Sunday, 27 June 2010

Peaks and Troughs - slight return

You've got to love England in the summertime, right?  Absolute smasher of a day this sunny Sunday and I've woken up to my first national newspaper byline (page 79 of the Sunday Express today).  It's the travel feature about the Peak District that I wrote about in the original 'Peaks and Troughs' post on this blog.  It's a good feeling - feels like I'm getting somewhere.  More importantly it part answers the question that this blog was set up to answer and that is, if only for a few days, I can write for a living.  There certainly needs to be many more commissions for it to be a viable proposition though.  Two of those a week could keep me pretty well.

The story behind it is that I met Duncan Craig, the Express Deputy Travel Editor a couple of years back when we were both invited to go up in the Stella airship.  Duncan, being a proper journalist and someone who was in a position to give them a plug, had a perfect right to be there.  Not sure why the PRs had thought I should be: I was a Deputy Picture Editor.  So, bit of a blag really.  Anyway, we got on, swapped business cards and when I decided to see if I could write, I mailed him asking for ten minutes of his time.  Surprisingly, given how busy he is, he said yes.  After some good advice, I added him to the mailing list for the blog and I think it might have worked as a regular reminder to his inbox that I was still here waiting for an opportunity, which he eventually gave me.  The other major factor in getting a full page in the Express was attending Peter Carty's Travel Writing Workshop.  Now, enough with the laptop.  Sunny English days like this are rare, so I'm off out.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Fear and Loafing

As a freelancer, one of the things I'm finding hard to learn is knowing when I can enjoy time off.  The whole point of being your own boss is that you can work when you want to, right?  Only true if you're in the happy position of being offered so much work you can pick and choose...and maybe not even then.  Most freelancers would agree that you take the work when its coming your way.  Enjoy getting fat feasting as long as you can before the anxiety inducing famine arrives.  You can't complain if a constant flow of work knackers you out because you'll only be cursing your own whinging when the phone has stopped ringing.

A new feeling I've encountered is freelancer guilt.  On a day like today, when the Scottish lady from breakfast TV is promising 28ºC (28!), you'd think I'd be justified in going to sit in the park for a bit with a good book and a bottle of something cold wouldn't you? I mean, how often do we get days when its 28º?  Maybe, in 365 days we might get, what, 10?  In the office where I worked full time it was actually a blessing that we were positioned under artificial light, quite far from the window.  If my terminal had been closer I would have spent most of my day staring out of the window wishing I was outside and wondering how all these other people seemed to be able to enjoy it.  Didn't they have to go to work?

Even worse was the lunchtime break.  Kensington Gardens was always full of dozy picnickers, unhurried and languid, who could stay in the sunshine as long as they wanted.  My lunchtime hour always flitted by super quick, as if some Time God was looking down guffawing every time I checked my watch.  Often I'd wonder what would happen if I just stayed in the park and returned to a bollocking which I could keep in perspective.  It always ended the same way - it just wasn't worth the aggro.  I would return sulkily to the office, still dozy from prolonged exposure to a happy sun to slump over a terminal and clock watch until I was released into the seemingly endless light of the summer.

So now I'm my own boss (to an extent) and given that we don't get many sunny days like this one, I'm off to the park, which I'm going to try to enjoy without thinking about the state of my bank account.  There is support out there for those agonising about loafing.  If this post has rung some bells with you, take comfort from The Idler.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Trouble With Women

Sometimes its suggested to me that I should write something for a certain section (not generally by commissioning editors unfortunately).  A journalist who I met last year was kind enough to tell me that she'd enjoyed reading something on here and that I should write something for 'The Trouble With Women...' which is a section in the Times Style magazine.  Eva, this one's for you.  No feedback from The Times yet.  Do you think I went too far?

'The Trouble With Women is...They Insist on Giving You Gory Birth Details'

I’m overjoyed that you’ve given birth to your child.  Really, I’m made up for you.  Remember how you were stressing that you had left it too late?  We’ve known each other since, like, forever.  We sailed through our 20’s drinking and dancing and there was that that time when we had that sort of thing before we worked out that we were better off as friends.  And now I love having you as a friend, I really do, I’m still amazingly fond and though I’ll never tell you, probably still a little bit (a tiny bit, not even worth mentioning really, maybe about 1%) in love with you but its cool.  Harry’s a great bloke and anyway, we would have been a disaster.  It’s great that we’re still hanging out all these years later and I even get a weird sort of buzz when my mates tell me they think you’re gorgeous after meeting you.  We are close; I love you so I’m happy that you’ve got the thing that you always wanted. 
You’re a Mum!  How strange is that?  You’ve carried that little mite around for the best part of nine months and now you have a beautiful, curious little being that can make you melt with one tiny contortion of its perfectly formed fizzog.  Yes, of course I want to know what its like to give birth!  Tell me!  It’s an experience I can never have and although women have been doing it for thousands of years, it’s still the most visceral, primal, sort of unbelievable thing.  I mean, another human being came out of you. Like, really?  That is just too mind-blowing. 
However, what I really don’t need is the image of you on a birthing stool (which I didn’t even know existed before you told me) that looks like half a toilet and how the midwife put a mirror down there so you could see the head emerging out of the part of you that was once the source (if I’m honest) of quite a lot of longing and curiosity on my part.  And thanks to you I now know, with all that pushing (it happens a lot you say) that you did a poo in the middle of it all and how you didn’t even need that many stitches for the tear as it was only a little one and Gemma’s was much worse and she was in surgery for 2 hours.  I really don’t want to think about your fanny being torn.  I do love you, honest, but, please, not that.  Dear God no.