thewritersbarn

Writing because words are the essence of my life.


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The joy of joining Twitter’s writing community

Twitchpit

Twitter for writers!

Up until a few months ago, my Twitter account was sleeping. I had once used it for my online business (hence my username @thecushionlady) which is now defunct, but I read somewhere how important social media is when you’re querying and publishing your work and figured I needed to prod it awake.

I am so glad I did. Over the past few years I have written two and a half novels and numerous short stories. This year I have focused on editing my second novel, Crone, and I’ve had three short stories accepted for publication. I am finally at the stage, of submitting Crone to agents and publishers.

This is a huge and nerve-wracking step – certainly for me anyhow. I also find it a slow process because I research the agents first. I need to know I would trust them to nurture and sell a novel that is quite precious to me. You’d think that any writer would jump at any opportunity to be published, but I feel I need to get it right. With that in mind I spend ages writing a covering letter, tweaking the synopsis and the requested number of chapters and agonising over everything I’m sending.

What a comfort Twitter is then! There are writers galore going through exactly the same thing and you can learn so much from them. By seeing their tweets on my timeline I’ve found out all about how to post snippets from my #WIP (work in progress) and about twitter pitching.

Let’s take sharing snippets first. Most days there is a way of sharing what you’re writing. My preferred three are #2bitTues #1lineWeds and #Thurds. There is generally a theme posted and you scan your #WIP for lines that match. I have come to see this as excellent editing practice. Trying to get a sentence into 140 characters can be a real challenge and you quickly recognise words that are redundant, and how you can make things more succinct and to the point.

Twitter pitching contests are actually great fun. Again there are a variety, and they pop up every few weeks or so. The idea is that you pitch to interested agents and publishers, again using 140 characters, along with a genre identifier, and age (so in my case #A #H = adult and horror).

The first one I did was for #PitchCB – a British literary agency and I was ridiculously nervous. I had high hopes and great expectations but they sadly came to naught. That was my first lesson.

I had a look at pitching techniques though and quickly learned some useful stuff. I will write more about that at some stage.

After that I tried a few US based pitching contests, and some of these are exciting – I’ve really enjoyed them on the whole. It’s important to check out the guidelines of course, as there are rules. You can usually post several tweets, and then sit and watch as reams of other writers’ tweets articulate a book’s heart and soul in a tiny amount of space. It’s fascinating and occasionally I think “Wow! I want to read that!” There are so many talented writers out there, you know? I’ve been lucky. I have had a few bites, and Crone is now out there querying in the USA following interest from US based agents and publishers, which I’d never considered before!

I use the Twitter pitching alongside my normal querying – but again sporadically. I think Crone is currently out with a combination of 8 agents and publishers. I don’t want to send the novel here, there and everywhere. I’ll take a break and consider any feedback I get (if I get any) and then try again.

The final point about using Twitter as a writer is that most writers are happy to share the love. You can like and retweet any genius you come across, and they will respond in kind when you nail a tweet about your #WIP. I’m loving it and I’ve made some great new friends. Give it a try and feel free to follow me!

 

 


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Rise like a phoenix and banish the right wing malaise in the UK

Rise like a phoenix

Rise like a phoenix

I watched Eurovision on Saturday (BBC One, 8 pm, Saturday 10th May). This is not an unusual occurrence, indeed I have loved Eurovision since I was a kid. The pure spectacle, the costumes and increasingly the staging of the show all stroke my inner happiness. It’s a special night full of laughter and tears (of mirth usually) followed by the usual banter about block voting and how predictable it all is.

I don’t take it seriously, I just enjoy it for what it is.

This year though I was moved – with real actual emotion – to tears. Having watched all of the acts perform, my husband and I duly registered votes for The Netherlands and Austria and then I waited with bated breath to see who would come out on top. What would Europe think of Conchita Wurst?

I hope I’m open minded always, but I must admit to doing a double take the first time I saw Conchita in her gold frock with that beard; but any doubts I had – that she was a gimmick maybe – were quickly dispelled when she started to sing. Great song, so fitting – fabulous performance. And the staging? Brilliant! I loved it all.

So while the votes were being counted, I held my breath. What would the UK say? Who would they vote for? What would Europe think?

Well it turns out that a Minister in Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, told national TV stations that her win meant ‘the end of Europe’. He has supposedly stressed that ‘They [Europe] don’t have men and women any more. They have “it”. Russia’s views on homosexuality are of course well-known and that, coupled with their recent behaviour in the Ukraine, meant that unfortunately for their totally blameless young female singers on Saturday, the audience constantly booed whenever Russia received any points.

But the UK (along with many other European countries) gave their douze points to Conchita Wurst and Austria. I was totally speechless for a moment and so very, very thankful. I really felt the love. And that was without consuming any alcohol! If we are a country that is so open-minded and welcoming of such diverse kinds of people then why the hell does UKIP even exist? Why are we considering leaving Europe?

Such mixed messages from the UK. On the one hand there is so much right wing hatred around at the moment, so much about this country that is hard-core and uncaring, and on the other we’re a nation who rejoice in difference.

Gorgeous. Simple.

Gorgeous. Simple.

On Saturday, Conchita Wurst accepted her win graciously in the name of ‘everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. We are unity.’ Who knows what will happen when we go to the polls next week, but I for one really hope that all those lovely people who watched Eurovision with me on Saturday night and willed Conchita on to win and to ‘rise like a phoenix’ won’t be the ones who stay at home and don’t bother to have their say. This is not the time for voter apathy. The right wing and those who hold racist or extreme views will not be apathetic. Just because our leanings are more peaceful, caring and sharing and loving does not mean we should just let things be. Sometimes we do have to stand up and be counted.

We cannot afford to ostracise ourselves anymore in Europe and we have a duty to forthcoming generations not to let this insidious right wing malaise creep ever more into our society and national thought.

Peace out folks!


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The Trouble with Freelancing Part 3

I'm a twit too

I’m a twit too

Hi all

As promised here’s the letter that I wanted to share with you. I found it on another website http://www.winwithoutpitching.com/why-i-charge-more when I was doing some research during the week and I sat and pondered for quite a while about what I thought about it.

Anyway, here’s the text:

Why I Charge More

A Designer’s Open Letter to His Future Clients

January 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm by Blair

Sometimes we do it for the money, don’t we? The irony is that the less money we’re paid, the more likely we are to be doing it for the money. When we’re paid well, it’s suddenly about something much bigger. Here’s a letter you might take, modify and use in many forms and many ways.

It’s yours if you’d like it. No need to attribute.

“The more I charge you, the more pressure I put on myself to perform for you.

Freelancing quandaries

Freelancing quandaries

“The client who grinds me on price is the least satisfied. He gets less attention from me and is most likely to be pissed off at me. And I don’t really care, because to be honest, I resent him. The very fact that he is on my roster reminds me that I’m part prostitute. For him, I’m doing it for the money and as it isn’t very much money I’m not troubled by not doing it well. He pays me a paltry sum, I perform poorly, he gets angry and I resent him. We can have that type of relationship if you like.

“The client who pays me the premium gets my best work. He’s the one I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about, wondering if I’m doing all I can to earn his money. When he calls, I jump. Hell, I call him first. I take pride in moving his business. I try to make myself indispensable to him. I imagine that he winces when he opens my bill (he doesn’t say), but he thanks me for all I do for him. He’s the one I worry about.

“I’m great at what I do, but if someone hires me without giving me the resources (money, time, access) to do a great job, it’s easy for me to rationalize poor performance. When a client gives me everything I ask for, he removes all the obstacles to a high quality outcome. There’s no way for me to rationalize anything less than perfection.

“There is no greater pressure than the pressure I put on myself, and the only way you can add to my own sense of pressure is to pay me well. Yelling won’t do it. Neither will threatening to pull your business. My deep sense of obligation comes from you paying me well enough to dispatch all of the excuses. Then I have to prove to you, and, more importantly, to me that I am as good as I say I am.

“So, I’ve given you my price and it’s the price that I need to charge to bring a deep sense of obligation to the job. Will I work for less? Probably. Can you negotiate with me? Sure. We can have that type of relationship if you really want me to be that type of designer and you want to be that type of client.

“Let’s just understand each other before we get started.”END

It’s interesting isn’t it? I’m kind of in two minds here. I would hope that I never give less than my best work but I have started to alter how I write my £10 articles. They get 30 minutes of research and 30 minutes of writing and a check over. Articles that I’m being paid more for get a lot more research, a lot more synthesis and I spend more time crafting my writing to match the client’s expectations.

Pen For Hire

Pen For Hire

I want to be proud of everything I write. My portfolio is growing at an incredible rate and I love getting new jobs with interesting challenges. At the end of the day I’m a pen and a creative brain for hire. I’m worth what people pay; the trick is finding people who have the vision to see how much better I am than many others out there, but who also have slightly deeper pockets!

I’m still new to this freelancing malarkey however, and I don’t know how picky I can afford to be and still pay the bills. Any advice out there?

xxx


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The Trouble with Freelancing Part 2*

Back to work with a vengeance this week!!

Back to work with a vengeance this week!!

Forgive me dear readers (and I know there are a few of you!). It has been an eon since my last blog post. This has been for a number of reasons.

1. My husband has been on annual leave and he’s been at home distracting me. It’s like being at work. If everyone else is having fun why can’t I?

After suffering a few days of burnout at any rate ...

After suffering a few days of burnout at any rate …

2. I think I suffer from burnout when I’ve been doing too much and so I don’t write for a few days until the pressure of a deadline forces me to park my bum and I start to write again. I had just completed 8 days straight of writing a huge batch of wellness articles so I was in need of a rest, and I was easily distracted by hubby

3. I started back at it on Sunday and have been completely full of beans! I have been doing 10+ hours per day. But I kind of think about my blog and go ‘nooooooooooooooo’ and then feel really guilty for not writing my own stuff.

Anyway, that’s by the by. I’ve had a funny old week so I thought I’d come and moan. I know you freelancers will sympathise.

I now have a business mentor as part of a Business in the Community initiative I’m part of. I’ve only met him once so far but I think it’s a great idea. He straight away said I was selling myself too cheap. The problem is that I use freelance websites to get work and you have to put a proposal in and bid. You say how much you’ll do the job for. Quite often the client tells you what they are prepared to pay. Sometimes there is a bit of a mismatch to say the least.

My mentor asked me what I thought I was worth and how much I wanted to earn per hour and we worked out what I should try and charge. He then told me that regardless of what the client says I should say ‘this is what I’m worth’ and then offer a discount if they want to negotiate. Fair enough. I’ve tried it with mixed results this week.

One job I got at the new higher rate. Boom! I was happy; the client was happy. The article was really good and I enjoyed writing it.

How much are you doing that job for?

How much are you doing that job for?

The second job was with a client in India. Let’s call him Raj. Raj had posted a job for 20 articles. I applied and sent samples and gave him a discount because it was a lot of work. I got an interview via Skype! Raj was really impressed with my blog work (this one and a few others I ghost write) and the articles I sent him. He loved my intimate and conversational tone. Hooray! It was all looking good. Then do you know what he did? He took the third cheapest bid. A British woman (living in the UK) who bid $50 for 20 articles! What is that? Not even £35? *Arrrgh*How can I compete? Does she not have a mortgage?

Ooops!

Ooops!

And finally today. I put a proposal in this morning for a red hot website that needed a blog writer, and you all know how much I like to write about sex. I sent some brilliant ideas through and I halved my hourly rate because I fancied doing this job so much, but nope… His feedback was ‘Thanks for your proposal and ideas. It sounds exactly what I am looking for. I have to be honest and say you are a little out on price compared to others.’ Sadly he only wanted to pay £7 per hour.

What’s a girl to do, eh?

Anyway I came across a blog post elsewhere, with a letter that someone wrote to their own clients that I want to share with you, so I shall post that here in a day or two. Keep reading and see you soon xxx

*I can see this being an ongoing saga, can’t you?
;-p


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The problem with freelancing (or would you buy a kitchen from this man?)

Knightsbridge Kitchen - what it looks like beneath the glamorous veneer of respectability

Knightsbridge Kitchen – what it looks like beneath the glamorous veneer of respectability

I’m living the dream in many ways. I was so stressed out, strung out and sick by last summer that redundancy was incredibly welcome. Every day I wake up with the fear that I have to go back to my old place of employment, and every day my heart skips when I realise I don’t.

Initially I wasn’t concerned about what I would do next; I was too ill to care really. But obviously I did need to do something. Becoming an elf in the run up to Christmas was a great way for me to restore my confidence, and although it was long hours it was fun in a way.

I love writing!

I love writing!

All I knew for certain when I finished work last year was that I wanted to write. While I was off with stress I wrote a great deal, on my novel, short stories, some non-fiction etc. Some of it has been sent out. Some of it has been buried in the compost heap. Since the beginning of January, as regular readers will know (ok, all three of you! And yes I KNOW I don’t post as much as I should!), I have been freelancing. I started off feeling scared and worried I wouldn’t pass muster, but I have been really successful and have quickly built up a great client base. I’m now writing blogs for a wholesale company, a tablecloth company, along with articles on dating and relationships, health and wellness, natural remedies, travel and business. Most of my clients are wonderful and I’ve been lucky.

This week I have learned a lesson however. I put a proposal in for a job along with a number of others, twenty or so writers, and the client duly came back to me and asked for a sample article. I think that’s a sensible response in order to see whether you are suited to each other, and I’ve written a few sample articles in the past. So I stopped what I was doing (which was trying to hit a deadline with 20 x 1000 word articles on natural remedies) and researched and wrote an article for him.

I checked out his website first. It’s a very plush kitchen company in Knightsbridge which numbers a popular cake maker among its customers. The other blogs on it were fairly generic although a couple were interesting to be fair. I liked all the photos – I’m a simple soul!

I spent an hour and a half, probably more, researching and writing it. I sent it off. I didn’t get a response or hear anything for three days so I sent a reminder. He came back to me quite quickly after the prompt, to tell me he didn’t like it. To be fair, I’d guessed as much because of the delay. You can always tell when a client is keen! Well in this case, it wasn’t my best; it was ok but I was up against it with all the other work I was doing so it didn’t get tweaked as much as I would like. He decided he didn’t want me for the job, which is ok, it’s a competitive market, and I was rushed off my feet so it’s only to be expected, but when I requested payment for the sample article that he had asked me to write, he refused.

You what? You're not going to pay me?

You what? You’re not going to pay me?

I felt powerless and angry. Freelance writing fees are rubbish on the whole and I am scraping a pittance while working up to 60 hours a week. My house is on the market because without my salary we can’t afford the mortgage so we need to downsize fast. He works for a Knightsbridge Kitchen Company that probably turns over hundreds of thousands a year and he wouldn’t even pay me my £25. That’s how the rich get richer, by exploiting people who are desperate.

Where is the integrity in doing business that way? Would I buy a kitchen from that man? No, because he’s unpleasant, greedy and unethical. Not that I’ll ever be able to afford to buy a kitchen, not even from Tesco, especially while I’m freelancing with clients like him. I guess he wouldn’t put a kitchen up for someone without demanding a down payment. Someone, somewhere will be getting their beautifully designed kitchen, and £25 of what they pay should be coming to me to help pay my mortgage. Would you buy kitchen from this man? Of course you would if you could afford it. I’m not daft enough to think anyone will be bothered about the actions of this company. Most people wouldn’t give it a second thought, but of course, it is important to me because things are so tight. That’s the way life is; we don’t think about each other with any sort of compassion until faced with similar situations ourselves. It’s not easy, life, is it?

My thoughts exactly!

My thoughts exactly!

So, I was a complete fool and it was a lesson learned for me this week. I’ll chalk it up as experience. No writing freebies for anyone, especially people who can afford to pay but don’t. I need to read what the clients says more clearly and request payment up front.

Anyhow, I’m still a hell of a lot happier doing what I do now, compared to this time last year! And I have a few pieces of good news, so keep reading 🙂


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Do insects have hearts and other questions.

Blue Whale jumpingI woke up this morning wanting to know whether insects have hearts. I’m a bit of a freak, aren’t I? Do other people wake up wanting to know stuff, or do they just want a cup of tea and a wee? Yes, but not necessarily in that order I guess.

I annoy my husband tremendously because I go from sound asleep to wide awake, itching to get up and engage with knowledge, faster than a Ferrari can drive to our village Tesco. I hate Tesco, but that’s a whole other blog.

Thank heavens for Google then. No sooner had I dried off after my shower, and while my poor husband was still lying in bed with a book and a cup of tea and the dogs for company, I had managed to uncover a wealth of fascinating facts that I never knew before.

My heart's this big!

My heart’s this big!

Insects DO have hearts! Who knew? In fact, they sometimes have more than one. Apparently, some insects have an open circulatory system meaning that their blood is just sloshing around in their little bodies and not contained in blood vessels, which is where we and other vertebrates cunningly keep ours. The heart in an insect can often be a simple and long muscular tube that runs the length of the body. Those insects that do have several hearts locate the extra ones in bits that their major heart cannot reach (Heineken hearts anybody?), so for example, wings and antennae and that sort of critterly thing. Ewww.

So that led me to look at other heart facts. Well, you know how it is, Google, cup of tea, Sunday morning …. I couldn’t resist.

See the pretty girl in that mirror there? Who can that attractive girl be?

See the pretty girl in that mirror there? Who can that attractive girl be?

The animal with the largest heart proportionally is the Humming Bird. Its heart is 2% of the mass of its body. Wow! It needs to have a large heart so that it can beat as fast as it does and to keep the oxygen pumping so that it can flap its wings between 12 and 80 times per second. I can’t do anything 12 times per second. *jealous* It also has the fastest metabolism of any creature. So they are stunningly beautiful, slim and can eat what they want! Little bastards!

Several creatures with more than one heart include *gulps* the octopus, which has three hearts for the same reason that an insect needs more than one heart, so that the blood can reach the tentacles. I have a real aversion to octopi I’m afraid. They make my back go to jelly. Argh! Furry ones are cute, cartoon ones are sweet; the real thing though… *turns green and groans*

Just beautiful!

Just beautiful!

Earthworms seem to either have five hearts or five pairs of hearts. Google wasn’t clear on this and I couldn’t be bothered to delve much deeper than that so I apologise for my poor research! These hearts are spread out through the segments.
The land animal with the largest heart is the giraffe. That has to be the case doesn’t it? Giraffes are just so ridiculously gorgeous. They have really huge soft brown eyes and fabulous eyelashes. They eat leaves and don’t kill things. It makes sense that they have big hearts.

The animal with the slowest heart beat appears to be the crocodile that has a resting bpm of 1 at a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius (which, trust me on this, is the coldest a crocodile ever wants to be).

A Whale Tale

A Whale Tale

The animal with the biggest heart is, of course, the Blue Whale. While its heart is only 0.5% of its total mass, it still manages to be the size of a Volkswagen Beetle anyway, and can weigh anything from 600kg to a ton, which is what you would expect from a creature that is 108 ft. in length and weighs around 180 tonnes. The Blue Whale’s heart has a rate of 12-20 bpm, and while in 1911 it is estimated that Blue Whales numbered 250,000 or so, since then they have been hunted virtually to extinction. A 2002 study showed there were only 12,000 Blue Whales maximum but that number seems to have grown again to current estimates of approximately 25,000 or a tenth of their population a century ago. Japan, Norway and Iceland still hunt them and approximately 20 are killed every day.

Whale Tale of Hideous Woe

Whale Tale of Woe

So, it’s easy to figure out which animal has the coldest heart isn’t it? That would be the human.


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Why do Americans have sex with their clothes on?

Complete Red Hot Article Fail

Complete Red Hot Article Fail

This is a question that has been puzzling me this week. If there is a more repressed nation than the Americans I don’t know which it is. Their attitude to sex is a real puzzle to me. I don’t think they’ve moved on that much since the days when Hollywood insisted you had to have one foot on the floor if you were filming a bedroom scene. Doris Day was always filmed in pyjamas and even Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City only had sex with her bra on. Where’s the fun in that? What’s the point of sex if you have your bra on?

The earth might move if you get nekkid

The earth might move if you get nekkid

I’m not suggesting I was desperate to see Sarah Jessica Parker’s boobs by any means. I just hate the false representation on an entirely normal act. The show screams SEX from every pore and orifice and yet gets all coy when anyone tries to get down and dirty.

I mention this because I have been completely perturbed this week when some of the writing I did for a US client, who shall remain nameless to spare their blushes (and boy they must have died of embarrassment) returned some writing to me for being too racy. The brief was to write an article about ‘scoring a date’ (their words) for an interview and link in with Valentine’s Day and lovers. In my proposal I sent some suggestions through and was really thrilled to be hired. Great job! A company I have a lot of respect for. Perfect. I love getting creative. Here’s a little clip of what I wrote.

The whole point of sending a covering letter with a resume is that it entices the hiring manager to look you up and down and appraise your attributes. The cover letter is the working-world version of the love letter. It needs to be easy on the eye so that your employer-to-be can register interest in the bumps and swells of your experience and the curves your career has taken. Their eye should be drawn inwards, to your resume, to further explore what you have to offer.

It stands out and gets the point across I think, about what the point of a covering letter actually is. That’s what they wanted, right? Wrong. Unfortunately I sent something through that was not even remotely to their taste. Oops. The article came back to me sanitised beyond my comprehension. The sort of bland, generic, well-written writing that causes nary a ripple of interest.

It was changed to this

Like a dating profile, your resume is a place to list your recent job experience, your likes or dislikes, or even certifications that make you enticing to a potential employer. It must be accurate, well-written, and organized. A cover letter is your opportunity to break free from the traditional resume; it is your opportunity to talk about why you are a great fit for a particular company, and to discuss your best attributes.

Keep it clean!

Keep it clean!

A pair of washed out grey knickers I feel. But what was interesting was that I instantly felt like a complete failure. Here was something I had loved putting together, I’d really crafted the words lovingly (passionately?) and they were being binned. So when I had recovered from my initial sense of being both gob smacked and disappointed I felt guilty for letting the client down and for misinterpreting the brief. To her credit, the woman that was dealing with me was lovely and quite generous but still… I guess I have to chalk this one up to experience. *hangs my head in shame*

I think maybe we British do this kind of smutty innuendo really well. I’m not a great Carry On fan and I absolutely loathed Benny Hill but we do sex better. It’s out in the open. We like a snigger and a chortle at double entendres. Maybe it’s us. Maybe we’re the crazy ones. We don’t take it seriously. It’s fun.

Anyway. *sigh* You’ll be pleased to know, dear reader, that my other writing work has gone well this week. I haven’t stopped! I haven’t made any money either, but I have had some really interesting gigs on. Besides the one above that I rally loved doing, I wrote an article on de-stressing, something I can’t seem do for toffee. My husband asked me this morning how long it had been since I had actually relaxed and we worked out it was 18 months ago when we spent three weeks camping in my beloved Devon. But I know the theory of how to de-stress, so that’s what I wrote about.

Ride Free

Ride Free

I’ve also written some tattoo articles which I loved doing the research for. I don’t have any tattoos myself. I don’t think they’d look great on my pale skin, but I very much enjoyed finding out about the meaning and symbolism of prison tattoos, biker tattoos and in memoriam tattoos. Great stuff.

Why would you NOT stop for this man? Guaranteed entertainment on tap!

Why would you NOT stop for this man? Guaranteed entertainment on tap!

Finally this week I wrote an article for a travel website which you can see here http://www.excitingworldtravels.com/thumbs-up-for-hitchhiking/ Again I really enjoyed writing this and I’m hoping to do some more writing for this website because I love travelling and I love writing so what could be better? This one is about hitchhiking. Given that we hardly do any in the UK, I was amazed how prevalent it is elsewhere, especially in Europe.

This is me keeping warm

This is me keeping warm

Sadly it won’t go out with my by-line. Most of the writing I do is ghost writing. I wrote a short horror story that went to its new owner on Monday. It was probably the best short story I’ve ever written but I had to wave goodbye! *sob* It will be in my heart, and my nightmares probably, forever!

Hopefully I will be able to sell my own stuff with my own name on soon. Keep reading!


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Middle Age? Bring it on!

life

I have a birthday coming up. I am so unexcited by the prospect I had to pause then to remember whether it falls next week or the week after. It is the week after. Phew. No need to panic just yet then.

It’s not a ‘special’ birthday, as in one that ends in an ‘0’ and it’s not a halfway there kind of middling birthday. It’s just a run of the mill, not particularly glamorous, not an age I particularly want to be kind of birthday.

I was reflecting on this last night because I think I might now be defined by society as old. Well, I may not be old exactly but I’m certainly not a ‘young lady’ anymore. So I guess I must be middle aged. Just the words middle and aged make me go ‘EEEEEEK’. When I was younger being middle aged meant wearing a twinset and pearls, having a tight perm and tan tights and a tartan skirt and sensible shoes. It meant being really out of things. Halfway dead.

My whole life I have resisted being middle aged. This has been helped enormously by several crucial factors.

1. My parents are only 19 and 20 years older than me so they were still kids themselves as I grew up. That retarded me for sure.
2. My parents were never middle aged. They went from young to retired in a matter of weeks.
3. I didn’t get married until I was 39. Marriage means being settled. Surely being settled ages you? In a good way, but nonetheless ….
4. I never had children so I don’t compare myself in age to them.
5. I have resisted the urge to wear tan tights and apart from brief spells working for Boots in my teens, and Safeways in my twenties I have never had to wear them! Hoorah!
6. I would not be caught dead in sensible shoes. I wear boots. Mainly Dr Martens and mainly coloured ones. I go bare footed a lot. Sometimes I wear trainers and when the weather is extraordinary I wear sandals or flip flops. That’s it.
7. I’ve never needed to have a perm because my hair is already of the curly, dragged through a hedge backwards, long, untameable and wild variety. Thanks heavens for Irish genes!
8. I have a wide variety of female friends, some much younger, some the same sort of age, some older and they are all phenomenal and do not embrace middle agedom either. They are my role models.

So being middle aged is something that really doesn’t seem to happen anymore or at least not in the way I defined it as a child. I did read somewhere that jeans are worn by middle aged people rather than younger people so perhaps that’s what defines middle age.

Possibly music defines middle age. I’ve given up listening to ‘popular’ music. I watched Top of the Pops on Christmas Day and found myself sounding like my grandparents thirty years ago. ‘Look at the state of that!’, ‘Who the hell is that?’, ‘Never heard of them!’, ‘The original was so much better,’ and the old classic, ‘How the hell did this get to number one?’ Now I’ve settled quite nicely into Planet Rock with occasional forays to Kerrang for something young and fresh, and some of my friends have bypassed Radio 2 straight for Radio 4 and Radio 6. Personally, I think rock music keeps me young!

Politics ages me. I look at the piecemeal and badly thought through policies being brought in by the Coalition, and I see smarmy, self-righteous, clueless, over-privileged ex-public schoolboys feathering their own nests while victimising the poor, the disabled, the unemployed and the sick. How can a group of people be so savagely ungenerous to their fellow humans? Are we not of the same tribe? Do we not care for each other? Do they not have enough? I can feel the wrinkles settling deeply around my forehead and eyes as I watch the news or read the paper.

But!! All is far from lost! Now that the Elf job has finished I am unemployed again, seeking work, looking for writing jobs. And I am oddly happy. The single most important thing that happened to me last year was that I was made redundant. Suddenly I was out of the rat race, cast loose from a backstabbing, cut throat world of bad management, poor decisions and ineptitude. I sit here in my study writing bits and bobs and my heart sings with lightness. I feel decades younger. If this is middle age, I’m loving it!


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Elf Musings

Did you know that elves have big feet? No, I didn’t either until I started working in the Wish Kingdom with Father Christmas. I work with 8 other elves and the smallest of these has a size 7 foot. Mine are an 8. Five elves have feet bigger than mine. Interesting, eh?

Big feet are useful when you’re standing on them all day. I was thinking of running a sweepstake. You have to guess exactly when my feet will stop aching. I finish work at 6 pm on Christmas Eve and would hope that at some time on the 28th December I will have soothed feet. At the moment they feel like my hands and fingers felt before my carpal tunnel surgery in August – very numb!

A bit of an update on names. Among the Jayden, Kians, Finlays, Maisies and Rosie-Maes yesterday I had a Jarvery. Jarvery? What can that possibly mean? Is it meaningless? Should names actually mean anything? I pondered that for a good while yesterday afternoon. But I also had a Stanley! ‘Oh what a splendid name!’ I exclaimed to the Dad. ‘Strong and upright!’ In my head I was thinking ‘no daft or poncey names for you, eh Sir?’ I also had an Alice (lovely!) and a Grace. Grace is a lovely name but do you have to be sure your daughter will grow up slim, willowy and petite? I’m so glad I wasn’t called Grace, it just wouldn’t have fit. I had several Violets and a large number of Scarletts and one Sianne (Cyan) so that was lovely and colourful.

I also had an Ocean which was nice, and a couple of Summers. All I need now is a Breeze and I’ll have a full collection of Airwick room fresheners.

Today is a day off and I feel like I am staring into the abyss of the last three days before Christmas. I already know we are fully booked tomorrow and Christmas Eve so we are going to be inundated with parents who can’t understand why their precious child can’t see Santa right NOW! They will become annoyed, aggressive and rude. They are parents who haven’t managed their own time or their children’s’ expectations and they will accuse me of being the murderer of Christmas spirit like I was last weekend no doubt. I hope I’m not wished an unmerry Christmas this weekend though!

So if you are passing a grotto, give the elves a smile and a wave and spare a thought for their feet.