Good with words

Fear... distractions.... the efforts of a self-employed writer to pay the mortgage.... all that jazz.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The obvious answer, of course

... was to go IN my dress, with big red coat thrown hastily over top. Never mind the red polka-dotted socks peeping over boots - never mind the red frills cascading out beneath my coat - it's mainly OAPs in the local supermarket anyway. So I drove very fast, and pretended that EVERYone does the shopping in a bright red party dress. I didn't look entirely dissimilar to a prostitute, especially with the split lip I am currently sporting. But on the bright side, the only call I missed was from the kitchen people (saying our kitchen won't be delivered next week, after all).

And I bought the champagne. It's in the fridge. Champagne and toothpaste (not in the fridge). No wonder the boys at the till were smiling at one another when I was queueing!

Champagne or not to champagne

You see, I want to go and buy some champagne for dinner (haven't worked out the food part but figure that isn't the important bit, not tonight anyway). But I have a problem; actually, two. First, I am wearing my lovely Valentine's dress. (Okay, let me get this straight: it's not actually his dress.) It's my thinkhappy dress, a red, flouncy, spanish dress that I wear when I want to cheer myself up, write spectacular copy, or get in the mood for Valentine's Day.

Anyway, it has just warmed up, and I don't want to change. If I change, then I will forget to change back and I will be wearing pyjamas or holey trackie bottoms when husband arrives (hopefully, early, as a surprise Valentine gift from boss).

The second problem is that if I go out, the phone will ring and a Very Important Client will want to know if I can do copy by 4, or otherwise should they do it themselves? And I will not be here, and they will do it themselves, and I will have lost a Very Important Client to champagne.

Hmm. My life is very tricky sometimes.

Venice - Murano

Last Wednesday we took a water-bus out to Murano, an island off the north shore of Venice proper. This is where all the fancy glass comes from - it's been made there for centuries, and its glass-blowers spent a long time guarding new techniques from the rest of the world. If you've seen any Murano glass, it was probably in this hideously gaudy style.

But Murano now houses some stylish galleries and new artists creating simpler, modern pieces. We visited a glass-blowing studio and watched a man blow a piece of glass like a bubble until it popped, sending wafer-thin shards all over the floor. (He ushered us out quickly and gruffly - I wasn't sure we were supposed to witness the smash.)

I don't know if they were all bad-tempered in this glass studio because, once out the door, we were invited upstairs to view the proper glass. A salesman in a suit unlocked a gate and welcomed us into the prestige rooms.... where huge vases and bowls were casually tagged with prices of £500+. "I can pack and ship any of this to England," he smooched.

We followed quietly, gaping at the outrageous pricing (I did wonder if they have an "Inglese" room, an American room, and an Italian room...) and trying not to point or openly marvel at any of it in case he pounced with the hard sell. As we moved through another and another room, the salesman became more stroppy, finally stamping into the last room: "This is my last room, and then downstairs are gifts," he announced abruptly. We meekly followed him downstairs (did he really think we were secretly wealthy?) and he waved his arms dismissively at the glass gifts. "You like small things, and small prices," he shouted, and stamped off to the back of the studio, leaving us to look at the miniatures in peace.

After that we were slightly nervous about actually going in to another glass shop, so we contented ourselves with window-shopping. As well as the island's gorgeous 10ft Christmas tree in coloured glass (too pretty to take down in january), these window-boxes were filled with glass-replica daffodils and tulips: I can only imagine that the people living in Murano aren't as clumsy as I am!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Venice - the Grand Canal

I'm going to post these Venice pictures in instalments, I think, because I am too busy to write all that I want to about the trip!

Venice is, apparently, sinking at the rate of 1 foot per century. Some of the houses had a few hundred years left, by my reckoning; some only had months! One front door, facing the Grand Canal (above), was just inches from the water level: the bottom of the wooden door had rotted clean away.

In fact, many of the grand homes along the Grand Canal look as though they were abandoned years ago - upkeep too high, floods too wearing. Those that aren't decrepit are hotels; some were being painted - by hand and from a boat - when we sailed past. I suppose a lot of DIY business is done in Venice! We saw gondolas loaded with cement and builders wheeling mixers and sanders on and off the water buses (motor boats serving the island).
Anyway, many of the homes and palaces have a couple of centuries left. I suppose this is why the whole 'sinking' issue isn't as pressing as it might be. You're a Venetian; your apartment building won't see the 25th century; but why do you actually need to care? My guide book (Venice for Pleasure) notes that the work required to stop Venice from sinking is simply too great to contemplate. I can quite see this. On the way out to the islands, you notice tiny, one-home isles with ruined manor homes in the middle.
Obviously, the prospect of the entire island sinking is a bit daunting. But wouldn't a little innovative thinking and some charity money solve the problem? (Did you know that the Campanille - the bell tower in front of St Mark's - was rebuilt with financial help from Britain's 'Save Venice' fund in the 1960s? It doesn't surprise me to learn that sightseeing-mad Brits and Americans care more about losing Venice than the Venetians do.)
Of course, my circular dam would do the trick. When do you think they will come to me for advice?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Too busy to blog...

Well, I wanted to just make a quick post about two things: first, is gearing up to go! I didn't have the work ethic to get it ready, but someone else did! I am looking forward to helping out with that - very exciting so far.

And the other thing... well, I wanted to tell anyone who's ever wanted to work for themselves or set up a business to do it. After two years doing it myself (DIY employment, if you will), I finally think I've gotten somewhere, and it feels seriously great. I don't know what I did to deserve this good fortune, but it's found me. It being January - month of new beginnings - I'm also working with several other tough-headed people who are following the same pot of gold, and, quite brilliantly, I just know they're all going to work out. I love to work with people who are giving the time and the devotion to make something that's entirely theirs. So.... I don't care what you do, but make up a dream, and then make it happen. It may be over-sentimental, and it may be frightening, and it may seem impossible, and it may be awful a lot of the time, but if I can do it, anyone can. And... in between being fabulously unemployed... I'm here to support you.

***You Are: 70% Dog, 30% Cat***
You and dogs definitely have a lot in common.You're both goofy, happy, and content with the small things in life.However, you're definitely not as needy as the average dog. You need your down time occasionally.
Are You More Cat or Dog?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas holiday

Finally finished for Christmas. Just got some wrapping and deliveries, and we're in Wales for a being-cooked-for Christmas with the whole family.

The Muppets' Christmas Carol is on Channel 5 on Saturday 23rd. My Christmas is complete!

Illegal Christmas cards

Know how I said about my compulsive post-opening disorder? Well, two extra Christmas cards arrived through the letterbox last week. "Mark F" and "Mike F" - no return address, nothing. Seeing as we didn't have many cards arrive yet, and I wanted to put some more on the fireplace, I figured I'd just open them. But it backfired. One had a Smiths £10 voucher inside. Well, what do I do? My conscience wouldn't let me spend it. Couldn't think how to return it without an address. Put it in the bin, and the buyer never gets it back. Suddenly realised, horribly, that next-door there is a real Mark (you know, as opposed to an Anna who pretends she is a Mark to get more Christmas cards).

So I quickly scrawled "Whoops! Sorry, opened without looking!" and sent husband to put the ripped-open card through their letterbox. Then cowered. Glad I sent him - they opened the door. Turns out it wasn't meant for that Mark, either. Now what? The criminal evidence was back in my hands. I couldn't spend it; so give it to someone whose conscience would let them spend it, right? Is that just as bad as spending it myself? I know! Nextdoor (as well as having a real Mark) have a baby. Spend it on him, I said firmly, because as everyone knows, babies can't go to hell.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Getting organised

There's nothing like a holiday plan to speed up the organisation process! This week I've been ever so busy working, invoicing, ironing, baking, cleaning, hoovering, stain-removing, de-cluttering. Phew. All because we are counting down to the holidays on Friday!

We are off to a little cottage in romantic St Davids, West Wales. The dog's coming, but that aside, we're planning to mooch around in pyjamas, watch a lot of Christmas movies, and drink champagne. Perfect!

But before then, I have to iron a heck of a lot more, and coax a reluctant MD into talking to me on the telephone. It's not often I make phone calls where I'm the one doing the talking.

Now then, I have a little dilemma. Supposing that one had accidentally opened husband's telephone bill, and recognised the number of a certain jeweller? Should one keep quiet or blab to husband that yet again, his Christmas surprise has been ruined? (This happened once before, when my Grandma rang on Christmas morning and blurted: "Did you love the bracelet?!", even though I'd just told her that we hadn't yet opened our presents.)

Grandma and Grandad have always gotten up ridiculously early at Christmas. My brothers think I'm a nuisance banging on their doors at 8am, but whenever Grandma and Grandad stayed, I'd run to their room and find them sitting up with wrapping paper all around the bed.

Anyway, I digress. Probably keeping schtum is the best bet. I wish I didn't compulsively read everything. No matter who the post is addressed to, I'll usually open it. (Yes, I know it's a criminal offence to read letters addressed to your home's last owners.) It's quicker than writing RETURN TO SENDER and walking to the post box.

Christmas cards all sent, I think. Presents all bought, I hope (a couple of panicky ones this week but they're all here now). Sainsbury's shopping ordered for the 22nd (to back up the vegetable box, of course!). Ironing.... yet to be done. But husband is working late tonight so I will be able to put on a Christmas episode of Ally McBeal and work through it.

Now I am going to have a mince pie and do some work (with a pen!) downstairs, with the dog. Caroling, caroling, through the town, Christmas bells are ringing...

Oh and do you know what else is on my mind this week? Stupid people who hate Christmas. It is entirely beyond my reach of understanding. And yet it seems to be a universal joke to hate Christmas, and laugh at those who revel in the festivities. I was in B&Q on Sunday (dragged by husband, and allowed to stay in the Christmas aisle), standing in the doorway, watching a darling trio of outdoor dancing snowmen who were singing Christmas songs. (Husband won't let me put things like this on or outside our house, so I enjoy them when I can.) A family walked in behind me and the father, smirking, went to the lead singer and pretended to kick him in the head. The rest of them laughed and continued straight past, while I stood there, aghast. Kicking a singing snowman? It doesn't get much Scroogier than that.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Not so crummy

Trouble with crumbs behind the toaster? Rice beneath the hot-plates? Cornflakes sneaking under the microwave? You need.... the Patented Black Sheep Novelty Crumb Hoover!

I'm not really this way inclined, preferring to live and let live when it comes to crumbs... but I know some of you will love this! Also comes in Duck and Elephant models.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Playing with the big girls

I haven't posted about work for a while, which is probably for a few reasons:
1. I have been writing about some truly dull stuff, like hackers, gritting the roads, letting houses, and computer software.
2. After an intensely busy period, I found myself suddenly twiddling thumbs wondering where January's wages will come from, and
3. I have been Very Busy formulating The Great January Get-Working Plan. (So far only two pages.)

So, here is a very boring post about the amateur copywriter's conundrum.

Well, it isn't that I'm an amateur. I mean, how can anyone who comes up with "We won't beat about the bush. That's your job" be disrespected? But because of the route I took to freelance copywriting - lacking proper, city experience, big brand names, or agency contacts - I'm hardly facing the big time.

And here's the big news: a famous, international, big-wowsers fashion brand is looking for a writer. What's more, an agency in London thought I might have what it takes, and - da-da-da-da-daaaaa - has forwarded some of my work for consideration. Which you might think would have me dancing in my home office, but actually, is too big and scary to contemplate. Just think. Somewhere, in a busy city office, my feeble little CV is batted from desk to desk, probably the source of much amusement and hilarity.

The whole thing has kind of bummed me out.

It's happened before - with Selfridges. An agency lady rang me, I sent samples across, she sent it all to the client, and nothing happened. It wasn't a big surprise, but I was holding my breath all the same. Is this my big break? But the answer was inevitably no.

Thing is, when is my big break? I can talk the talk; when do I get to walk the walk, and how do I do it without having any actual proper walking practice?

No, I don't know either. Aretha Franklin's the answer. And mince pies.

(In further thrilling work news, am meeting with new client on Monday r.e. engineering project: copy about water meters and gas thermometers. From one extreme to another.)