An Expensive Week

Business expenditure is very much like the legendary phenomenon of London bus appearances - Nothing for ages, then five come all at once. It happens in cascades generally, and is often the result of having to update one certain element of the technology which has either failed, or become obsolete. Lady Luck also plays an important part.

First thing to pack in was my 2 year old iPad Pro. The home button just stopped working, which was a royal pain while out in the field. My job requires speed and accuracy, and all the bits of kit I use are purchased with the sole intention of being part of an effective workflow process. It all just needs to work. After a quick visit to the Apple Genius Bar in Newcastle, it became apparent that a new unit was my only real option. £868 later, I was back in business. 

My desktop computer - a mid 2013, 27 inch iMac has been my workhorse computer for seven years - relentlessly churning through intensive photo-editing tasks pretty much without a rest during that time. It never missed a beat, and has been religiously updated with consecutive Apple operating systems and various incarnations of Adobe software through the years. When first bought, it cost about £2500, was the top-spec iMac at the time, and was maxed out with the latest tech. In the last 12 months however, it started slowing, and causing workflow bottlenecks whilst churning through the repetitive tasks of creating the images I have to produce every day. Having to wait 90 seconds for Lightroom to open several raw files, and stack them as multiple layers in Photoshop over and over again was one of the most soul-destroying things ever, and meant that my post-production routine was touching 4 hours every single day of the week. That meant I was sat in a cupboard, staring at a computer all night, seven days a week, while the rest of the household were having an evening of leisure or whatever. One thing that bugs me is that the new unit looks exactly like the old one, so there's absolutely no excitement associated with getting a new toy.

So - I decided to bite the bullet, and update my main desktop Mac. Apple had just released their latest 2020 iMacs - the last ones to use Intel processors before the introduction of their "Apple Silicon" based models sometime in the next year. I used the online store to order a low/mid-range unit costing £2900 (the top end spec tops out at an unbelievable £8799!), and proceeded to apply for the 2 year financing at the checkout process. Now £100 a month isn't going to affect my finances in any meaningful way, and my credit record is exemplary, but Barclays Partner Finance decided to screw me up by ringing up and asking five questions which I had to know the answers to. I got three of them wrong - "What was the credit limit on the oldest credit card I possessed?, "What was the address of the Bank involved in the direct debit mandate associated with the Apple application?", and "What were the monthly payment amounts of a prior Barclays loan which had been settled early last year?" I mean...come on. When did loan applications depend on remembering the answers to stupid, made-up, historical questions that put you on the spot? Whatever happened to looking at what comes in, what goes out, and assessing the risk based on that, and prior lending records? A red-flag has now been stuck on my credit file. In the end, I had to resort to a government-backed bounce-back loan which is paid back over 10 years! 

Apple RAM is extortionately priced - more than the actual computer! I ordered the base configuration, and ordered the memory from Crucial UK at a fifth of what Apple charges. There's another £470 gone.

When the computer arrived, the relevant apps and files were transferred over, and the 128gb RAM was installed, the cost soon became a secondary consideration - watching stacked images being transferred into Photoshop in less than 2 seconds (rather than 90) was a huge relief. An average job involving the creation of say 40 final shots was reduced by over an hour. I did find that my 10 year old Wacom graphics tablet couldn't keep up with things, so I had to renew that as well - a refurbished Intuos Pro at a cost of £199.

Two days ago I shot a 5 bed new build house on the outskirts of Morpeth, and replaced my wide lens with the old trusty 24-70mm f2.8 for the exterior shots. The bayonet fitting usually gives you a reassuring click when the lens locks into place, but on this occasion it didn't. Fact is I hadn't attached the lens to the camera body properly, and as I let go it simply dropped off and crashed onto the concrete below. Upon inspection it seemed ok (built like a tank), so I gave it a wipe down and attached it properly before taking the shots I needed. Unfortunately, when running the files through Lightroom it became apparent that the left hand side of all the frames were blurred (raw shot below) - meaning that some internal damage must have been sustained by the lens elements. This is another workhorse item, so had to be replaced immediately. I managed to find a used version for £1400 with my usual, reliable retailer. Now this was adding up over a period of a few days. I'm going to approach my insurer (£700 a year paid for 15 years now without any claims), but anecdotal evidence suggests they'll tell me to piss off. and keep taking my monthly premiums for a laugh.

But hold on.....we're not finished yet.

The 2015 Nissan Nanna has started to make some strange noises, which isn't surprising as it's been hammering the tarmac seven days a week since May - doing an average of 3000 miles a month. It's a small, "go to the shops and back" old woman's car which had 7000 miles over 2 years on it prior to me inheriting it from my wife. It's now up to 90,000 miles, and requires a cam-belt service, new suspension, exhaust repairs, new brake pads and discs, and the usual various remedial stuff. I've got it booked in - estimated cost £1K at a local garage. I can't afford a new motor until at least 2022, so this one has to last.

So....that's goodbye to just short of seven grand in only a few days. Putting that into perspective, I pay myself a grand a month, so this means a cessation of any expenditure, pension contributions, savings, etc, etc. The vast majority is funded by lending, so it's not an immediate emergency, but it shows how things can get out of hand in a very short space of time. Right - got to get back to work so that I can keep Apple shareholders in the manner they've become accustomed to. 

Brian Young shoots all aspects of the built environment for a range of clients throughout Northern England and the Borders.


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