Last summer I was invited to a lunch party at the Big House up the road. As I spend most of my working day in the garret I don’t often get a chance to mix with the local expat crowd. This was an ideal opportunity to see what lay behind the ivy-covered façade, and get a free lunch. Duly scrubbed-up and wearing our best bib-and-tucker, we turned up clutching a bottle of wine selected with the criteria of having the prettiest label to disguise its supermarket origins.
Given that locally cows out number humans by four to one I wondered where all these British expats had been hiding. I’d certainly never encountered them in the local supermarket. Most were retired and therefore more interested in comparing notes about the where to buy the cheapest wood, rather than the difficulties of running a business in France. I soon found that an honest response to the question of my job title was pretty much a conversation killer. After grilling me about how many years I’d lived in France (not enough, apparently), and how much land we owned (not enough), one questioner was horrified that I actually worked: ‘Proofreading – that must be terribly boring!’
Not a grammar pedant
I’d never previously considered that copy-editing and proofreading could be described as anything remotely boring. Hard work – yes, tiring – sometimes, especially after several hours of concentration, but boring – never. Why do I enjoy proofreading? I suppose, on one level, it does satisfy some slight OCD tendencies and appeal to the inner nerd. However, I’d never describe myself as a grammar pedant, and I don’t get upset if I spot spelling mistakes or stray apostrophes in friends’ Facebook statuses. But, if I’m working then I get a great sense of satisfaction from combing through a manuscript, checking that every i has a dot and every t a cross.
Never stop learning
Although I work remotely, and it can seem quite remote here in deepest rural France, I feel connected to the outside world. I have lots of lovely clients, none of whom I have ever met in person, and ‘virtual friends’ in various editorial social media groups. It’s never lonely in the garret. I’m lucky to work with people from all around the world. Just this last few months I’ve been proofreading for clients from as far away as Malaysia, Australia and Kazakhstan, to slightly nearer on the European continent in Slovenia, Romania and Poland.
I always learn something new when proofreading academic essays and dissertations. Sometimes I’ll spend a happy half hour distracted on Wikipedia as I look up an unusual word or a concept I have not previously encountered. It all helps when I’m watching University Challenge. As I mention in my website profile, one of my mottos is: never stop learning. Since moving into full-time proofreading I’ve certainly followed this maxim, whether it’s brushing-up my copy-editing skills with an SfEP course, or checking a thesis about international law. I’ve never for one moment been bored!