John Walker's Electronic House

I Be 30

by on Oct.27, 2007, under The Rest

So, 30 then.

It’s hard not to look at your life with more introspection than is normal when reaching a round number. What have I achieved? What haven’t I?

I think a part of being freelance is the curse of never feeling like you’re doing a proper job, no matter how much work you do. For about three weeks from September to October, I didn’t have a single day when I wasn’t working, and hence making money. But because work involves sitting at the same computer I use when relaxing, in the same room in which I sleep, in the same house in which I have fun, it some how never feels Proper. Oh, and that’s hardly helped when work is centered about playing. In those particular three weeks I was making some fairly decent money, but it still lacks a feeling of authenticity. I stress, I do think it’s authentic work. Perhaps it’s because I enjoy it. I’m sure you’re not meant to enjoy things that make you money.

So what’s been achieved. Well, in my three decades I’ve done the following (note: you might consider this to contain name-dropping, etc – but for me, I’m listing the fun stuff I’ve done):

Vet’s assistant
Every Saturday for a year, and for a full week at the end of that, I worked at a veterinary clinic, doing the mucky jobs the vet would rather not. For instance, cleaning up after a cat enema, or scrubbing down the post-mortem room after a large dog has been hacked to pieces. This reached interesting peaks when scrubbing up and assisting with a couple of cat spays, and helping deliver some puppies by caesarian.

Sales assistant
Like everyone else on the planet, summer holidays and older teenage Saturdays were spent working in a shop. For me it was GAME or EB, which perhaps foreshadowed the future I was unaware of.

Failing A Levels
A fairly remarkably crappy moment in my life was failing my A Levels. My group of friends at school were a pretty smart bunch, and most got As and Bs. I was lazy, bored of the subjects, and not really clever enough to do the same. And achieved some of the worst grades you’ll have ever seen: NNE. I find there are two types of people: people who got Ns, and people who didn’t know you could get Ns. It’s just shy of a U. This meant I stayed in Guildford a year longer, retaking THE EXACT SAME SUBJECTS (EED), while all my chums went off to uni. What fun that was. Certainly the worst time of my life.

Student of Film, Radio and TV Studies
I in no way regret the year and a half of the degree I started. I learned lots, and had a good time, despite living in Stoke on Trent. I do regret how I left, which was by suddenly announcing to my friends that I wasn’t coming back, and vanishing. But it meant I got to work at…

Talk Radio
Starting off as an unpaid phone turkey on the 1am to 6am show, I eventually got work in the daytimes, assistant producing on various shows, and at one point producing a full hour of a programme myself. This also involved doing all sorts of weird jobs, like producing an entire day of programming for “Star Wars Day” – moronic boss Kelvin McKensie’s idea to celebrate the, er, US release of Episode One. I met Bobba Fett though. There I became strangely used to seeing famous people everywhere I looked, and having really odd responsibilities like looking after then leader of the opposition, William Hague, or professional lunatic, Chris Eubank.

Chris Morris
While I admit I wasn’t actually him, from 1997 to around 2000, I was heavily involved in the worlds of Chris Morris, after starting Glebe’s Thrift Funnel (now dead) with Nick Mailer. We secured an interview with Brass Eye co-writer Peter Baynham at the moment when all the newspapers were failing to do so, and that got us a decent amount of interest. It was written about in newspapers and magazines, and in those early days of the web’s popularity, we were getting the sort of hits that would still be lovely to get today. This led to some really fortunate moments, mostly thanks to the kindness of Pete Baynham, with invites to the Election Night Armistice in 97, and an invite to the green room afterwards, where Nick and I watched the election results all night long in the company of our comedy heroes. And Jenny Powell. Certainly one of the most extraordinary moments I’ve had. And later, Pete invited us to a taping of I’m Alan Partridge – the one with Chris Morris in it – and in the green room later we finally met him, and had a fantastic lengthy chat. Oddest thing about that day was realising my main ambition had been realised, and I needed to get some new ones.

Youth Work
That came next, after Talk Radio stopped being fun, and the McTwat was converting it into a ghastly tabloid sports station. I was invited to help with a youth group run at a church a friend of mine, Steve Daughtery, had recently starting working for as the curate. This grew into a nearly full-time job for three years. That was an interesting time. I count them as possibly the best three years of my life, and yet some of the most difficult. It’s confusing. I’d rather have this life I have now, than go back to those times. I think that’s probably a healthy attitude to life. The work was wonderful, and I still love the kids in the groups dearly, despite their not being kids any more, and having lost contact with most of them. They will always be incredibly special to me. The church was also wonderful, and working with Steve is another reason the era counts so highly for me. However, my personal life at the time was not as fun. The time was bookended by two particularly unhappy relationships, the first of these pretty devastatingly unhappy. I was also fairly lonely, with very few friends nearby, and most time that would otherwise be used for a social life used up running youth groups.

PC Gamer
At the same time as starting the youth work, I also started writing for PC Gamer. In fact, there’s a story that’s far too long for this already very long post about the day I signed the contract to do paid work for the church being the same day Matt Pierce called me and offered me a staff writer job on the magazine. I stayed with the youth work, and Gamer kept using me as a freelancer, meaning I was fairly astonishingly lucky and got to do two dream jobs at once.

The Second Degree
After three years working for Christ Church, Steve was leaving and he encouraged me to move on as well. I found out about a course in Bristol, Youth And Community Work & Applied Theology. It sounded interesting, and like most major decisions I’ve made with my life, I decided to do it on a whim. And this time I completed it, with a First, which felt a vindication after the A Levels. This also meant doing youth work in Winsley, near Bath. Again, the members of the youth groups were great, and really ought to get their acts together and arrange a time for us to meet up again. I also made some fantastic friends at college, and life without Sian Brewer and Jo Dolby would have been spectacularly awful.

Being in Bath also meant being near Future, and that was more helpful than simply for work. In Winsley, I was pretty damned lonely. The church was remarkably unhelpful about taking care of me, other than Graham, my line manager, and Robert, the vicar. I remember a three month period when no one but me came in my house. It sucked rather a lot. And then Kieron Gillen rescued me from it all. With remarkable kindness and effort, he made sure to involve me in the activities of the Gamer crowd, inviting me to drinks, parties, etc, and with that I made the social group and good friends I have today. So the same thanks is extended to all those people who welcomed me in.

Which brings us to today. Well, two years later. Two years of no youth work is longer than I intended, but it has allowed me to carve out a more serious career as a journalist. I feel enormously blessed, continuing to work in a job I love, and surrounded by friends and peers who inspire me. When it comes to my work, I’m especially motivated and inspired by Stuart Campbell, who we should all note is 40 today, and therefore incredibly old, and is an excellent chum.

I’ve named names, which makes me feel incredibly guilty about not naming everyone else. But people know I love them, and if they don’t, they should ask and I’ll tell them I do.

What hasn’t bee achieved? The rest of life, I realise. Girlfriend, wife, children, ideally in that order. Which, at 30, is a bit disappointing. It’s the big goal I’ve yet to reach, my unrealised ambition. I always assumed I’d have that bit figured out by this point in my life, and the rather stark reality that it’s not even started is a little depressing. But hey ho, at least I met Chris Morris before he went RUBBISH.

16 Comments for this entry

  • Tim Major

    Happy Birthday John. You’re very much one of the pleasantest people I’ve met. Congratulations on meeting 30 with good humour!

  • km

    I think you’ve accomplished enough by 30 when you can walk into a magazine store in Chicago and see your articles. But that’s just me.

    Oh, and I can’t talk to you anymore now that we’re in separate decades. I’m sorry. See you in 1 year, 4 months, old man. :)

  • The_B

    Happy birthday Dexter!

    See, I remembered this time, right?

    Oh wait…

    (Happy Birthday John, and remember – you have also achieved impressive beardness)

  • pharoahe_monch

    happy b-day, Johnny-boy! i wuv your writing!

  • James

    An inspirational story John that I certainly can relate to. I usually hate birthdays because I focus far too much on what I haven’t achieved. But without wanting to sound too cliche or rubbing it in I went from feeling depressed and living with my Gran to meeting someone and getting married a year later, so you never know what’s round the corner.

    Well I hope you have a good birthday and may your 30th year be the best yet!

  • Tim R

    Happy birthday, too, John. The thing I find weird is that at my age (and now, pretty much yours), professional sportsmen are retiring, or considered excessively old. It’s not that I wanted to be one, but its just the thought that i’m now in serious bodily decline, such that at peak fitness, all things being equal, I wouldn’t be good enough any more.

    btw. isn’t pharoah munch a rapper?

  • Nick Mailer

    You forgot to mention that you had The Best Chips In The World (after asking for them).

  • Frosty840

    Happy birthday, John.

  • Willem100

    Happy birthday, John. Remember, you’re nearly halfway!

  • Ben

    A little late, but happy birthday. You can add this to your list:

    Written stuff that has made Ben smile, or laugh, or think.

  • Leo

    Happy birthday!

    The lack of a partner is neither depressing nor indicative of a lacking in any life-ability stat. I think you are doing jolly well at life, since you are not yet insane and don’t, as far as I can tell, hate everything about who you are and what you do. That puts you in the top 10 per cent of people I know!

    I hate it when people break up and then they call it a failed relationship. As if the object of relationships are to make them last as long as possible. I think that relationships are something that happen while you live your life, they’re not your life itself. Or at least they shouldn’t be.

    I am happy to call you a friend, John Walker, even though you are wrong about games I like all the time :)

  • Rachel

    I don’t really have anything witty to say, but I wanted to chip in my birthday wishes too (yes, I know they’re late, but I messaged on facebook), because quite frankly, you’re one of the coolest people I’ve ever met (if not the coolest) :)

  • THE sister

    Call it hormones, my husband being away and me stuck in France on my own or your nephew deciding that 3:30am is a fab to time to get up, but that made me cry! Sorry to get soppy and embarrass you on your blog but I’m really proud of you and so happy that the person who did all that is my brother.

  • Mike Jennings

    Happy Birthday!

    And a terrifically interesting entry: it’s always intriguing reading the stories of people you admire, especially when I’ve been reading you in Gamer for absolute years and am now attempting to become a games/tech journalist myself.

    Have an awesome day and a fantastic decade!

  • Tedi Worrier

    At the age of 30 I’d one quarter kids (plus wife) in a house of which I owned the door knocker in a job with no further promotion prospects and the height of my ambition beint to get the lights to work in the dolls house that I was making out of the back of an old wardrobe for the as yet unborn daughter whom I was convinced the other three quarters would grow into. (they didn’t tell you what species the baby would be in those pre-ultrasound days)

    … yu see, anyone can undersell their achievements and prospects.

    You have seen more of the world(s) than I ever will and probably more of life, through which I have ambled with contentment bordering on irresponsibilty … and somehow it’s always worked out.

    …and when your mother’s students have not only heard of you but are impressed … what more could you want? …. and then there IS Dexter!

  • Tedi Worrier

    that should have read “…one and a quarter kids…)