Wednesday 30 November 2011

Being God

Fat Boy 1 as a poult
For a moment I AM God or at least a deity of some kind or another. It gives one such a thrill to know that you are, for that moment, the centre of their world.
The bringer of good things: food, shelter, protection.
If they could only articulate in a language I understood I truly believe it would be in praise of me each and every morning. As it is people are beginning to say my chickens make too much noise and if I am not careful the council will be on me about noise abatement.
But the thrill I get when they come flocking at the sight of me. Cackling in delight and anticipation at my benefice. It quite goes to my head. You can see me in my large Blue Down Jacket spreading my arms wide over them all as they peck about in contentment at my feet.
I am the harbinger of life and death.
It is a heady tonic and one which sometimes brings with it headaches.
My biggest headache at present is what to do with Fat Boy 1 and Fat Boy 2 who should have been hens but aren’t.
They are my acolytes waiting out for my return from the school run, rushing up to greet me as I get out the car chortling and squawking and telling me all sorts of things – I prefer to think they are telling me things rather than ordering me about and I am quite happy  in my delusions. They are characters. When I chat to Tatu or J they come and sit on my feet keeping them warm. They follow me about the garden and in reward I lob them worms and other tasty morsels.
They are boys and come the spring when the days are longer and the sap starts to rise again they are going to be quite a handful and they are not going to be nice to my poor hens.
So for the good of the whole flock they must be dispatched in some way or another.
Being a God is not easy and for those looking up to the god where the hand strikes must seem a bit random and essentially rather unfair.
It is not the part of the job I enjoy.
But no one said being God is easy…

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Freelance Lessons #1: How (not) to get paid

Should you ask to be paid?
Normally that is agreed before you sign on the dotted line and work for a company and as part of the agreement you will get paid weekly/monthly or whatever.
When you are a freelance it is quite another matter.
I agree with the editor, who has already agreed how much he can spend per issue with the publisher; what the editor wants, when he wants it and how much I will be paid to deliver it. I meet all my side of the bargain and send in an invoice in the expectation that it will be paid within 30 days of publication of the article.
Sometimes I write these articles up to two months before publication so the earliest moment I can reasonably expect to be paid is 90 days after I have written and sent in the job.
Normally there are very few hiccups.
A lot of things can happen in 90 days.
In this instance the magazine I was contracted to write for was sold. OK I thought they’re a large firm and efficient; there should be no problems in sorting everything out.
How dumb am I?
Of course there are problems and for 90 further days my invoice has been ping-ponged backwards and forwards as they try to work out who is responsible. I am NOT interested in who is responsible I just want to get paid. I don’t care how complicated the deal regarding the sale of  the paper is, that is not my problem, having money in my bank account is. It has been exceedingly frustrating and up till now I have been terribly, terribly polite and understanding.
But today I got two letters from the former publisher not dated or indeed even signed and addressed: “To Whom It May Concern”. Attached to the letters were a couple of outstanding invoices.
I was informed in the terse note that the attached invoices should be directed to the new owners and I should contact the other company with any queries.
Thank you and Goodnight.
Hands washed clean
I checked the invoices; they were for work done and published before the sale. So doing as directed I contacted the new owners who immediately responded that they had nothing to do with that and I should contact the previous company.
I got a teeny weeny bit cross.
I should have waited and counted to 10 as Granny always advised.
But SOD THAT! I thought in righteous anger and I snarled into the phone that I needed to speak RIGHT NOW to My Big in accounts.
Possibly I should not have said I was calling in the debt collectors.
Possibly I should not have said that the NUJ was going to be involved.
Possibly I shouldn’t have said that the obvious financial difficulties being experienced by the company would be a great tip for the FT.
It worked.
Not the threat of debt collectors or angry union but the idea that I might tipoff the FT.
Power of the press.
Gonna get paid….

(PS. However, I don’t think I am EVER going to be employed at the old publishing house in a hurry!)

Monday 28 November 2011

Why Not Having My Husband Around Might Save Our Marriage

Seriously over the last two years it’s been tough as I watch my husband become enthralled with his new job to the extent that me, his wife, and our two boys seem to disappear off his radar.
When he does get home, invariably after the boys have gone to bed and sometimes even when I have, he’s exhausted and we barley manage supper let alone a conversation.
It doesn’t get much better at weekends with him having siestas in order to catch up while I try to entertain the boys and not wake up Daddy.
I’ve said it before; it’s not much of a family life.
So me saying that not having him around just might save our marriage may seem a bit strange. But I really think it will help.
In fact I am really looking forward to it.
The idea is that he stays up in London three or four nights a week and comes home at the end of the week rested and restored because he does not have to commute. You never know he may even make it home early on the nights he does come back because he has had the freedom to work late while he is in London.
A friend is renting a two bedroom flat and has a room spare during the early part of the week and this could be perfect for us. It’s in an area we used to live in and where a lot of our London friends still reside.
Dear Charlie could drive down on a Sunday night, bicycle into work at Blackfriars all week, then drive back on a Thursday night. Commute in by train on Friday and that’s it.
Only one day of having to get up at 5am!
Only one day a week of train commuting.
Bearing in mind it costs us £6000 a year for him to commute this must surely be a win:win solution in more ways than one for us!
Why didn’t I think of it before!
You never know we may land up renting our own flat and then I could pop down during the week…we may even be able to go out…!!!!

Sunday 27 November 2011


Can’t sleep.
But sleepy enough not to be able to get out of bed and do something useful because there just might be enough sleepiness there in order to fall back to sleep.
Then you spend the next four hours trying to fall back to sleep succeeding for ten minutes here or five minutes there. But By 2 o’clock in the morning you give up sleep as a bad job. You are too tired to get up and anyway you’d only land up waking the household so you read.
You read in the vain hope that your eyes will get so tired of being open that they’ll close of their own accord and blissful sleep will ensue
But three hours later and your cunning plan has failed, all you have is eyes that just ache. So you stop reading and lie there. Really still. And hope and pray that being still sleep will come.
Inevitably it does and then your kids rush in because it’s Sunday and can they please play on the Wii until you lazy grown-ups get and make breakfast…

Saturday 26 November 2011

A perfect weekend on our own…

We have no guests. We haven’t been invited out. There are no parties for the boys. No one is demanding that we do anything.
It’s just us.
And there is nothing particular to do. There are no deadlines to meet. No fruit and veg in dire need of cooking, pickling, poaching or drying.
It’s wonderful.
I can breathe.
I can read my book without feeling guilty or pressurised into doing anything else while they enjoy a siesta upstairs
Later the fire is going to be lit. A board game or some cards will come out and we'll snug on down and eat olives and hummus and taramasalata with a nice glass of wine or maybe some champagne for us and something scarily unnatural and fizzy for the boys. Supper will be cooked for me by a Husband who has said sorry to me and I said he didn't need to say it but I am glad he did. We’ll go to bed warm and sated, utterly relaxed and happy that we aren't quarrelling.
Tomorrow its bike rides and hockey and one of our own chickens roasted with all the trimmings for lunch but only if we want…
Don’t think I could get a better weekend if I tried.

Go on you know you want to...


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