Tuesday, February 19, 2013
It's only once in your life that the best job you've ever had comes to an end, so I thought I'd reflect a bit on the closure of 'Burke's Backyard' magazine, have a bit of gnomey fun for starters, and then blab on forever about working from home and what an enjoyable time I have had working on this great magazine.
Pictured below is the rather startling, but definitely memorable, last cover of 'Burke's Backyard' magazine. It's the March 2013 issue – we're calling it a 'collector's edition' (well it is, sort of) – and it's on sale now.
Like the rest of the team at Burke's Backyard, we're all terribly disappointed to see the magazine close. Unfortunately, magazines are an expensive business to run, with lots of staff and bills to printers, etc to pay. Unfortunately in recent times as a business it hasn't been making enough money, so it had to close (reluctantly!). That's the sad fact of what's happening to publishing in general, and we're just another magazine closure story to add to the long list that's accumulating.
I can very happily say this is the best job I've ever had, and unless an absolute ripper of a new offer comes along, I think these times just ended might stand as the best days of my working life. For more than 14 years I worked on the magazine from my home office. Sure, I'd be over at the magazine's office to help see the magazine through the organised mayhem of deadline week, but most of the time I worked peacefully in my study at home. I came and went as I pleased to the main office, but I worked my own hours at home. As a routine I spent lots of time each morning in the garden before walking the 20 metres back to my office to get stuck into work at whatever hour I got there (usually that was around 7 or 7.30 each morning, as I am an early-riser).
If anyone is contemplating working from home, I say 'give it a go'. It's not for everyone, of course. It's a free-range existence, and some people need order around them (imposed on them?) so they can concentrate on the job at hand. I'm the opposite: I thrive in free-range freedom – I feel more creative and productive with the shackles off.
Pammy works from home too, but we spend the whole working day well apart from each other. We have breakfast at different times, lunch at different times, and she's down the back of the house (overlooking the garden, with music playing, typical art department), and I'm well away, at the front (in silence, like a monk's cell, typical editor's library). But it works for both of us. We get together at dinner time, where we love cooking for each other.
The idea of a 'working week' became fuzzier as time went by, so I often found myself either writing or editing stories on Saturdays or Sundays, or at 6am or 6pm on any day. I just worked when I felt like it, but I often ended up doing a bit of work for all seven days of the week in succession – and that didn't bother me at all.
Of course the other wonderful part of this job was the subject itself. Gardening! Well, the mag also had cookery, nutrition, pets, wildlife, decorating and design, but its heart and soul was gardening. I learned so much in these 14 years at Burke's, and writing this blog is, in part, my attempt to pass on a little bit of what I have learned to other souls who I really do feel are just like me. We just like gardening, even if we aren't experts.
I also want to tell you a bit about our team. They're simply the best bunch of people I've ever worked with. The keynote sound of our office was laughter. We had a good time together, and there were lots of laughs every day. Sure they'd all get stuck into the task at hand on deadline week, but even then they'd find something stupid or funny to amuse themselves despite being flat out busy.
One good sign of a happy workplace is that people stay there, and our small team included our photographer Brent, photo researcher Julie, and me, and all three of us were there when the magazine started 14 years ago. Zora, our Creative Director, came on board in 1999, just one year into the new magazine's run. That's a lot of long-termers in a tiny team, and I am sure if the magazine had continued on a lot of our relative newcomers (with mere four or five year histories) would have hung around to become honoured old lags.
I also want to say how much I have enjoyed working with Don Burke. He's an inspiring guy to work with, with a remarkably wide range of interests and specialist knowledge in everything from horticulture through to animals, pets, wildlife, the environment and anything the world of science manages to dig up next. Don's a believer in giving praise where it's due to all his staff, and that's something I have found lacking in many other people whose job title is 'boss'. Don's wife Marea is a big part of Don's success, but she is a force behind the scenes and Don's greatest supporter, along with their daughter Chris, who is the most dynamic dynamo I have ever worked with. She's tireless, and when the pressure's on, I always think she's enjoying it all just a bit more. (And let me tell you, when the pressure's on, I hate it!).
Anyway, so that's it for our fab, beloved magazine. That's not it for Don Burke or Burke's Backyard, though. For many years they've had a very active website (and it's still belting along), and now with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter versions of Burke's Backyard active online, they're moving into a new era.
I'll be keeping up my happy and productive association with Burke's in all sorts of new and interesting ways, including new books, but as far as the magazine goes, unless there's a miracle, that's it.
Finally, here's a linky to a segment on the Channel Nine show 'A Current Affair' about the closure of our great magazine, and Don's plans for the future. Our lovely horticultural editor Elizabeth Swane makes a brief appearance, so does Julie, and around the 1.00 minute mark so do I, with a five-word speaking part (I'm the one in the blue Hawaiian shirt – I told you it was a relaxed workplace!)
And as for Garden Amateur, we ain't going nowhere! Stay tuned for the next installment, as my lovely old mag may have passed on, but my garden (and Pammy's garden) is every bit as bright and fascinating as ever.
Posted by Jamie at 6:43 PM