Bringing projects to an end

The recession is biting, and I need to reduce my outgoings.  Luckily the Eusebius is all but done, the al-Majdalus is done, and I have a promise of the Cyril text for a week hence.  I’ve cancelled the translation of letters by Isidore, and decided not to commission a translation of the medieval biographies of Hunain ibn Ishaq.

I have enjoyed doing all these things, but I don’t have a guaranteed source of income, and so must be prudent in hard times.  At the moment I don’t know where my income will come from after March.  This is by no means unusual, but this year there may be no business in April.  It was nervous enough this time last year, when I spent three months hunting for work.    Let’s see what the new financial year brings.

Ignoring the credit crunch and why I can’t

The credit crunch has just affected one of my projects seriously.  Usually I try to pay for translations that I commission as we go along, at 10 cents a word.  That way I get a chunk of translation every week or two, and a small bill which I pay immediately, by cheque or Paypal.  At the end we have a ‘sweep-up’ process, and I pay for that at some hourly rate related to the per-word rate.  This works well, because it means I can see progress, and nothing nasty happens financially.  It’s not much different to buying a CD or two every couple of weeks.

However with the translation of the Commentary on the Nicene Creed of al-Majdalus which I commissioned last year, I agreed to a final bill system.  But… a year ago, $2 = 1 GBP.  Now $1.40 = 1 GBP; a fall of 30%!  Effectively that adds hundreds of dollars to the price, without benefitting anyone!   The word in the UK is that the pound will fall further, because the UK government is printing money like fury.  No-one in mid-2008 could have foreseen a fall of that size.

Just a thought, if you have some kind of commitment in a foreign currency.  Have a plan to handle this kind of situation, agreed with the translator.

I’m going to keep commissioning translations, but cautiously!

Feeling the crunch

I have a number of projects on the go to create English translations of material never previously translated or — in some cases — not even edited.  The economic news here is now becoming so bad that it is starting to affect ordinary individuals.  As a freelance, my income is a little uncertain anyway; 2009 may involve rather a lot of “non-earning” time, which is quite stressful.  Rather worse news for me is that most of my “rainy day” savings were in the collapsed bank Icesave.  (If about 1,000 readers would care to buy my CDROM of the Fathers, that would be very welcome right now!).

So I’m going to have to cut back somewhat.  I was in the process of commissioning a translation of the Coptic fragments of Eusebius Quaestiones.  This I will now postpone.  I think that I can still afford the other three items I have on the go; the Greek of Eusebius, Cyril of Alexandria’s Apologeticus Ad Imperatorem and Al-Majdalus Commentary on the Nicene Creed.  I shall feel relieved when these complete, though!  Other ideas that I’ve had in mind will now be put on hold until times improve.

As might be expected, all of this has led me to some reflections on the impermanence of life.  I tend to place quite a bit of my faith in my savings, my ability to earn a living, and my confidence that my way of life will continue unchanged in a comfortable way.  In the last couple of days, all this has looked like an illusion.  But… is this not life?  Wouldn’t the ascetic fathers simply smile and nod their heads?

I learn from the news reports that politicians are having to change every assumption, and think originally and inventively to deal with the crisis.  Policies pursued for years suddenly turn out to be irrelevant, expensive luxuries.  Events like these bring us to ourselves.  They strip away the illusions in which we can so easily lose sight of what is going on.  In this sense, they are God’s anti-septic.  After all, all our money will mean nothing to us on the day we die.

At lunchtime today I was in a newsagent to buy a paper and a coke.  I stood behind someone, whom I gradually realised must be mentally disabled in some way.  But he stood there, forcing his reluctant body and mind to go through the process of buying some little purchase, of counting out money from his wallet.  Clearly he found it hard to keep in mind how much a few dollars was; or what change he should expect.

Stood behind him, I felt a little more reality creep into my mind.  My problem didn’t look so serious: one can always get more money, somehow.  We’re all very fortunate, very blessed, that we don’t have disabilities that will never go away, as that man did. 

Let’s keep our feet on the ground.  Here we have no abiding city, and all our projects, efforts and dreams will end with the grave.  Let’s make sure we cherish each day, and consider how we stand when we come before God.