Every year at around this time, I am thrown into a state of physical and mental inertia by a small metal box that lives on my desk. Any freelancers reading this will inherently understand what I’m on about here because, if they’re honest, so are they. I’m talking, of course, about doing the annual accounts. It is a vile task that cannot be ignored, cannot be sexed up and involves the same kind of soulless, repetitive labour previously employed in the Soviet gulags. It throws up a brutal mirror to the fact that your year wasn’t exactly peppered with exotic pursuits and devil-may-care decision making, and the foolscap brown envelope brimful with countless train tickets to the same destination never fails to rub salt into the wound.
Accountants are no fools: They know what you’re like, which is why they give you that October deadline when everyone knows the suits don’t want your meagre offerings until the end of January. So, eventually, you cover your living room floor (immaculately vacuumed several times previous as a diversion tactic) in tatty slivers of paper, pouring over them with increasingly powerful reading glasses for the date that rubbed off months ago in your wallet. And when you’ve finally got the little bastards into some kind of shape and downed a conciliatory bottle of NZ Marlborough Pinot Noir, you remember that the worst is yet to come and you are now in no fit state to take it on: The spreadsheet.
No-one in their right mind likes spreadsheets. They are the embodiment of every value you ever despised (and made you go into that badly paid but wildly creative job you somehow manage to hold down) in the first place. Spreadsheets suck the will to live from every orifice you have that still works. And they were almost certainly invented by Amon Goeth to drag mankind down into a well of despair and hopelessness. So, you are now caught in a classic Catch-22: In order to tackle the final hurdle it is imperative that you unscrew another bottle but the minute you do, that mañana moment will be upon you and you will see, with perfect clarity, the futility of your intended endeavour and that all those receipts from Oddbins & Majestic that you shredded yesterday could probably have been seen as a legitimate business expense. Oh the irony!
As I write this, I am painfully aware that we are already halfway through October. It will take me approximately three full days to complete it all and approximately half a case of wine. I could have done it last week when I had a couple of days off but I did hoovering instead. And cleaned the hob. These are the depths of depravity one is prepared to trawl when faced with a more appalling alternative, and it says something profound about the human condition and the indignity of labour. Although I’m not quite sure what…