasses remained on my desk. Not good when I have for my homeward reading a lengthy dealer agreement. Holding it at arm's length while standing on the packed train, my review of it made me angry that someone had charged a lot of money to write something so bad. It put me in mind of the conversation at lunchtime, in which we had bemoaned the incompetence of members of our profession. I ventured that something like half of the advice dispensed by lawyers seems to be plain wrong, yet charlatans make a good living by charging extravagantly for bad advice while others struggle to earn half as much while taking care to get everything right. It parallels the incompetence of the bankers who have brought the financial system to its knees, when everyone assumed that thay had some idea of what they were doing. Bad advice drives good out of circulation, perhaps.
On the tube, I looked into the window opposite, and in place of my reflection I saw my father ... But at least a third person, and perhaps it has been more, told me today how much better I looked than when last we had met, which pleased me greatly.

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