28 June 2007

Wildcard Brown

As usual, yesterday morning consisted of a frantic rush to get some work done by lunchtime so I could laze in front of the telly in the afternoon. I'd already had a look at the hallowed order of play and decided I could probably survive without watching Andy Roddick's second-round match, but that Henin and Henman were both essential viewing.

I switched on BBC1 at noon to get the latest from SW19, watched Tim arrive and be interviewed, then strolled back to my desk to deal with emails. About an hour later, I discovered Sue Barker and John McEnroe had been replaced by two new sports reporters called Hugh Edwards and Nicholas Witchell. They were discussing a live match between Anthony Blair, who has been champion for the last decade, and the unseeded wildcard, Gordon Brown, who was challenging him for the title. Interesting player, Brown - he has no record on grass and prefers hard courts. He had spent most of yesterday afternoon in the royal box instead of warming up on the practice courts over the road.

I flicked over to BBC2, where the only match showing was a very sweaty and out-of-breath Serena Williams struggling against Alicia Molik. I returned to the coverage on BBC1, where I discovered Blair had thrown in the towel. I expected Sue Barker to opine on this dramatic development in the tournament but there was still no sign of her. Hmm...

Obviously, a power handover is headline news, but News 24 was already providing full, streaming, live coverage. I was disgruntled enough to complain to Aunty about the unscheduled extra 2 hours of news on BBC1. I was even more fed up when the rain came. I didn't see a single full match yesterday. This WILL be rectified today, otherwise I might actually be forced to do some work...

26 June 2007

Wimbledon 1 - Work 0

In between drafting press releases and fishing for some editorial work at a hot and hip new publishing house, I fully intend to watch as much tennis as possible today. The Mahut match starts in a few minutes so I shall sneak off to the living room to see if it's being televised. If not, I'll plod on with earning money until the closer of Henman's first-round match.

Poor beloved P - he didn't get fed until very late last night, glued as I was to the screen in pursuit of Tiger Tim's latest white-knuckle ride. There was no way I was going to cook anything until the match ended. I'm not a victim of Henmania by any stretch, as he can exasperate far more often than truly enthral but last night's play was just magnificent.

After the Henman match, whether I work or not will depend on what other unmissable tennis is due to be screened. Luckily I have no urgent deadlines to hit, else I fear my bank manager would be ringing me in despair.

At least P is home today, which means he can cook while being a tennis widower and I can get on with the important job of following the trajectories of fluorescent yellow balls 200 miles south of Wordsmith Towers...

25 June 2007

Do your homework!

Just had a phone call from someone running a virtual office service. Had I received their mailing last week? Well, possibly, says I, but if I did it would have gone into my junk mail pile and therefore been recycled. Silence...

Would I be interested in having my phone calls answered? No, says I, I work from home and am a sole trader, so I can manage all my own calls.

Well, what if you were really busy and you didn't want your callers to go to voicemail? It's not a problem, says I, for people in my profession. It's known as leaving a message and expecting me to call them back asap. Silence...

Could I interest you in our other virtual office services, such as meeting space? No, says I. Look, love, I'm a freelance bloody wordsmith - I work from home writing and editing and don't need meeting space or someone to handle my calls. On the rare occasions I need to see a client, there's a very good hotel with a posh bar and coffee lounge within 5 minutes walk of Wordsmith Towers and it's free.


Sheesh - I wish other small businesses would do their homework before touting for clients. I was interrupted in the middle of an important batch of page proofing, I mean Federer's opening match on Centre Court...

22 June 2007

Facebook popularity

Perhaps I'll have the last laugh after all.

After my earlier moan about being dumped on Facebook, I've got 5 new friends on there!

Who cares about one lousy hack with poor manners? Not I.

Facebook ignominy

Warning: rant ahead...

I feel humiliated. Having joined Facebook a couple of weeks ago (clearly in the fear that if I didn't I might be the only person left in the western world who wasn't on there), I started building my network of friends, family, colleagues and business contacts. Last week, I asked a fellow freelance to connect to me. This was someone I knew from an online forum for journalists and who I had helped out by being a case study for an article of theirs.

So we hooked up. Then this morning I discovered I had one friend less... [note to self: should that be fewer? I need coffee]

The problem with Facebook is that you can see, via your personal news feed, when someone adds you as a friend, but not when they dump you. However, being the amazingly intelligent and doggedly persistent investigative newshound that I am, it took me less than 5 minutes to work out who had decided I was no longer worthy of them... A simple trawl through the Facebook group for the mutual journalism forum we belong to was all that was needed.

What I don't get is why. A week ago, this hack agrees we should be part of each other's networks. Now, they think otherwise. I'd rather someone messaged me and said "thanks, I'm flattered you'd like to connect to me, but I'm only networking with people I know really well" than agree to be "friends", only to sneakily drop me off their Xmas card list a few days later. But this person has more than 150 contacts on their network, many of whom they must know as little as they do me. So maybe I offended them in some way? I don't know. What I do know is that some people have no manners.

So now I'm sitting here developing all kinds of stupid neuroses about why this hack dropped me, instead of focusing on work. I don't know why I care - it's only a cyber-networking website, after all.

At times like this I long for a cigarette. But I really ought to earn some money instead of fretting about something that, in the great scheme of things, is really very unimportant.

20 June 2007


I see it's been a week since I last blogged. I have been in a strange limbo. For one thing, I'm still learning to live without my legal drug of choice. Secondly, it's June - this is always a slack month for me in terms of editing work and copywriting. No one ever seems to have projects on the go in the summer, or the money for them. I don't mind as June is Tennis Month - so no work means I can fill my afternoons watching the French Open, Queen's and Wimbledon without guilt.

I have, in the absence of solid bookings, been pitching like crazy to various publications to sell my writing. I find I'm having to chase almost every editor, as almost no one is bothering to respond. I'm not alone in this cat and mouse game. It's great when a comms ed replies within the day and says yay or nay. Less great when you have to pick up the phone two weeks later and ask them if they have received your pitch and do they want the article. So I'm feeling a bit despondent workwise right now.

Lastly, my beloved P and I are going through what's usually called a "rough patch" and I'm having to face up to the fact that I may need to look for a new Wordsmith Towers from which to ply my trade. I could really do without this - life with P has, until now, been sustaining rather than draining. I don't want to be without him, but I'm not sure I have much say in the matter.

Yours despondently...

14 June 2007

When sickness prevails...

...the advantage of being freelance and home-based is that you can keep working. No one will know or care if you are in your dressing gown and look like death on a plate served up with a side order of greasy hair and blotchy skin. As long as you're able to sit upright, use the keyboard and put your best telephone voice on, you can keep working. And earning.

None of this applies, of course, if your illness involves having your head down the loo for the best part of three days.

I had plans for Tuesday - an earlyish train to London, a couple of meetings with Useful People, and friend's book launch at a pub in the evening, followed by a night in a hotel and an earlyish train home again on Wednesday morning. On Monday it was clear that I was too ill to travel and - possibly - that train travel could either have worsened my own health or endangered someone else's, give the parlous state of train toilets these days. So I cancelled everything and consoled myself with the thought that I could get some work done from home anyway.

Alas, it was not to be. Too weak to do anything beyond feebly attempting to surf the net in between bouts of reacquainting myself with our bathroom tiles, I lay on the sofa to watch daytime tv. This was when I discovered that BBC Breakfast no longer offers headlines at 9am, that the morning schedule is littered with tedious property programmes and that having one's toenails yanked out with hot pliers is probably preferable to watching Loose Women. I was only consoled by tennis at Queen's in the afternoon.

Feeling a lot better today, I'm now playing catch-up and can't put the necessary phone calls off any longer.

11 June 2007

A small victory

I'm gratified that my complaint to the ISP of the thief blogger at Club House Cigars has removed the offending pages. Let it be a lesson to anyone who takes original content and posts it as their own.

I won't be posting any more about my attempts to give up you-know-what as I can't be arsed to deal with all the legal stuff again. Suffice to say it's going well.

08 June 2007

Victim of theft

The people behind the Club House Cigars blog have half-inched my latest post on quitting smoking and the first one too! It blatantly says "original post by" the poster's name, although if you click on that name it takes you directly to my post.

The point is this amounts to copyright violation as there is no direct link to my blog in the so-called "original post". Just wait till I track down the ISP and report the thieving blogger...

Of course, if the post is amended and gives me credit for my own words, I might feel generously forgiving. On the other hand, I might not, but the only way the thief will find out is to credit me properly and see how nice I can be if I have a mind to...

07 June 2007

It's been 3 days...

...since my last cigarette. I'll admit I'm finding it hard - my left hand keeps roaming across my desk, vainly trying to grope for the packet and lighter that used to lie there. Several times I resisted the urge to rush to the corner shop and restock. I resorted to my stash of nicotine patches in the end - although it's curbing the cravings, it doesn't cure the restless left hand problem. My friend J thoughtfully brought me clary sage oil to inhale as an antidote, until I remembered that it triggers seizures.

So I've thrown myself into a burst of productivity to distract myself. I had a massive pitchfest yesterday and today, trying to sell some features. No positive responses yet, but I'll keep trying. I've also ploughed through mountains of emails and scribbled 200 words for a mag I write for regularly. Now to snare some solid editing work too...

04 June 2007

Up in smoke

Tomorrow I stop smoking.

There, I said it.

It's not the first time I've stopped. I once jacked the fags in for nearly 3 years, only having the very occasional puff on a monthly night out at a particular club, where I knew I could cadge 4 or 5 ciggies off friends "just to keep my hand in", as I'd joke. Then quite happily live without them for the next 4 or 5 weeks. The cigarettes, that is, not my mates.

I have a peculiar relationship with tobacco. I started in my teens, as you do. Just experimenting. When I started my chosen career in hacking at the tender age of 16, I took up smoking full-time. And discovered that hacking has more than one meaning. For me, smoking was not just about looking cool, it was an essential part of being a journalist. As much a prop as the editor's blue pencil, writing and smoking were inextricably combined. I was in love with the romanticism of the hard-bitten hack puffing away in the wee small hours as I bashed out words on my old typewriter.

It's fair to say cigarettes have been the enduring relationship in my life. Lovers and husbands have come and gone, but I was still in love with the evil weed.

Last time I gave up, it was because my ex-husband was a non-smoker. And giving up was surprisingly easy (apart from the clandestine drags at the aforementioned nightclub). But then the marriage foundered and, out of the blue, I met someone else. Someone who was a hardened 40-a-day man. I slipped back into my old habit and it was like coming home. But since we've been together, I've been coughing up lumps of disgusting brown muck every morning. I tried to stop last year, but lapsed when surrounded by my beloved's smoking paraphernalia. Working from home gave me no real incentive to stop.

Then last week, my beloved announced that, after 27 years of serious nicotine addiction, he too was going to give up, defeated by the forthcoming smoking ban. "Hurrah", I thought, "I can stop again at last."

I've just lit my last. Tomorrow is a clean slate. Hello healthy hack!

Part of me mourns the departure of my lifelong best friend. I already feel the nostalgia for those times when a cigarette sustained me through writer's block and I'll miss the smoke that kept me going when I was under pressure to hit a deadline. But no doubt my 45-year-old lungs will thank me for it.

Wish me luck...

01 June 2007

Domestic chaos

Like many working women, I juggle work and domestic life. My beloved P is a high-flyer who works long hours and comes home shattered every night. I, on the other hand, have the perceived luxury of working from home. Luxury only because I don't have to commute, mind. I still need to maintain working discipline during the day. Not always easy when there's no boss peering over your shoulder and checking up on you. Granted, I'm at least as productive at home as I would be in an office, even with the distractions available to me - surfing the net when I feel like it, catching up with last night's episode of The Archers...

A key advantage of being home-based is I can potter during breaks with domestic chores. In an ideal world, I load the washing machine at lunchtime and start cooking when P walks in the door.

The reality is hideously different. Regular readers will know we employ a cleaner. We couldn't manage without domestic help as we both have back problems and I can barely drag the hoover across the floor without screaming in pain. Even with help, though, I still try to maintain order. The cleaner comes two mornings a week (Wordsmith Towers being somewhat large) to hoover, scrub, iron and dust. I still need to tidy up before the cleaner arrives as I don't expect our Mrs Mopp to do that.

So it goes like this.

Bedtime the night before cleaner is due: get into bed, realise I forgot to load the washing machine, run naked downstairs at 11pm with large basket of dirty laundry. Remind myself to switch on dishwasher as well. Race back to bed before I catch a chill. Lie there frantically struggling to remember anything else I forgot to do before Mrs Mopp turns up.

Morning: after a pot of tea and an hour's surfing/email catch-up, leap into shower, dress, put face on. Race around the bedroom picking P's dirty clothes off the floor and putting in hamper. Collect brandy snifters off bedside tables to take downstairs to kitchen. Run round the kitchen emptying dishwasher/making coffee/reloading dishwasher with morning tea mugs, last night's brandy snifters and anything else I forgot to put in the night before. Empty kitchen compost caddy in the back garden before Mrs Mopp complains of smell. Empty washing machine into wicker basket, ready for ironing. Pick up half a week's worth of junk mail/scrap paper/freebie newspapers off the dining table and put in recycling bag. Realise the new bin bags left by the binmen last week are still hanging in the letterbox of the front door cos no one brought them inside. Hang up 3 of P's jackets left slung on various door handles/banisters/handy chairs. Replenish the downstairs loo with a supply of new loo rolls. Find a pair of my boots lying on the living room floor that belong in the bedroom and chuck out a 2-week-old copy of the Radio Times.

All this gets done in about 15 minutes. I sit down for a quick nicotine fix before Mrs Mopp arrives and congratulate myself on restoring order to the chaos.

At the end of the day, P arrives home and I realise that my plans to take meat out of the freezer at lunchtime for our dinner have been completely forgotten and I'm forced to defrost it in the microwave instead. Then fling a meal together before EastEnders. On non-Mrs Mopp days, this is usually when I discover I have also forgotten to empty the dishwasher and all the pans and utensils I need to cook tonight are still lurking in the machine.

I do my best. Honest. It's just that work occupies my brain 99% of the time. This week I have forgotten to book an appointment with my hairdresser, go to the bank over the road to pay in a cheque a client sent me two weeks ago and collect an urgent prescription. My tear-off, page-a day-desk calendar still has Tuesday's date on it. It would be 10 times worse without Mrs Mopp and 100 times worse if I had children. And my mother still labours under the illusion that because I work from home I'm not really working and therefore have time to iron the sheets and P's socks, have weekly facials and go window shopping... if only it were true.

Excuse me while I clear up the kitchen...