A Jack of All Leftovers


Being asked to write about something you haven’t touched in a while – your ‘leftovers’ – for the Weekly Writing Challenge could be a lengthy post for a Jack of All Trades.

Let’s begin, shall we?

The harmonica – two, actually – hidden in the bottom of the piano stool from my unrealistic ‘I’m going to be in a blues band’ phase.

The sailing boat collecting dust and all manner of flotsam in my parents’ shed from my caught-up-in-the-hype ‘I’m going to compete in the America’s Cup’ phase.

The set of pastels and rolls of artist paper shoved in the top of the wardrobe from my very brief ‘I’m going to be an artist’ phase.

The practice pipe for a set of bagpipes I never quite ended up getting from my unexplainable ‘I’m going to wear a kilt and play with the highland band’ phase.

The large dolls house built by my grandfather, undecorated and unfurnished, from my overly ambitious ‘I reckon I could wire this up with working lights’ phase.

The unfinished online course to get a Comp TIA certification from my totally deluded ‘I’m going to work as a techie in schools’ phase.

The expensive trek pack and other hiking equipment for my once-only-never-to-be-repeated “I’m going to climb mountains’ phase.

The graphics calculator and textbooks I bought in preparation for my short-lived ‘I’m going to be a science and maths teacher’ phase.

The reflector telescope I spent three years paying off from my childhood-dream ‘I’m going to be an astrophysicist’ phase.


Well, you get the idea.

I’ve got more leftovers than… whatever the opposite of leftovers is… rightovers?

But, you know, I’ve still got them so I can always go back to them. I hear some leftovers are actually better reheated.

Or there’s that ukulele I’ve been wanting to buy…



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On Being A Bitser

One downside to being a Jack of All Trades is the constant feeling of not really being good at anything. Not properly good. Not expert-like. Master of none and all that.

Of course, that’s generally because a Jack of All Trades has a tendency to get bored with a thing after a while and want to move onto the next new shiny thing. If we can pick it up and do it kind of instantly, we’re happy. If it looks like it’s going to take years of constant practice to master, forget it.

No one to blame but ourselves.

A Jack of All Trades has an arsenal of Kinda-Sorta skills.

I’ve always been envious of people who can say with utter conviction, “I am a….”. Singer, runner, welder, clown, whatever it may be, they are clearly it. And a bit.

As a Jack of All Trades, I’m not an It And A Bit, I’m a Bit And A Bit. A bitser of the talent world.


Bitzer from Shaun The Sheep

But there’s this: I never get bored. Whatever’s happening in my life, I’ve got some sort of interest or skill to fall back on. Active Me likes to go for a run, a ride, or a row, to climb tall mountains and walk ridiculously long distances. Artistic Me likes to sing, play, draw, act or write. Analytical Me likes to read science blogs and mess about on computers (and gets a small thrill out of realising that today’s date makes a mathematical sum: 7+7=14).

I’ve never entered a fun run, written a novel or developed an app. But I’ve completed Oxfam Trailwalker twice (foolish), maintained a blog for nearly a year (miracle) and set up an online booking system for our theatre company website even though I had no idea what I was doing (mystery).

Sometimes success is not so much in the skills we possess but in the willingness to give it a go, regardless.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to work on a song that started out on the piano, moved to the guitar and I am now trying out on the banjo. None of which I can play really but I Kinda-Sorta can. And that’s enough for this bitser.

Now that is an instrument designed for a Jack of All Trades.

Now that is an instrument designed for a Jack of All Trades.



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Contrary Mary

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

I can’t tell you how my garden grows right now. It’s too cold and wet to go out there much. But, you know, it’s fine.

It’s not why I quoted that nursery rhyme anyway.

The relevant word in that quote is ‘contrary’. That’s me. No doubt about it.

A bit over a month ago, I wrote a post that ended with the line “I am not a girly girl. Never have been. Never will be. And I’m fine with that.”

A bit over a fortnight ago, I went out and bought four dresses. And I’ve been wearing them. Mostly to very public occasions.

So after my very clear message that I refuse to be pigeon-holed into some outdated definition of womanhood, you’re probably thinking, “What the…?”

I can’t help it. It’s like a sickness.

The moment people begin to expect me to be something, I want to be something else.

Why else would I be a Jack of All Trades?

Miss Contrary

Little Miss Contrary by Roger Hargreaves



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7 Reasons Why You Should Employ A Jack Of All Trades

The world is round. So why do we live in such a linear society?

Most employers seem to have a one-track mind when it comes to selecting their staff. They search for someone with the qualifications and experience that lines up perfectly with the position they are offering.

A Jack of All Trades, however, is likely to have qualifications that match the criteria but no related experience. Or experience in the job being advertised but no relevant qualifications. And likely to have both in areas that are both mildly related and totally unrelated to the position.

But while most employers immediately rule out such deviations from the norm, I’d argue that a Jack of All Trades is exactly the sort of employee every workplace should have.

1. Versatility

A Jack of All Trades has tried it all. Or at least a lot of what is on offer. She has skills in broad areas, knowledge in many subjects and can pretty much turn her hand to anything. As an employer that means you can give her any sort of job and she will take it on with gusto. It’s like getting ten employees in one.

2. Flexibility

Tapping into a variety of experiences means a Jack of All Trades has had to be flexible. Depending on what he has taken on, he may be called upon to use his physical fitness or his intellectual acumen; his ability to wield a hammer or a paintbrush; his business nous or his knowledge of classical music. As an employer’s business needs adjust in an ever-changing world, a Jack of All Trades employee is up to the task whatever comes.

3. Creativity

A Jack of All Trades does not travel through life in a straight, predictable line. She views the world in sidelong glances and turned heads. She sees above, beyond, below and behind all the world has to offer. A Jack of All Trades does not expect the world to be the way she expects it to be. She expects the world to surprise her. Should a problem arise, the Jack of All Trades has every angle to employ in solving it. She not only thinks Outside The Box, she is Outside The Box.

4. Unflappability

By his very nature, a Jack of All Trades is always ready to move onto the next new shiny thing. Change is not something to be feared but celebrated. An alteration in the job requirements of a position will not have a Jack of All Trades sobbing in the executive bathroom or hiding under the covers in his bed while he claims stress leave. He will relish the new challenge and get on with the job.

5. Adaptability

The Jack of All Trades is the chameleon of the workforce. Need someone to communicate with shareholders, factory workers and management? You need a Jack of All Trades. She’s met so many people, worked in so many areas, she can morph into any representative you need. A Jack of All Trades adjusts to meet whatever is required in her position. She won’t cross her arms, stamp her feet and protest, “that’s not in my job description”. If anything, a Jack of All Trades relishes the challenge of every aspect of her job, especially the unexpected ones.

6. Quick Learning

The reason a Jack of All Trades knows so many things is because he is interested in so many new things. He is always hungry for new knowledge and new skills. This makes him a quick learner, basically through constant practice. It would be rare for a job candidate to have every single skill an employer requires for a position. There is almost always some learning involved. If you hire a Jack of All Trades, those gaps in knowledge or skill will not be gaps for long. A Jack of All Trades actively seeks to learn all there is to learn and then some. You will soon have an employee who not only knows everything he needs to know to do his job but will also probably know how to do Pete’s job too, especially if it intersects with his own. And no formal training required. A Jack of All Trades is a self-training machine.

7. Organisation

Early morning rowing, evening banjo lessons and regular blog posts. Training and fundraising for an event and rehearsing for a play. Throw in raising children, maintaining a household and looking for work. The organisational skills of a Jack of All Trades cannot be underestimated. She has a Masters in Time Management and a PhD in Keeping It All Together. Need six things done at once in a high-pressure environment with tight deadlines? A Jack of All Trades has it covered.

So why would you bring only a tiny part of life into your business when you could have the whole shebang?

A Jack of All Trades – the World’s Super-Employee.

Jack of All Trades 2

Jack of All Trades: Super-Employee



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Collision Course

Do you ever notice how many different versions of you exist?

That’s this week’s writing challenge. No kidding. You do know the name of my blog, right?

As a Jack of All Trades, I’ve got so many versions of Me it’s hard to keep track.

Lately, they’ve been arguing.

About six months ago, I made a tentative foray into casual relief teaching at a school for children with severe intellectual disabilities. I enjoyed it and I received positive feedback so why then have I not pursued more work this year?

Scientist Me thought I should have more study under my belt before inflicting my inexperienced self on unsuspecting children and support workers.

Accountant Me pointed out that I couldn’t afford to study and maybe doing some work first might be a good idea.

Sporty Me was too preoccupied training for Oxfam Trailwalker and didn’t want to know about it.

Humanitarian Me was conflicted, wanting to concentrate on fundraising for Oxfam but feeling that working in the disability sector where teachers are sorely needed would also be a good thing.

Introvert Me was hanging on to the hope of still finding a way to make money sitting in a room by herself.

To shut them up, I went back to the school this week and put my name down to teach again.

It didn’t work.

Academic Me wants to spend this weekend preparing enriching and challenging activities to implement when she’s called in.

Musician Me wants to buy a ukulele and a set of bongo drums so she can just sing songs all day. She’s having an argument with Accountant Me.

Creative Me wants to hit the art shops and buy lots of art and craft activities to do with the children. She’s arguing with both Accountant Me and Musician Me.

Control Freak Me is, well, freaking out because she doesn’t really know what she’s doing.

Actor Me is telling Control Freak Me to get a grip on herself and that she’s got it sorted. She just has to finish work on the script. (Control Freak Me is not convinced.)

Teacher Me is frighteningly absent from the conversation. I think she’s pretending she doesn’t exist.


I think I’ll go lie down and have a chat with Counsellor Me.

'Armageddon' by bubor (www.freeimages.com)

‘Armageddon’ by bubor (www.freeimages.com)



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Nothing ventured…

My friend Petra told me I should start a blog. The Writer Me was bemoaning the fact that I do not have a PhD in English Literature nor do I work as a journalist at a major newspaper/magazine both of which seem to be prerequisites for successful authors.

Actually, first she suggested I take on more study. Yeah……..no.

“Aren’t blogs passé now?” the IT Me asked. The IT Me is a bit of a tech snob.



I think the look I got in return was one of exasperation.

I’ve always loved to write. My best subject in High School was English. So at university I chose to do a Bachelor of Science. As you do when you love writing…

I also wanted to be an astrophysicist. That was Scientist Me.

Scientist Me

Scientist Me

I didn’t become an astrophysicist. I got bored with physics two years into my course, dropped it, did maths and finished with a degree that was basically useless.

I worked as this and that, Jack of All Trades but a Master of None. Got married, had three kids, travelled, worked as more this and that.

And lurking always in the background? Writing. Travel emails, stories for kids and friends, even a bit of songwriting.

Then after quitting a this and not quite making it into a that, I thought it might be time to give the writing a red hot go.

So I’ve taken my friend’s advice and started a blog. What will it be about? Good question. Writing (certainly), parenting (inevitably), social justice (undoubtedly), travel (wishfully) and random weird stuff (presumably).

Blog on.

PS Illustrator Me does not really exist. I just created her for this blog.



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