30 March 2008

Media Diet Week 13

Press: it's been a dull week news-wise, apart from the fiasco at T5, and I've been too busy over the last week to do more than skim headlines, anyway. But, seeing as it's Sunday, perhaps it's time to fess up that my Sunday papers of choice are the Observer and the News of the World. As with my choice of dailies, I like the contrast between serious broadsheet and saucy red-top. If a really major story breaks over a weekend, I might dip into a couple of other papers too. Gone are the days when I'd wander to the corner shop mid-morning to buy the Sundays plus the necessaries for a leisurely breakfast and then return to bed with food and papers. As with the dailies, I read online mostly. My only other excursion this week was a copy of Look, as the fashion cover lines drew my attention just as I needed to go outfit-hunting (read on...).

Blogs: the find of the week was undoubtedly The Apprent-Bitch, a suitable companion to You're Fired (see below). So good, I felt compelled to chip in.

TV/radio: for someone who doesn't watch much telly, I seem to be watching an awful lot right now. It's TV heaven for me, what with Torchwood (sadly finishing in a few days' time), The Apprentice, I'd Do Anything, Hotel Babylon plus EastEnders. And Dr Who will soon be back. Unusually for me, I seem to be turning on the box every night of the week. The Apprentice got off to a cracking start although no one yet stands out as a real contender for the job. We shall see... The only other TV news I have to report is that I spent most of today trailing round shops getting more and more depressed as I struggled to buy something to wear on the TV. I'm filming for the BBC later this week and the list of Things You Can't Wear is horribly long - no red (it bleeds), no pinstripes on shirts (they strobe), no white (it dazzles), etc. Eventually, just as I was about to bury myself behind the bus station and weep, I found a sweater dress that had a decent neckline and a wearable colour. I'm now over £110 poorer - just for 10 minutes on a channel few watch and a programme even fewer tune into...

Books: I finally finished the lame Water Like a Stone. Naturally, the killer turned out to be someone you could never have worked out for yourself, seeing as the author kindly forgot to leave any clues whatsoever until about 10 pages from the end. I won't be buying any of hers again. At least I have a new Martin Edwards to open tonight. I loved the first of his Daniel Kind whodunnits - I'm sure The Cipher Garden will be as good.

25 March 2008

Advertising on blogs

It had to happen eventually. Advertising company Polimedia emailed me to see if they could buy space on my blog to flog one of their clients, Doing Fine.

I can't be arsed to reply, partly because Hotmail doesn't function in Firefox and I'm not in the mood for opening it in IE.

But if you're reading this, Polimedia, my blog is not for sale. Not to advertisers, anyway. I'm Doing Fine without you. I hate the (attempted) commercialisation of everything on the internet and my views cannot be appended to the brand image of some company or other. I don't need your money and I certainly don't want to compromise myself.

I'll continue to post on here what I like, when I like, without worrying if my "sponsor" will get offended and withdraw. Money doesn't buy everything, certainly not me.

24 March 2008

BT and bank holidays

The last of my bank holiday has been utterly ruined by BT. At the end of last week, there was a flurry of mails on a listserv I use about email complications at BT but I didn't really pay much attention to them. Then I discovered this afternoon that I cannot send emails using my domain name via BT (my broadband supplier). I can email using my various BTinternet.com addresses, but as my business email has its own domain I foresee problems.

Earlier, I logged into the listserv's email archive because (as you might expect) I'd deleted all my colleagues' mails. It was an interesting rummage - apparently, BT decided to introduce new anti-spam measures (fair enough) by moving some goalposts (sort of fair) but didn't bother to warn its customers in advance (how's that for shite customer service?). So, the first my hack colleagues knew of the moved goalposts was when they tried to send email from their own domains and got error messages directing them to a BT Yahoo web page that contains instructions for resolving the problem. Naturally, the link in the error message was not hyperlinked. No surprise there. BT never makes things easy for its long-suffering customers.

So, I laboriously typed in the URL and began the tedious process of verifying 3 different domain addresses with BT so I can send my non-BT domain emails via BT. Verification is, apparently, vital, in the War Against Spam. Except BT is still delivering the usual bucketloads of 300-plus per day to my inboxes. (It might do more to prevent the influx instead of forcing its customers to prove they are not spammers, but I digress.)

Still with me? Ye gods, I know, it's bloody complicated.

Having verified my addies, I still can't send anything. A phone call to BT's help centre did not appease my temper. It's somewhere in India and while I don't doubt the techy guys at the other end of the phone know their stuff I can never understand anything they say. Plus they have a script and refuse to veer from it so any conversation is generally pointless anyway. I have been known to get more satisfaction by banging my head on the nearest brick wall while thwcreaming until I am thick...

Their feeble excuse is that they have server outage which only affects outgoing email from non-BT domain addies. BT ones will be sent as normal. The UK goes back to work tomorrow, as do I, and I'm looking at the possibility of not being able to reply to my emails. I've spent 2 hours trying to sort things at my end, time I should have spent enjoying the break.

If I treated my clients the way BT treats its, I'd be out of business in a month. Probably less.

My personal trainer had me boxing this morning - I wish I'd known about the BT issue at 8am. Because every punch I threw would have been targeted at my broadband supplier.

23 March 2008

Media Diet Week 12

Press: Tuesday saw me not only battling a deadline, but also procrastinating like crazy (it's a freelance affliction, that). Which is no doubt why I spent almost all of Tuesday reading firstly the Macca/Mucca divorce judgment in full (because who can resist the lure of such a document once it's in the public domain?) and secondly, every single daily newspaper online, bar the Daily Star and the Morning Star, so I could savour every juicy morsel of the immediate reaction in the hackosphere. It's not often I trawl the Telegraph, Mirror, Mail and Express for any reason at all. But it served as a useful reminder as to why I don't normally bother with them. I was also quite tickled over the climbdown by the Express and its stablemates regarding their coverage of Madeleine McCann. As Roy Greenslade said, so eloquently, it was unprecedented. It still leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, though. Journalists have a piss-poor image among the public at the best of times. The Express débâcle will only serve to reinforce that view.

Blogs: I was entertained earlier in the week when stumbling across the Proof Prof. It's only 2 entries old, but serves to highlight all the reasons why it's a good idea to hire someone who is fully qualified and charges more. From the nonsensical hyphen in "non-sensical" to the absurd view that the "rule of thumb is a maximum two commas per sentence" (wherever did he get that from? It's not in any of the proofreader's standard reference works such as Hart's), why would anyone give work to someone who has yet to grasp basic punctuation and grammar ("These charges are apply until 30th September 2008", anyone)? Talking of the latter, £3 per 1,000 words is snatching the bread from the mouths of fully qualified and highly experienced proofreaders who actually know what they are doing. Copy-editors and proofreaders have seen far too much work vanish abroad to places such as India where it's done for less money and comes back in a state still unfit for publication. It's hard enough keeping rates at a sensible level that reflect the skill required - my colleagues can well do without trainees undercutting them. In a month where Archant can announce their proposal to dispense with sub-editors, it seems even more vital to maintain standards everywhere else. I sincerely hope Proof Prof is an early April Fool...

TV/radio: I hate it when the Beeb mucks around with the schedules. It was with something approaching close to panic that I discovered Torchwood appeared to have been axed for Wednesday next week and it was only by chance I learned that the episode had been shifted to Friday (and the subsequent one). As Friday was earmarked for a night out socialising in Manchester with other freelance hacks, once again, iPlayer proved its worth - I was able to watch Tanya bury Max alive in EastEnders at a convenient moment yesterday afternoon. And I saw the trailer for the new Doctor Who series, which arrives very soon. Hurrah! And Catherine Tate's in it. Not hurrah. Quite the opposite. She was bloody dreadful in the 2006 Xmas special. I suppose I should be grateful James Nesbitt has announced he's not interested in taking over from David Tennant.

Books: I'm close to finishing the quite dreadful and ridiculously slow Water Like a Stone. Thank gawd. And only because I spent several hours on trains in and out of Manchester on Friday, which requires a book in one's handbag. I've been reading crime novels since I was 7 years old and my mother gave me my first Agatha Christie. Water Like a Stone was one of the dullest I have ever opened. I have two more whodunnits awaiting my attention - I look forward to having my faith restored.

Apologies for the lateness of the media diet this week. Friday's boozing and my having to work almost all of yesterday (first at a press junket that was less interesting than expected, then blogging the evening away for a TV collective) meant it got pushed back. But I still love my new monitor. And who knows - I might find time to start Tabloid Tycoon proper this week, now that I've done the tutorial...

21 March 2008

Working over the break

It being an extended weekend, I have downed tools. Like many freelances, I'm not working. Not officially, anyway. All my regular editing clients have long been notified of my unavailability over the break. I'm still working, though. Sort of. Today, I've been researching a bit on the internet for an article I'll be filing next week. Over the weekend, I'll be listening back some interviews I recorded a couple of weeks ago, so I can pull some additional quotes for the client. And tomorrow I'm on a press junket.

In the meantime, however, it's playtime. I don't do Easter (although donations of chocolate eggs are very welcome) and while I don't really do Purim, either, there is a religious obligation to get pissed. A perfect excuse, not that I need one. Which is why tonight will see me larging it down the pub with a bunch of fellow hacks. Just because we can.

19 March 2008

Failed test

Last week, I sat an editing test for a potential new client. It was fairly straightforward stuff - correcting typos, grammar and punctuation, plus cross-checking amendments and applying the client's client's proposed changes. Unfortunately, I did the test in a hurry, squeezed between 2 other jobs and I, erm, fucked up. I did warn the client I was pushed for time. No excuse, I know.

I got the rejection email today, accompanied by a long list of all the things I'd apparently missed. I concede I'd failed to insert a missing full point and I'd left 2 words run together inadvertently because I'd been asked to work using Track Changes and naturally the document looked like Sweeney Todd's wallpaper, there was so much red everywhere.

But I was stumped at the other things I'd apparently failed to do, such as remove all references to 2 IT topics. Having checked the document twice again today, I'm 100% confident I left none in.

Who cares? I didn't want the job that badly, anyway. I had to sign an NDA just to do the bloody test, which had already set my alarm bells ringing about the kind of contract I'd be presented with had the work been offered to me. And they'd baulked when I mentioned my hourly rate. Perhaps my subconscious was weeding out the job for me in advance. I'd like to think so. It's the first time I've ever failed an editing test and I have sat well over 50 of them down the years.

17 March 2008

Monitors and wake-up calls

Two days and the best part of £300 later, I finally ended up with a monitor I could work with. Late on Saturday, it was clear that the new monitor was going to cause major health issues, in terms of headaches from the glare, plus eyesight problems due to the fuzziness that refused to sharpen. Sunday saw me trekking back to the shops to exchange the screen for a different one. I also decided to upgrade my graphics card at the same time, in order to get the best out of the new monitor. Hence the huge bill. All tax-deductible, though, and well worth it. The new arrangement is working well, after minor adjustments to the brightness and colour.

I rarely set my alarm clock, even for the earliest starts in the morning, as I'm a natural lark. For those mornings when I don't bound out of bed at 6am, this is what normally happens:

15 March 2008

Media Diet week 11

Press: as I was travelling yesterday and unable to surf the news, I broke my regular habit and bought the Guardian and the Sun in hard copy to read on the train. I also bought a copy of Grazia for the first time in ages earlier in the week. At £1.90, it's too pricey to buy every week, but it's a nice occasional treat. As women's mags go, there's plenty to read and I like the fact that it has a strong current affairs focus, but I do get outraged at the price of the fashion it features - almost every garment has a designer label and a tag of £200-plus. Totally unrealistic for most women, for whom £200 might be a month or more's clothing budget.

Blogs: curses to the Girl With a One Track Mind. I love her blog, not just for the saucy bits but because she writes so lucidly on sex itself -the politics, the differences between men and women, the emotions. This week she posted a link to a Lego Indiana Jones game, which has single-handedly increased my level of procrastination as I try to outrun the boulder. Yes, that boulder. I also enjoyed Wordwise's post on writing emails. Some food for thought in there.

TV/radio: what a relief to see Torchwood (almost) returning to form on Wednesday. I've seen very little else, but have managed to keep up to speed with the Archers - I'm loving the new feud between Roy Tucker and his sister Brenda. Coupled with the ongoing feud over Brian's will, TA is pretty juicy right now.

Books: I'm still only a third of the way through last week's Water Like a Stone. It's far too slow for a murder thriller. The author seems hell bent on dragging out every chapter with minor characters and unnecessary background details. Just cut to the chase - I want bodies, dynamism and edge-of-the-seat, page-turning tension, all of which are lacking so far.

And - a one-off - an extra section this week.

Multimedia: this week I learned not only how to use my mobile phone to take photos, but also how to email the results to myself. After my monitor unexpectedly expired yesterday, I spent this morning researching replacements online on one of the other computers in Wordsmith Towers. I decided to go for a 22" widescreen TFT and, having selected the model I wanted, did a quick price comparison. PC World, which I loathe, had what I wanted at the best price so I headed off there to pick it up. Three hours and £150 quid later, I'm seriously considering returning it. Despite endless tinkering with the settings, I can't get the brightness at a low enough level to avoid being dazzled and the focus won't shift much either, which means everything looks slightly blurred. My eyes hurt, I have a splitting headache and I'm certain I'll find it impossible to work on this monitor. I think I'm going to need to spend more and choose a bigger brand - HP or Samsung perhaps. I'm loving the widescreen, though - everything looks better across the extra width and I get the benefit of longer system trays and toolbars, which means I can add more shortcuts.

I don't know what it is about PC World but I wish they'd get decent staff. We were bombarded by them when we were just browsing, but when we actually needed assistance there were none to be seen. Not even standing in the middle of the store and yelling "are there any staff still on duty or shall I spend lots of money elsewhere?" produced any. The 18-year-old that eventually served me was dimmer than the Black Hole of Calcutta and looked as if he'd spent an hour blowdrying his carefully styled barnet. Pity he couldn't devote the same level of attention to the customers that justify his wages. I rounded off my visit by blowing a tenner on Tabloid Tycoon - I may write for the press but I'll never be rich enough to own my own paper. Except I can now. Hee.

14 March 2008

JEE whiz...

Your humble wordsmith has had a busy day.

Up at 5am, only to discover - quelle horreur! - that my monitor had popped its clogs overnight and I was minus internet access as a result. Not that I had time to surf, you understand, as I had a train to catch at a time most people are still sleeping through.

No matter, I was in Brum on time for JEEcamp. How to describe? A good opportunity to network, meet hacks I've previously only known online and, importantly, learn the latest about online journalism.

I've been toying with starting up a news site for quite some time and today's JEEcamp unconference was a useful opportunity to pick up dos and don'ts, tips and advice galore. I've come away feeling more confident, enthused and enlightened.

And for proof that I was there:

13 March 2008

Office shoes

Time was I wore heels every day to go to work. Being desk-bound, I'd sometimes slip them off if my feet ached. And, of course, by the time I got home my feet would be pretty sore - it'd be shoes off, slippers on.

Now that I'm home-based I only wear heels if I'm actually going out. Otherwise, I wear trainers. Last weekend I decided it was time to buy new trainers (not gym trainers, of which I have 2 pairs) for wearing around the house. My old Kangaroos, bought some 8 or 9 years ago in a foreign country, are worn out and beyond repair.

A trip to town last weekend saw me come home empty-handed. All I wanted was a pair of plain black trainers, with no fancy air pockets, or sprung soles or hi-tops. Or anything else that might make me look like a teenage gangster (ie, mutton dressed as lamb). No. Just plain black trainers, rather like my Kangaroos (which were actually charcoal with a beige streak).

Every shop I tried had white trainers galore. Or black trainers, but in fabric, not leather. Or baseball boots (only suitable for teenagers or baseball players). Then I found black trainers, in nubuck. Perfect. Until the assistant asked if he could help and I discovered that the shoe I was looking at came as up to size 5 in the Junior range and from a 7 upwards for adults. Yep, no size 6.

I grumped home, wondering if I'd be forced to make the Kangaroos somehow stretch to a few more months' wearability.

Then I looked on Schuh. Yay! Black trainers galore. And, in the end, I couldn't decide between two pairs, both in black nubuck, one more blingier than the other. So I bought both. I shall have the funkiest feet in Freelanceville now.

11 March 2008

Ungrateful gits

A couple of weeks ago, I did a corporate writing job for a mid-sized company. It was a lot of work. Of the tearing-your-hair-out variety. And it also entailed hours on the internet researching stuff that did not want to be found and required me to hire someone to help out with the googling.

I sent the job back within the deadline, clearly indicating it was for a first draft and requesting feedback. I was met with a resounding silence. Several days passed and I heard nothing. I emailed again to check the company had actually received the file. Still nothing. I rang. The client was unavailable, but the secretary confirmed the file had arrived safely.

- Sod it, I thought and raised an invoice.

A cheque for the job arrived today with an almost blank cover letter saying please find payment for my invoice. That was it. No thanks for doing the job. Just nothing. I hate clients like that. They want everything and give nothing, not even a thank you, in return. Is it really so difficult to drum up some good manners?

09 March 2008

Media Diet week 10

Running a bit late this week...

Press: so my piece finally appeared in a Sunday red-top. They used the most unflattering shot for my byline pic, in a bid to make me look miserable (to match the subject matter) and not only rewrote vast chunks of my copy but even changed some facts and invented things I felt or thought. What actually appeared was wildly inaccurate both factually and also in terms of my feelings. Lesson learned. I won't be selling my soul to the tabloids again - the money is good but I feel soiled.

Blogs: a while back I discovered Benefit Scrounging Scum and what a fine blog it is. If you want to know about the day-to-day reality of living with a disability, look no further. It makes having the occasional epileptic seizure look like a day in the park.

TV/radio: Torchwood was rubbish last week. It made no sense, I felt no desire to know what happened next and I was bored. I had a mini splurge on DVDs yesterday as the TV is so poor at the moment - I watched Control this afternoon. Fantastic. Only one gripe - of all the seizures portrayed, only the last was vaguely realistic. The one of him having a fit on stage showed him having a lucid conversation about 3 minutes after he was carried off stage. Tut. It just doesn't work like that.

Books: needless to say, I raced through Anything Goes. Fabulous, dahling. Laughed out loud every other page and finished it in just under 2 days. Which these days is very fast for me. I'm about 90 pages in to Water Like a Stone and getting twitchy. It took 70 pages before anything of note happened. Far too much faffing around scene-setting, far too many unjoined-up-yet characters and not enough bodies... Val McDermid is far better.

07 March 2008

Blogger's block

You've heard of writer's block - now meet blogger's block.

The only cure for the former is to just get writing. There's nothing worse than sitting here staring at a blank sheet of paper or its modern equivalent, the empty white screen. Writing anything, even if it's complete bollocks,* is better than writing nothing and once you've got the bollocks out of your system there's a fair chance you'll find the writer's equivalent of your sea legs again.

Blogger's block is similar but, at least in my case, with a bit of added complexity thrown in. I've been working flat out all week, mostly writing for other people, which means when it came to writing for me, there wasn't much left. Inspiration, like Elvis Presley, had left the building. I've been incredibly busy on a major ghostwriting job this week, which has pretty much drained me. Add in juggling several new job offers, which involved lengthy telephone discussions and/or poring over freelance contracts plus vast quantities of email - not only did all that leave me too knackered to write but on the rare occasions that fleeting inspiration struck, when I had free time I'd discover I'd forgotten precisely what it was what that I'd decided, several hours earlier, to blog about.

Even yesterday's blog was a struggle and that after borrowing Dougalfish's idea! I'm sure you don't want to know it took me the best part of 90 minutes and two pints of tea to reconstruct that day.

Here I sit on a Friday evening, too exhausted to watch Wednesday's recording of Torchwood, sipping my third glass of Merlot. I didn't feel like blogging at all, but once in a week is a poor show. Hence my heroic effort tonight to explain why blogging can just be too damn difficult at times.

I'm looking forward to a lighter workload next week, including the opportunity to hang out at an unconference for online journalism. Who knows, it might even give me something to blog about!

* pardon my French

06 March 2008

A day in the life

Dougalfish wrote a great post last week on her typical working day. I'm quite often asked "but what do you do all day?". It's hard to answer as no 2 days are ever the same (well, not unless I'm editing some mind-numbingly dull book on insurance risk management for 2 solid weeks) but I suppose yesterday was a fairly average day in most respects.

6.00 - switch the alarm off. Lie there for 2 minutes thinking I really want to go back to sleep for another 3 hours. Instead, I drag my sorry carcass to the bathroom to clean my teeth and have a hot shower. The steam wakes me up a little. A quick towel down and I dress in gym kit - yoga pants, t-shirt and trainers. It's chilly so I add a fleece then spend 10 minutes putting some make-up on (mascara and brow pencil if you're wondering) and beating my hair into submission.

6.45 - the cat is by now going crazy trying to get my attention because quite clearly I am at fault for being up a whole 45 minutes without feeding him. Downstairs, I feed the cats (there are actually 2) and make a pint of hot water with lemon slices. I empty the dishwasher while the kettle comes to the boil.

7.00 - sit at the PC. A s I sip my hot water, I take a quick look at any emails that came in overnight - one from a US client asking if I have any stories for her (no, I don't. I'd tell her if I did), several mails from a journo listserv I belong to (I delete these as I'm not interested in the topic being debated) and one from a colleague about organising a drinks do for freelances in our neck of the woods. Then I surf the net for half an hour - Facebook, the Journobiz forums, the BBC headlines. I'll read the rest of the news later.

7.45 - my trainer is at the door. Time to work out. For the next hour or so, this evil sadist (just kidding, he's very sweet really) has me lifting weights, doing squats and using a Swiss ball to tone up. The trainer comes 3 mornings a week and I go to the gym in between. Sitting at a PC all day is a good recipe for turning into a lardarse. The workouts are supposed to keep that in check.

9.00 - the trainer's gone so I have another quick shower and dress in jeans, a long green jumper and my trainers. I put coffee on to brew then rummage in the fridge for breakfast. I ought to be making juice, but I can't be bothered today so I grab a banana and make two slices of toast. I'll be alone for the rest of the day as the cleaner's not due for another couple of days.

9.30 - back at the PC. I read the Guardian and the Sun for more news. A broadsheet and a tabloid so I get both takes on what's happening out there. I rarely have time to read other papers, but if a major story breaks (such as the 7/7 bombings) I'll turn on News 24 and surf other news sites as well. Then I log in to Bloglines to read the blogs I subscribe to and some news feeds.

10.00 - time to log in to Googlemail and trawl through the press releases. I do this 2-3 times a day. Mostly, it's delete, delete, delete but today something catches my eye about a new website that could prove to be of use professionally. I immediately go and have a look and decide to register. It takes less than 10 minutes for me to realise this was a big mistake as the site has privacy issues. I decide to pitch a story about this to one of the papers I write for - it takes me about 10 minutes to draft the pitch then whizz it over the ether in an email.

10.30 - I start drafting a press release for a local businesswoman. I'm doing this as a freebie as she runs a virtual PA company and will give me some free hours in return, useful if I need transcription or some other service done. I find it hard to concentrate and keep sneaking 5-minute breaks on Facebook and Journobiz. The postie delivers the mail at 11-ish but there's nothing of interest today. I also take 2 phone calls, one from a freelance editor in the mood for a chat (he gets a polite brush-off as I'm too busy), the other from a client wanting a progress report.

12.00 - I've finished the first draft of the release so I mail it to my "client". Then I start my next task. Last week, I interviewed several industry spokespersons for a corporate job I'm working on. It's time to type up my notes. I hate this as it's the dullest part of the project, but essential if I'm going to produce a quality report for the client. I grit my teeth and crack on with it.

1.00 - lunch. I make a cheese sandwich and a pint mug of tea. Time to check emails again. I have an offer of editing work for a financial company - yay, right up my street. I email back to suggest a time for a phone chat on a different day. Another contact emails to say she's leaving her job and so-and-so will be handling projects in future. Time to chase as I have a number of corporate pitches sitting with this client that they haven't yet responded to. I decide I need some air so grab my coat and bag and head out the door. I nip into the bank across the street to pay in a cheque that's been sitting on my desk for 2 weeks already then I walk up to the parade to buy stamps. I'm home inside 20 minutes and chuck some washing in the machine.

2.00 - back to transcribing my notes. I need to listen to the recordings here and there as I have gaps but decide to do that tomorrow instead. I take mini-breaks to surf Facebook, Journobiz, the BBC, Bloglines and incoming mail. It's quiet today in terms of interruptions - the phone has barely rung and my email level is unusually low.

5.00 - I'm done. My notes are all typed up and I have a very clear picture in my head of how I'll be structuring the report for my client. I'll be starting that next day. I raise 3 invoices for clients - I should have done these last Friday but I was too busy. I turn 1 into a PDF and email it, then nip to the postbox with the other 2. Ideally I'd like to email all my invoices and have a paperless office but some clients still want a "proper" invoice. I also post a cheque to a colleague who bailed me out last week on a research problem and has to be paid for her time. I try not to outsource such work if I can avoid it but I was pushed for time last week and juggling too many jobs.

5.45 - I sift through the papers littering my desk. I can't bear clutter so I file what I can and divide the rest into 2 piles - "must deal with tomorrow" and "can hang around for a while in a neat corner".

6.00 - sit down with a drink. Briefly fancy a ciggie before remembering I gave up last June. I still miss them very occasionally. I feed the cats again and cook a quick dinner of steak and salad then get changed into a posher top over the jeans. I swap the trainers for heels and put on more make-up - eyeshadow, liner and lip gloss. The hair looks just about ok. A spritz of Coco Mademoiselle and some earrings are the finishing touches.

7.30 - head out the door. It's my monthly night out with a particular gang of friends. I walk to a pub in town and I'm first to arrive so I chat to the landlord, who's a pal of mine.

8.00 - my friends turn up and we proceed to make inroads into vast quantities of vodka. I end up talking shop as 3 mates want to know about a magazine I commission for, so we natter about that for a while then gossip about absent friends and holiday plans.

11.00 - I'm slightly tipsy and don't fancy walking home alone so I scrounge a lift from a friend. He drops me on the corner of my street and I wave goodnight to him. The house is in darkness when I let myself in. The vodka has left me wired so I pour a large brandy and sit at the PC while I drink it (and a top-up). I surf my favourite sites once more.

12.00 - it's midnight. Time to crash. As I flip the bedside light off I realise I'm still wearing my make-up but can't be bothered to get up again. Within seconds I'm fast asleep.

01 March 2008

Media Diet week 9

Press: I seem to have acquired a backlog of copies of Press Gazette. The issue of 22 Feb was barely glanced at, last week's (dated 29 Feb) is still in its plastic wrapper and my missing issue from 3 weeks ago arrived in the post today. Where to start? On top of that, it's 1 March and I still haven't read the March issue of InStyle, which is lying on my coffee table. The new one will be in out 3 days' time. Let's face it, life is apparently too short to read owt. I might as well shoot myself now.

Blogs: student hack Dave Lee gets an honorary mention yet again for his exemplary news coverage of the earthquake. What amused me most was the cheeky get emailing his CV to Sky in the aftermath. Clearly a hack who will go far - his ambition knows no bounds, but importantly he has talent too.

TV/radio: I studiously ignored all the earthquake coverage, ditto that on Prince Harry. Not much point blogging on it when everyone else has done so. And besides, I had my own concerns. Another thumbs up for BBC's iPlayer, though, which will dig me out of a Torchwood hole this weekend.

Books: give me a large one so I can batter someone over the head with it... then I'll write about it Liz Jones stylee.