It’s official, I’m back on the Self Assessment books and working freelance with a whole host of new clients.
It’s been a pretty difficult year with all the health stuff going on. My HHT pretty much ruined a lot of 2022, a year that was welcomed with so much hope after two years of lockdowns, illness and grief. HHT was waiting in the wings though and so work has been more stress, less growth for a long time.
My last operation took place in mid-August and when the result was a mere four days of relief, I realised something had to change. Managing debilitating symptoms, hospital appointments and your own mental health, plus that of your two daughters AND a full-time job can be hard going. Acknowledging that the HHT isn’t going away, it was work that had to morph.
So here I am. Back On The Books – self-employed and working with a myriad of clients in just a couple of weeks. I’m teaching, I’m creating content and I’m expanding my creative portfolio on an almost full-time basis, but with enough freedom to manage my own hours, and what a difference that makes.
Post-Covid (although are we really? Hospitals around the country are reporting a rise in cases with the season change so it’s difficult to know), there are a lot of self-employed/freelance opportunities as businesses get to grips with the new hybrid. Should we all be back in the workplace, will WFM be the norm? All I know is that hybrid has opened up doors to work in far corners of the country that otherwise would’ve been inaccessible.
My self-employment is a real mixed bag. I’m teaching, I’m content producing, I’m bid and award nomination writing, I’m managing social media and providing marketing, comms and PR consultancy – all the while creating a Halloween Village in partnership with a local not-for-profit organisation that puts the biggest smiles on kids’ faces!
Here’s to old clients, new clients, creative and corporate challenges and whatever else may be around the corner.
I’d love to work with and support you with your next challenge. Please feel free to drop me a line – email@example.com and let’s see what we can do!
It’s Saturday morning and I’m toying with the idea of going freelance again.
Completing a self assessment tax return comes with an undeniable sense of freedom, like a fresh start. A divorce from financial burden. A free pass to flirt with the world of interesting, varied and often highly stressful work again. The pros and cons list is a tome in itself and in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic there seems to be much more opportunity in ‘remote’ work.
I’ve straddled both sides of the journalism world, freelance and contracted and enjoyed lots of fantastic benefits, the most prominent being flexibility. The security of a fixed salary payment on a fixed date every month is highly appealing, but words like ‘secure’ and ‘fixed’ have never been that attractive to me.
If Monday involves writing copy about concrete blocks for a council, Tuesday is product descriptions for an indie clothes label, Wednesday is website copy for a well known high street bakers, Thursday is a feature on student bars and Friday is a Premier League match report – I’m happy as Larry. Yes, even despite knowing I may not get paid for this work for another 90 days.
But then summer comes along and the idea of a holiday is floated, new school uniforms are needed, a prom dress, a new laptop, the latest Nikes and suddenly managing all those invoices can become chaotic vs the simplicity of a guaranteed salary payment.
Weighing up the varied nature of freelance life involves being 100% honest with yourself about the real investment it takes to pull it off successfully. The pitching, research, negotiating, deadlines, interviews, self assessment, time management, dealing with the guilt of working non-stop and never being able to turn your brain off from work and the ‘ooooh there’s a story in that’ mentality. Oh God, I love it.
I’ve felt like a sitting duck for two years. Now I have Covid.
It’s been a week. My HHT symptoms are off the scale (lots and lots of nosebleeds). My youngest daughter had steroid injections in her surgery scar, which I had to stop three minutes into the procedure as she was screaming in pain. And this morning we both tested positive for Covid resulting in my own, long-awaited HHT diathermy laser surgery, scheduled for Tuesday next week, being cancelled.
Deeeeeeep breath. It’s fine. We’re fine. Our Covid symptoms so far include headaches, dizziness, sore throats and snotty noses. Basic flu symptoms, really. If this is the worst of it, we’ll count ourselves lucky.
Initially my two youngest we’re frightened when I said I had tested positive. Their lived experience of Covid is their Nan and Granddad catching it and Granddad becoming a ‘star in the sky’ just three days later. It’s still frightening.
We’ve done everything right. Vaccinated at the earliest opportunities. Washed our hands, kept our distance, wore the masks – and yet it’s still hunted us down.
Reassured, we’ve ordered more lateral flow tests, an Asda food shop and my mum stopped by to help top up the gas and electricity (yep, still on pre-pay metres in 2022, talk to me about budgeting!). We’ve got lots of clean pyjamas, Calpol, board games, art supplies, books and a decent sized garden. I’ve already explained why the kids can’t have their tech plugged in all day every day. Cheers, Rikshi!
It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday. We didn’t have anything in particular planned but with the fine weather set to last and the BBQ dusted off, it would’ve been nice to get the family together to celebrate my mum. It made me realise how gutting it’s been for couples who have spent thousands on weddings only to have them cancelled once, twice, three times. The families who’ve missed big birthdays or had to watch funerals of loved ones on Zoom. The front line staff who have had their lives turned upside down knowing the government couldn’t care less. It’s such a shit storm, isn’t it?
I’ve begun a new routine this week and after just four days I’m learning things about myself I don’t particularly like.
I’ve tweaked my routine to better suit my return to teaching and while the first week is always fraught with nerves and excitement, the extra two hours in the morning have essentially just afforded me more time to worry.
I’m a worrier. I’m trying not to be, but it creeps up on me like a theif in the night who lingers until my 5am alarm, then steals all my enjoyment of the alone time and headspace I had planned.
I read a brilliant book. ‘Morning, how to make time’ by Allan Jenkins is a beautiful collection of early morning thoughts, musings and observations which inspired me to change my own routine. A quiet space, uninterrupted by social media, news, electronics, even lights sometimes. Time to make a brew in the dark and just sit. That was the plan. To just, be.
I’ve been getting up at 5am. I’m naturally competitive and love the idea that I’m getting a head start on the day before the succession of terraced house bathroom lights switch on and my street comes to life. It is peaceful, at least outside.
My favourite part of the new routine, which began in earnest just four days ago, is standing in the cool wet grass in the back garden, in the dark, while I hang out the washing. It’s wonderful. I could stand there for hours. It’s quiet, calming and I’m enjoying the fact our adopted Magpie family comes to eye me suspiciously from the garden wall. Almost accusing me of stealing their places in the dawn chorus.
I’ll stand out there for as long as I can. Watching the sky change colour and window panes illuminate with streaks of daylight. I stay because as soon as I head back inside the noise begins.
Right, who needs what today? Pe kit? Flute? Snacks? Have their reading cards been filled in? Where is her tie? Urgh those shoes need a wipe. Did I request Friday afternoon off for her hospital appointment? Who’s bringing them home today or is it after school club?
A quick glance at the bbc weather app mocks my choice of outfit for work with heavy downpours expected all afternoon. I do not want to wade home in sandals, better go back to my wardrobe and rearrange. Now, I have 1,200 calories today, what can I have for breakfast? Run the shower, think about today’s lesson plan. That student is struggling with shorthand, another is keen and will need more stimulation, another has visions of a political career which makes me nervous.
Looks like it’s porridge again then, although a dollop of rhubarb yoghurt and granola is worth the same calories. Hhmmmm.
I’m feeling under confident teaching that new module later today. I’ll swat up on the journey in. If I drop the kids off at 07:45 I can get the 07:55 bus and have 30 mins to revise. Yes, that’s a good plan.
Concerned about the eldest and her recent blood results. Going to have to come up with a better plan to make sure she’s eating a more varied diet.
I’m starting back at Uni next week too. I wonder if my certificates are still in that suitcase in the loft. That’s a weekend job, for sure.
Must check when pay day is and rearrange direct debits for this month. The perils of starting a new job. I can do that on Saturday morning. Oh no, it’s the sleepover. I’ll need to get a head start on shopping for snacks and decorating before her friends come. Ahh, I’ll fit it in, somewhere.
Ironing done, bags packed, washing on the line, showered, lesson plans complete, oh, charger! Okay, bags packed, again. It’s time to wake the kids up.
I’m not sure how long it took author, Allan Jenkins to shed the mental workload in order to be able to enjoy the early morning twilight. His book reads like a whispered conversation between two secret friends. My early morning experience feels more like a drill sergeant barking orders and the potential stresses of the day ahead.
Aside from the blissful laundry routine, and it is blissful to me, waking two hours earlier in the morning to ‘get a jump start’ on the day seems to have jump started my over active brain. It’s mentally exhausting.
I’m writing this at 5am on Friday morning, day four. I’ll head out to stand on the grass in a moment and likely worry if this blog post is a load of waffle and debate deleting it before 9am.
I’m naturally awake at 5 now, it’s still dark, the kids are peacefully snoozing away and there’s a full white wash to go out on the line. This is my peace. It may be only a fleeting moment before the cogs in my head begin to slowly churn and process the back catalogue of thoughts and to do’s, but it’s enough to make me set my alarm again for Monday.
When the ‘Treat Yo Self’ approach to life gets out of hand, how does someone devoid of all discipline make lasting changes to benefit their health?
I had a slab, not a slice, a slab of chocolate brownie and a Cadbury’s Twirl for my breakfast. It’s hospital day today. I’m booked in for some investigations this afternoon to see if the persistent pain in my ribs is HHT related or if I’m just fat. I’m 99% convinced it’s the latter. Yesterday I had a bowl of sugarpuffs for breakfast and I can’t work out if that’s better or worse than today. In fact, yesterday I had Sugarpuffs with semi skimmed milk (I’m not a complete animal, who drinks full fat milk?) followed by garlic bread with cheese at lunch, followed by a BBQ dinner of sausage (no bun), cheese burger (all the brioche bun), mixed salad, red pepper hummus, those amazing mini poppadoms from M&S, chocolate brownie and 6 custard creams. Anyone at IMA want to try and work out how many calories that equates to?
I’ve got a serious issue with lack of discipline. When I was young I could eat whatever the hell I wanted and stay slim. I was very active as a teen and 20 something but the moment I got pregnant, i kissed that little luxury goodbye. I didn’t eat for 2, I ate for 12, for the whole 9 months. I put 4 stones on in 9 months. The baby weighed in at less than 9lbs, don’t try to make me feel better.
In between babies 1 and 2, I went from a size 14 to a size 10 again and looked and felt a lot better. However that wasn’t due to hard work and effort, it was the Divorce diet of stress. It’s SO effective.
I’m no as heavy as I was when I gave birth in 2010. It’s so depressing because I’m not even carrying another human being this time. But as you’ve probably learned from my breakfast choices this morning, I’m lacking any kind of will to do anything about it.
I am reaching critical mass though. I’m making my boyfriend delete pictures of me. I’m not jumping in selfies with my kids. I HATE my wardrobe and it’s entire contents. I’m dreading getting back to work because it means I have to see people who will DEFINITELY notice the weight gain. I’m back to wearing all black outfits in an attempt to hide my bulky frame.
It’s hard going all this, isn’t it? I find it’s far too easy to give yourself some slack but then struggle regain a healthy balance. All bodies are beautiful, stop comparing yourself to others, and my personal favourite, treat yo self. When I happen across these inclusive, nurturing, well-meaning posts on Instagram, all my brain hears is: “EAT ALL THE FOOD, WATCH ALL THE PRIME” and nothing else.
Today’s excuse is, it’s the last day of the month and surely tomorrow, 1st September is the BEST TIME to start again. Seriously, what is that all about?Starting diets on a Monday? Start healthy new habits on 1st of the month? Why? Why isn’t 09:17am on Tuesday 31st August the best time? I’ll tell you why, because I lack self discipline.
I’m at a cross roads because I can’t understand why I can’t commit to just not eating shite and moving my ass regularly.
I love to move. Razzing about on my bike makes me dead happy. Starting my day with yoga and HIIT makes me happy. Dragging the kids out on a long walk or blitzing a 25 mile, 2 day city break with my better half, stuff of dreams.
A lack of discipline and no get up and go can be lethal. Just ask my recent DKNY bumbag purchase, which is already on the last belt buckle hole.
I need your advice, your input, your motivation because I’m seriously sad about this whole situation. It’s getting me down. I want to feel good in my clothes again. I don’t want to have to sit out when my kids are arsing about in the garden/park. I don’t want to wear head to toe black (although it’s SUCH a good look).
Hit me up and how you get the balance between feeling and looking good, and living a little.
Getting the kids back to school is a wonderful thing when it comes to routine, food consumption and of course their overall educational advancement. Loads of things about it suck though.
It’s that time again. September is a huge month of change, more so than January for me, as kids of all ages re-emerge from their tech and halcyon days of trampolining/TikTok video making to stick on a tie and go learn something new.
Loads of parents/carers and guardians will already be on countdown to the moment the school gates open, but for me personally, it’s a 50/50 split. Part of me wants to live somewhere remote(ish) and homeschool/travel the world and enrich my kids minds in a totally different way. But then part of me realised how important their friendships are to their overall well-being and man, who wants to spend 24/7 with their mum. That said, if I won the lottery we’d be travelling for a year and they’d bloody well like it!
I loved school as a kid and teen. I cried the day I left senior school. It was the stability I craved as a military kid who moved around. Leaving felt like the safety net had been pulled from underneath me as the enormity of the responsibility I now felt hit home. As an adult, I’m firmly in the camp of ‘oh I’d go back in a heartbeat’ and relive the care free days of English coursework and sunny days spent on the athletics track.
There’s so much more I hate about school as a parent.
1. School Uniform Shopping
The quality of school jumpers and cardigans is shit. The queues (which start at 7am because only two shops in the whole borough stocks your school) are shit. Take a ticket and wait to slowly die on pastel cushion covered benches at Clarks, shit. £50 for a pair of shoes my darling son will have scuffed to death before October half term, also shit. Someone I follow on Twitter piped up the other day calling to ban school logos on jumpers/cardigans. I get it. Supermarket plain block colour jumper/cardigans are great quality and cost a fraction of the cost. Why’s that not a thing?
2. Pointless Paperwork
Our primary school sends home SO much paperwork that is 100% unnecessary when we have a school to parents texting facility which works fine. I mean sheet after sheet of local education authority notices, changes to the start and finish times due to Covid, fundraising, lost property, it never ends and it’s rarely helpful. Stop killing the planet sending out and update on the safari park day out – just text it!
3. Missing My Gang
My three haven’t started back yet and I’m already missing 10pm games of Mario Uno at the kitchen table. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a G&T and solitude on a Wednesday night when they’re in bed by 8:30pm, but kitchen discos, film nights, late laundry sort outs and marathon Insta reel viewings is just as fun. No really. Boo to education taking them away from pairing socks and running about with undies on their heads, twerking to Mr World Wide!
4. Reading Books
I love to read, as do my kids. We’ve battered all the Chip & Biff, Famous Five, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo, JK Rowling, Julia Donaldson, Charlie & Lola, Elmer, Roald Dahl and Flower Fairies collections time and time again. it’s not a struggle to get them to read. They’re now onto murder mysteries which is awesome because listening to them talk about the plot and characters and who they think ‘summit’ is the best. School reading books are woeful. My ten year old has brought home the same Wonder Woman comic book like three times in one half-term. They’re not varied enough. Not exciting enough, not enticing enough. I’m starting a petition to make Rick Mayal’s live reading of George’s Marvellous Medicine, mandatory for all primary school kids. Where is the drama? The fun? The challenging dialogue?
5. Losing Stuff That Costs Money
Rewinding back to school uniform here. How do kids lose so many items of closing in such a short space of time? A school jumper, with a name printed clearly on the label, that they take off and out on the back of their chair or in their (also clearly labelled) tray until the end of school, can vanish into thin air without anyone having any idea of how it happened or where the jumper has gone. What do you mean you’ve come home without any PE shorts? You were just wearing them? Why is there a detention slip in your bag about a missing tie? How do they do it? This whole situation causes me so much stress, every academic year.
That’s it. I’m not asking too much, am I? Text important stuff, don’t lose stuff, stop making school uniform inexplicably expensive, invest in top tier reading material and maybe give them a few more days off so we can pair socks and twerk to PitBull tracks as a family. Thank you.
WHAT a hell of a month June was. You still withme? Clinging on? Yeah, me too.
I did it all last month. Soaring highs and the deepest of lows. Not one, but two of my three kids had accidents which resulted in broken bones. I’ve been to court and back, three times for good measure. I traveled 1000+ miles and island hopped to lay on golden beaches and stare in awe endless skies swept with jaw-dropping sunsets. I also battered London’s art scene in a 12 hour jaunt to the capital, and started a self improvement plan in earnest following a Thursday Throwback that really hit home. on an emotional rollercoaster scale, we’re talking Pepsi Max Big One, on repeat.
I’m feeling incredibly creative recently which is due in part to a trip to Saatchi Gallery to see JR Chronicles exhibition. An artist I’ve admired for a number of years, JR gives a global voice to marginalised communities in order to tell their stories and correct society’s bias. His work is incredible and to see the camera he found on the Parisian subway which kick started his career, was truly special. Sliding doors. You can watch his TED Talk about the impact of his work, here.
At the start of the month I traveled up to Scotland for four idyllic days on the isle of Seil, one of the Slate Islands. Crossing the ‘Bridge Over The Atlantic’ for the first time to our bothy, wifi replaced with skyscapes I could never have imagined, i knew it was going to be an amazing trip. The beaches at Arasaig and Morar took my breath away, as did Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull.
Catching the Harry Potter Express at Malaig and walking beneath the iconic Glenfinnan viaduct, framed with blue sky, was a treat. Later at the equally iconic Clachaig Inn at Glen Coe, I retraced my dads footsteps from back in the late 80’s. I also took the opportunity to follow in 007’s tyre tracks and drive the Lock Etive road or Skyfall road as its known. Eat your heart out Bond!
Loch Lomond, Castle Stalker, or Castle Aaaaaarrrrggghhhhh as made famous in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Oban fish and chips, cycling Kerrera thanks to amazing loan bikes from Oban Cycles and free passage on the basic b*tch ferry made for a truly memorable trip. Having adopted the farm cat, charmed on M&S mackerel pate, and sat on the patio, wrapped in blankets waiting for the stars, this Scotland trip is top 5 one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. A soaring high. Check out the bothy here.
From high to low, low and stressful. First up, my son fell off the play equipment at school and broke his foot. This required plaster and a wheelchair as he’s on diddy. This presented about as many logistical issues as you can imagine when I have two other children who need to get to and from school twice a day and a full time job to hold down. TWO WEEKS LATER, my middle kid launches herself off a swing in the back garden after our first ever, and highly successful BBQ at home. The crack of the impact still gives me goosebumps when I think about it. Broken humerus and two nights in hospital – tended to by THE SAME ORTHO CONSULTANT LOOKING AFTER MY SON, I collected my ‘Parent of the Year’ award on the way out. I mean, you couldn’t write it, could you?
The poor kid (the second casualty) struggled with the pain a lot and so after 6 hours sleep across three nights and a whole load of morphine ( her, not me), I spent just 10 minutes preparing for a huge interview and unsurprisingly, came out of it feeling utterly meh.
On the up again – I taught shorthand again this month and I LOVED IT. I started working out and cycling more. I’ve lost three pounds but I’m sure its down the sofa, insert wink emoji here. My mum is super happy after a little surprise windfall and has treated herself to a new Dyson. My eldest kid smashed her GCSE mocks and isn’t injured in any way, although I’ve probably just jinxed that. A good mate smashed his shorthand exam, I worked with Kiss FM and I finally met my lovely work team, in person, for the first time since starting my new job in February. Yep, five months ago! I climbed Kinder Scout again, this time with the eldest kid. The weather was pants, my dad cried off saying he’d hurt his back (suspish), and with the new diet regime I couldn’t eat strawberry laces all the way around the hike. That said, I managed to eat plenty of caramel Snackajacks at the summit and my dad got his front and back lawn mowed. Alls well that ends well.
How’s July looking?
Check out all my photo’s from June (including some x rays for the gruesome fans) over on the Gallery, here.
How long is your to do list right now? I can’t see the end of mine.
It’s been a week. I’m fully aware it’s only Wednesday afternoon, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t eyed up the gin already. I’m here for a mini moan, but I also have good news. Stick with me.
My Zoom link failed in my first new cohort class this morning. My iphone has been installing the latest brain washing update for almost 90 mins, my kids homeschooling is running two days behind and I’m locked in an eBay battle for an amazing pair of ceramic hoop earrings. I’ve just been outbid.
On top of the earring drama, I’ve still got to file my tax return, I have 80 pieces of written work to mark and we’re in desperate need of a big shop. Sod it, Koka Noodles for tea it is!
I’m not stressing anymore. It is what it is. There are bigger things at play. This week Boris Johnson made a promise to the public that once we’re through the Covid pandemic, there will be a day of mourning all those lost. What a load of bollocks. Why not just quit throwing money at crack pot ideas (read, giving your mates a load of tax payers money for shit that would never work) and protect the front line staff and those who are vulnerable?
The statement took me back to October. 4am sat on the sofa bleary eyed listening to my mum wail down the phone because my step dad had died suddenly in the night. From covid. Having worked a weekend shift in admin at the local hospital. The same place he was told earlier in the year to stay away from because he was classed as ‘clinically vulnerable’.
I sat there for about an hour. In shock. I went up to bed and told my boyfriend what had happened and cried. Then I got up, took my kids to school and went to work. It’s safe to say I’ve not even begun to deal with the grief, because it doesn’t feel like there is time. There’s homeschooling three kids, three meals plus snacks, my own workload, phone calls to make, my mum to look after, laundry, oh my days the laundry. Where does it all come from? It took me two days to put clean bed linen on my own bed. I have been so tired and lacking in energy. I slept in my kids’ bunkbeds because I just couldn’t be arsed.
Well here’s the good news. I’m writing, a lot. I am leaving my mega stressful job and starting a new role with an organisation I have admired for more than ten years. It is literally a dream job. An organisation which not only understands the demands on working mums, but encourages you to identify how you can get the best out of your working day. There’s far too many things to list, but it’s safe to say I’m mega excited.
Here’s some more good news. My kid aced her spellings this week. My other kid told me she wasn’t coping with her school work and it was making her upset. So we sat down and brainstormed for a bit and I introduced her to time blocking. Two days later, she’s a different kid. My son? He’s just living his best life in his Pokemon pjays. Rocks up, eats the entire contents of the fridge, does a bit of purple mash and then toddles off to play with his Lego, game on the Nintendo Switch or annoy his sisters. Oh, he painted his glow in the dark solar system yesterday, but we’ve lost Venus. Probably in the Dyson already.
We’ve started going for 8pm walks again. We did this in the first lockdown when I was scared of being around people. Now it’s just a great way to switch off from the days activities and get some fresh air before bed. A constitutional if you will.
If you’re anywhere near the end of your to do list, I salute you. If like me, you can’t see the end of your list, I invite you to join in an 8pm walk. Leave the list. Chuck the pen. Just wander. It’ll all still be there tomorrow.
Did you see that series of memes that did the rounds a few years back? You know, the ones that used 6 images to portray how different groups in society view your job/vocation? Like this one….
I quite like this one. I think it’s a fair and accurate representation of life as a journalist from all perspectives. Especially the last one.
In 2018 I was thrown a serious curve ball. No longer ‘just’ a journalist working the entertainment and lifestyle desk. In August 2018 I became a paediatric vascular disease patient expert – almost overnight.
Putting all my investigative journalistic skills to good use, I spent night after night on the small hospital sofa reading research papers in Danish, Zooming Italian vascular patients and their families, and dissecting x-ray, MRI and CT scan results in the early hours, at the nurses station.
What I discovered shook me to the core. My daughter’s have an incurable hereditary disease that may or may not result in premature death. In the states they call this disease ‘the silent killer’. Some people have symptoms, some don’t. Some have strokes, liver failure and blood clots, some don’t. It’s a luck of the draw type situation.
I’m not one for sensationalism. Okay, I totally am, (I studied sports journalism, of course I love sensationalism), but I was far more taken with the research, how the disease has brought about pioneering medical and surgical interventions and of course, what trials and potential cures my girls’ could benefit from in their life times.
As a journalist, I write stories. I listen to people, I research, I ask annoying questions. I also photograph and record things. I relay facts and figures and sometimes I write a punchy headline or two.
As a HHT Mum, I wipe up a hell of a lot of blood, sometimes on a daily basis. I pick up nose plugs that have fallen out during night bleeds. I prepare my eldest daughter 48 hours in advance of a blood test, which involves a barrage of text messages, ensuring she eats and hydrates on approach, providing snacks for when she comes round, on the floor/in the phlebotomy chair – when it all gets too much.
I hold and squeeze hands and use brute strength to keep her in the chair until the nurse draws the blood she needs to adequately monitor the situation. I wipe tears, mop brows, carry coats and school blazers, wringing with sweat. I provide her with bottles of Oasis for a sugar rush, post blood test. I offer tissues for the inevitable nose bleed which accompanies any stressful situation.
I take calls from school when her blood pressure or iron levels have bottomed out and she faints. Usually in biology. I encourage vitamin intake, sometimes I raise my voice to get the job done. I reassure. I tell white lies. Necessary white lies. I move work and school to accommodate clinic appointments. I ask more questions. Constant questions. Sometimes I panic.
I am resigned to never having white bed linen or soft furnishings, or clothes. I walk a little slower when she gets chest pains on the school run. I take pictures of her lung scars to show her how well it is healing, two years post surgery. I ask how PE went this week, any pain? I check up on blood results, oxygen saturation levels and chase clinic appointments. I talk to other HHT patients around the globe. I beg my own HHT surgeon not to retire, and swat up on the latest potential paediatric clinical trials. I educate others.
I’ve found a role you can’t roll into six humorous images. It’s almost a shame. If there were more awareness and chat about HHT, maybe I could make it more fun. For now, it’s back to the nurses station at 3 am, armed with more Garibaldi biscuits and a stack of lung x-rays.
Home. It’s a mix of social housing, those bought out and modernized and those with identical front doors and garden gates, making sure everyone knows who’s on their arse and who has risen above it after years of graft.
It’s a reproduction of a blueprint that makes up vast swathes of the city landscape. There’s no money here. People get by.
Kids still play kirby here, extra points for lobbing the ball over a moving car. On Fridays, the street is dotted with purple bins. Walking one end to the other requires slalom skills to avoid the debris and dog crap.
There’s a blossom tree, about 50 doors down, right in the middle. It battles against the Spring showers and dusts pink petals over the pavement every spring, they’re prettiest when it rains. Light and dark. The best kind of litter.
The puppy with the big chocolate button eyes, caged in the front yard. Now a 2-year-old dancing around its own muck, still in the same front yard he’s outgrown. He used to whine for you to stroke him whenever you passed by the gate. Now he barks, consistently until you’re out of sight.
When he comes over, he parks at the side of the house. No doubt wanting to avoid embarrassment should anyone recognise his car. My parents park across the street, in front of the privately-owned house, with the double extension, high gates, and security floodlights that illuminate our bedrooms at night. My dads gleaming white, 4×4 more at home on the opposite side of the road.
The top-end, or bottom end depending on how long you’ve lived here, is a shit show. The back of the betting shop, chippy, and pharmacy. An alleyway consistently fly-tipped with broken beds, sofas, and ripped bin bags. The sunbed shop, beauty salon, and mini market, under the art deco style canopy, smell like hair stray, burned skin, ale. The extra-large council bin outside always smells like grease.
The kids who hang around the shops mimic adults. They’ve already grown up in many ways. Hardened to life. Head to toe in the latest North Face. Mini bags slung across their bodies, smoking, spitting, swearing. They’re about 8, maybe 9 at most. Full of pent up aggression. Stealing from the mini-market because they know they can get away with it. Barred for a couple of days until the other, local cashier comes on and lets them away with it again. It’s only a can of Coke, or a packet of crisps. Barring them lasts a day or two.
Behind the chippy and the betting shop is the very last house in the street. It’s been bought by two developers in the time I’ve lived here. The first one renovated it by hand. From wedding the 30ft long driveway, to replastering and fitting new windows throughout, he did it on his own. I’d stop and say hi sometimes, tell him the transformation was looking great.
It went on the market at the same time kids jemmied the new PVC door open. They smashed the windows, started a fire in the living room. Pulled the plaster off the walls, exposing the electrics. Eventually the top floor window fell out, framing the weeds that grew again in the front garden. I often wonder what the developer felt like, seeing his hard work destroyed and vandalised, just as he was set to sell and move on.
Kids leave bikes in the front gardens. Lost baby shoes and dummies are propped on the fence posts in the hope of a reunion. Primary age kids walk and cycle alone to school on the next block.
On the opposite side, about 20 houses up lives a lady and my cat. My cat had a litter of kittens at home and once she had nurtured them, my cat bogged off down the road to charm the Whiskas out of my neighbour.
I know all of this because the neighbour kindly knocked on my door and told me she had adopted my cat, renamed her Sasha, and moved her into a very comfortable bed from John Lewis. Occasionally I catch the cat, who I refuse to call Sasha, pissing in my back garden.
I moved here because the house is close enough for us to all walk to and from school every day, It’s also a short walk for my eldest daughter to see her dad regularly too. When I moved in I was 9 months pregnant and the house was in a sorry state. Unable to see my feet and stand any longer than 30 minutes, I relied heavily on my parents to help make the shell a home.
For the first few weeks, we all slept in our own beds, but in one room. It felt like incubation as my body completed the last of the preparations before my son was born. I didn’t want to move out of that room, having the girls close was a huge comfort when it felt like everything around us was in disarray.
Another gift from this house in the ghetto was a life long, real friendship. I may have only been here for 5 years, but my friendship with Kate, just 50 odd doors down has spanned 25 years. Never knowing that when we met in senior school, we’d be mums, neighbors, and Friday night kitchen disco dancing queens, all this time later. She’s a blessing, her kids are amazing and I’m so lucky to have her and her mum next door but one.
Speaking of blessings. Denise lives two doors up. She’s a nursery nurse at the children’s hospital nursery. Caring for and educating the children of health care professionals. Denise has a family of her own. Her partner of more than 25 years lives in a house in the next road. They have their own space but share a life together. Denise always knocks on my door with Christmas, birthday and Easter treats for the kids. For absolutely no reason other than she is the kindest soul.
The sun comes up in the mornings and illuminates a pyramid gable end of the house out the back. A satellite dish the only blot on the golden bricks. I look forward to this and in the summer months I can time it along with when the bin truck comes on Fridays to collect the purple bins dotted along the street. It’s home.
It’s day 34 for us and I’ve made a real effort to get back into the swing of things after the Easter break. Here’s what I’ve got lined up for the kids this week and some handy links if you want to give any of the activities a go.
I gave the kids (and myself) the Easter break off homeschooling.
I won’t lie, it’s pretty exhausting trying to source new ideas and activities every single day, especially if you have kids of different ages. Now that we know lockdown is being extended until at least 7th May, I realised I was going to have to up my game.
Luckily, the 14-year-old has a full online learning program which is monitored by her teachers. She’s also a complete legend and I know I can trust her to crack on. Which leaves me the task of organising fun/educational stuff for the younger two.
They have an hour a day of TT Rockstar, Mathletics and Purple Mash, which again is monitored by the school. Aside from that, it’s up to me. The purpose of these worksheets – the majority of which I have ‘borrowed’ from Pinterest, is to do something fun together. It’s quality time. It’s family learning.
So, to keep me off the chocolate and the kids’ brains stimulated, these are the sheet work ideas I’ve come up with, plus a couple of handy online learning sites to break them up.
Read All About It
Independent learning is an important step for all kids. I’ve devised this idea that my 8-year-old is a reporter and she’s to fill her newspaper front page with an exciting story and picture. Once I’ve explained what she needs to do, and the time frame, I know this is something she can get on with while I do some maths with her little brother. The exercise covers handwriting, research and a little bit of art.
World Wide Word Search
I’ve made a word search for both of the kids. 8-year-old Cleo will focus on countries of the world while the little dude gets the months of the year, something he’s still not quite got in the right order yet. Cleo will also fill out an additional sheet with a fact about each of the 12 countries. Something she can use her Ipad for.
What’s The Time Mr. Wolf
Parenting fail o clock! Well, they’re still young but, time is something my eldest daughter didn’t grasp until much later than most, and she’s pretty good with maths. So I’m making an effort to start early with the younger two.
We’re making a spinning clock together (a la this one above from Mum in the Mad House blog) and we’ll fill in these super easy sheets with terminology such as: quarter past, half past, quarter to and the hour. They’ll number them, cut them out and add them to a bigger display. I’ll then routinely ask them what time it is throughout the day. I’ve bought them both a Lego watch each to wear too. Get them on Amazon, here.
Dollar Bills Y’all
Money is another concept that took a little while to catch on in our house. Well, they’re all bloody fantastic at spending it, less so at appreciating its value (not unlike myself, ooh shoes).
I’ll use these basic sheets to lay-out the coins in order (how I’ll chuckle when they ask why we don’t have a £20 or £50 note!) and then move on to some good, old fashioned money questions: If you have £1 and you buy 3 x 10p sweets, how much change will you have? Playing shop at home is equally effective!
I hate, actually hate those sheets of sums in long rows that the kids are given at school. They’re so uninspiring. With times tables taken care of online, I’ve tried to be a bit more creative with Logan’s sums and drawn them into either fish or octopus shapes. I made some Sudoku puzzles for Cleo to get to grips with. More ideas welcome.
Awwww man, I love a bit of science! I told the kids I could make square eggs. They think I’m nuts but it’s a really easy and fun science experiment you can do at home. Providing you have eggs! Give em a boil, peel them and while they’re still warm, stick them in a square container or box (use the Youtube Kids app here to learn how to make an easy card/paper box). Once they’ve cooled, they take on the form/shape of the box! SCIENCE!
The sheet I’ve drawn out gives the kids a space to write down or draw what we did, what we think will happen and what was the result.
The Jolly Post Girl/Boy
We’re really lucky to have two besties living just around the corner from us and as part of our daily 30 min bike/scooter/rollerskate exercise, we’re going to play The Jolly Postman/boy/girl. The kids are missing their friends and while they know they must abide by social distancing rules, they can write and draw letters and pictures to post to each other. Exercise, English and Art! Winner. You can buy The Jolly Postman book here. It’s a classic.
Bit of fun for all the family this one. We’ll be lining up all our fave Lego figures and seeing what we can style a new hairstyle out of. We’re hearing great things about grapes, raspberries, playdough, Blue Tac, mashed potatoes, Nutella and more.
Feed The Birds
As part of our daily 30 mins government-approved exercise, we pass a whole load of pine trees and so we’re planning a little nature activity too. Collecting a few up on our next route, we’ll be slathering them in peanut butter, dipping them in birdseed and lashing a ribbon around the top to make bird feeders. Ta dah!
BBC Bitesize Daily
This week sees the launch of BBC Bitesize Daily. A handy 20-minute programme, covering a number of different subjects for kids of all ages – each day. On days when I’ve failed to prepare any worksheets or maybe they’d rather be out in the garden playing, 20 mins and pen and paper isn’t a big ask. Check it out here.
Pinterest is a free website/app which essentially details all the cool stuff on the internet. It’s an online project book/pinboard/mood board. Simply type in key stage 1/2/3 worksheets, fun art ideas, spellings, how to teach the 7 times table, whatever and the internet shall reply. It’s visually more fun that just googling and you’ll be surprised at just how many ideas there are.
How are you getting through lockdown with your little ones? Any bright ideas to make learning more fun? Drop me a line, like, please, share your ideas! I can’t help but think the kids aren’t going back to school any time soon! KateJamesBlogs@gmail.com
Good luck everyone, have fun and enjoy. Plus, there’s always gin.
On NYE 2018 I made a resolution to spend at least 30 days of the brand, spanking new year out of the country. It’s March 2020 and I still haven’t achieved it, however, if I could jet off right now…
I travelled 12,000 miles around the world when I was 8 weeks old. My mum flew us from Australia to Liverpool to meet the family. My Aussie passport stamped, I arrived in the city for the first time in 1983. Since then I’ve been back to my native Sydney, walked the streets of NYC, tanned on the beaches of Turkey, Greece, Spain, Germany, watched shooting stars streak across the Nevada desert, sipped cocktails in Hong Kong, explored wartime history in France, chased dreams in New York, done the Disney thing twice over and made London, the northeast of England and Cumbria my temporary homes.
It’s not bad going for someone who started a family at 22. Travelling with kids makes things slightly more complicated, but not impossible. In her first 18 months of life, my eldest daughter boarded no less than 17 Ryanair flights (I know, tantamount to child abuse) as we nipped over to France to see my folks.
She was the token 1 year old getting me all kinds of disapproving looks on a long haul flight to Las Vegas. Only to sleep for 8 hours and behave like a freaking angel for the rest of the flight! The little one clocked up some miles in Manhattan at just 2, saw the Statue of Liberty and a love of Ghostbusters was born early on. She’s hung out on the Four Seasons fairways in Portugal, she’s paddled in the warm water at Padstow. In short, we’ve had some amazing adventures.
Travel took a back seat when the other two little legends came along. I’ve never been a jet setter but we did okay. Now I trawl through Instagram accounts of families who have sold everything to go travelling around the world together with their young kids, educating them on everything from religion to languages, science, and nature, a truly 4d experience. The only reason I’ve regretted not buying a house is that I can’t sell it and bugger off to globe-trot. Sake!
That old adage – If I won the lottery, or came into some money, the very first thing I would do is pack us up and get on a flight. Right now it’s near impossible to go to the corner shop without being questioned by the police.
But, there’s a big old world out there, waiting to come to life from the travel magazine pages and websites. This is my ‘stage one’ itinerary.
Around the world with Katie James, if you will.
Leave the tourists in Marakesh and head north to Casablanca for incredible Moorish and European art deco architecture. 20 degrees in Spring, a fresh Atlantic breeze and phenomenal photo opportunities. I’m going straight in for a culture shock on my first stop and I think the romance of Casablanca is a great start.
I loved Indiana Jones growing up and a visit to the lost city of Petra, Jordan could be the highlight of my worldwide trip. The ancient Al Khazneh temple, which was carved out of sandstone is at the top of my list at this 2000-year-old ancient city. Worn in Nikes, Canon, spare batteries and lensed sunglasses is all I need to roam free and step back in time here.
I’m 37 and I’ve never been to Italy! How has this happened? I’m going to visit Rome in the Autumn time to see the starling murmurations – which are annoying as hell to locals, but a sight to behold for those interested in more than just the ancient tourist attractions. COViD-19 foiled my plan to visit a couple of weeks ago, but there’s an Air BNB roof terrace and an Aperol with my name on out there, somewhere.
The floating city! Since that epic sinking sequence in Bond film, Casino Royale, Venice has held a special place in my heart. People have told me the water is stinking, the streets are always crowded and it’s like 8 euro for a coffee. Yeah but, the city floats! Planning a trip to arrive around the time of the Venice Film Festive would be pretty epic too.
I bloody love Disney’s Hercules. I loved learning about ancient Greece at school and there’s something about ancient civilisations and mythology that has to be felt. The textbooks just never did it justice. You can’t be a massive Nike fan and not want to visit Athens. Guaranteed to be humming the Hercules soundtrack the whole time.
Bit of a random one. I’m a big sports fan. I always loved watching international cricket as it happens. The Ashes of 2005 was the one, got me through my first pregnancy. I adored Nasser Hussain (don’t ask, it was the way he wore the cap I think.) Anyway, he’s from Chennai in India and having read his autobiography, I just always wanted to go!
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Oh Colombo, a port city, much like my own (adopted) home of Liverpool. The Sri Lankan capital has experienced many international influences from dutch, to Portuguese, British and of course, independence. A trip out of the metropolis to The Last Kindom in Kandy is a must too.
Me and my eldest kid are huge comic con and cosplay fans and so a stop in Japan was vital. Tokyo might seem the obvious choice and how I loved Lost In Translation. But Osaka is the one for me. The cherry blossom trees at Osaka Castle, and the contrast of the bustling Dotonbori, the food and the retro gaming – the perfect way to absorb the culture.
I had the pleasure of working with the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race as it set sail from Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock. The race involves a stop in Sanya, China, a place that I’d never heard of before but once you’ve caught a glimpse of its stunning beaches (Sanya Bay, wow) and incredible cultural monuments, you have to go!
Palmerston Island, Cook Islands
I read the amazing history of Palmerston Island in The Sunday Times magazine, probably about 5 years ago. Everyone who lives on this tiny atoll can trace their image back to a man from Leicester. Yep, Leicester. William Masters arrived on this coral reef enclosed island in1863 with two wives and the rest they say is history.
Tahiti, French Polynesia
Okay, this pit stop is pure because of an Eddie Murphy line in a 90’s cop film. Nope, not Beverley Hills Cop, but Metro. ‘Naked in Tahiti’ in a rubbish English accent – along with the black sand beaches, lagoons and love of artist, Gaugin, I could take a week off to get naked in Tahiti. The island is also in the shape of figure 8, which is kind of special to me.
Continuing my love of ancient ruins. 15th-century citadel, Machu Picchu is most definitely on the travel list for me. Nearby Cusco is the gateway to The Scared Valley. From a bustling tourist center to the tiny Andean villages, experiencing ‘The Road to Eldorado’ style Inca trail is something I’d love to do with my kids.
Miami! Will Smith made it sound so amazing! The art deco hotel fronts, skating along South Pointe Pier, a lazy day on Lauderdale beach. Lunch at Boia De, cocktails at The Broken Shaker and back to the airport. Stay just long enough to capture some incredible photos and we’re off again.
New Orleans, USA
My sister and I are life-long Scooby Doo fans and there’s no finer episodes than the ones set in spooky New Orleans. Cut to 2020 and the recent season 2 of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina channeled the Mardi Gras style so perfectly, that it reignited a flame to want to visit. Plus, The Princess and The Frog has us all wanting to check out the Louisiana Bayou tour!
Niagara Falls, Canada
You don’t want to know how much time I have sat and watched the Niagara Falls live stream from on top of the Sheraton Falls hotel. Seriously, I have a problem. I’ve wanted to board the Maiden of the Mist since I was about 9. Fascinated by the stories of people attempting to go over the magnificent falls in barrels etc has had me captivated for too long.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Sticking with Canada, hiking doesn’t get much better of fulfilling around Halifax, Nova Scotia. Cape Breton Highlands is the place to be for a wild adventure, then it’s back into the 4km long boardwalk of the Halifax waterfront to feast on amazing seafood. I interviewed a lady who was sailing on the QM2, which en route to New York, was stopping in Halifax. She raved about it and now I want to see if for myself.
It has to be said, sailing back into Liverpool has to be one of the most exhilarating experiences, even as an adopted Scouser. The Royal Liver Building standing tall and proud on the waterfront, those iconic Liver Birds keeping watch. Sometimes the best thing about travelling, is coming home.
Today marks the beginning of a new dawn, (ooh sounds a bit Avengers that, doesn’t it?) it’s 08:12 and I’m on the bus to work. The first day of the 9-5 beckons.
It might sound the start of millions of other Monday mornings too, but this one is pretty monumental for me. I haven’t worked a 9-5 job in almost ten years. The freelance life has afforded me the school run, leaving dishes and bed making until mid morning. Leisurely making random lunch combo’s such as Heinz Oxtail soup with a sprinkling of grated cheddar, three snack size sausage rolls and a CapriSun – it’s a winner!
I worked 9:30 -2:30pm most days, then picked up the laptop again from 6ish and worked until I fell asleep in the chair. Usually with Brooklyn Nine Nine on in the background. Then I started picking the laptop up at 4pm, the kids ensconced in front of Cartoon Network. I started forgetting spelling sheets and our regular reading routine abandoned.
I would jump up at 5:45am to put uniforms in the tumble dryer on the day they were needed. I’d begin to order in more during the week, instead of a just a Friday night treat, Pizza Hut was becoming a staple. I was failing my kids.
So something had to change. And it has. I bid farewell to freelance life. Juggling work at all hours of the day and night, trying to make ends meet and feeling like my professional exams were a complete waste of time.
This morning I was up at 6. The sun is shining, which is a great start. Weekend washing done and out on the line. Uniforms ironed, day bags packed, and everyone out the front door to breakfast club by 7:45am.
My little son shine (that’s his nickname) she’s a few nervous years going in to breakfast club with his sister, but I know in a few minutes he’ll be totally fine. In the long run, I will be too. I know that regulating my working hours, income and career expectations will benefit us all. We’ve just got to tough out this first week or so. Corona Virus pending!
By writing this I’ve stopped myself from eating my packed lunch. Although, I fear it may not make it til 12pm! To everyone starting their first day, or planning a fresh start today, best of luck to you!
I spent some time in hospital this week but it turns out being in the comfort of my home proved more dangerous.
I’m typing this with a concussion. Sadly there’s zero chance of a ‘No Win No Fee’ payout because the whole Scooby Doo style escapade was entirely my own fault. It all started back in December.
The lovely people at Whirpool recalled my washing machine due to some faulty whatsit or other and my shiny new, non-french speaking replacement (don’t ask), arrived today. It’s rare I move my washing machine to brush or mop behind it because I’ve convinced myself the dark corner of my kitchen resembles the set for Arachnophobia back there.
With the new arrival imminent I decided an act of heroism was required. Move the machine out, detach the overflow and cold water feed, pull out the plug and mop the empty space. Also, potentially run like hell and set fire to the house, should a spider appear.
Steps 1 – 4 went swimmingly. No spiders either which makes me more suspicious than calm. As I finished my Mary Poppins routine, my phone rang on the other side of the room. I leaped into action, forgetting the floor was awash with Zoflora and proceeded to skid, slide and tumble to the floor, hitting my head, knee and hip off the kitchen cabinets and lastly, off the floor, before welcoming swirly patterns on the inside of my eyelids.
Oh my word, it hurt so badly and as expected with any kind of trauma, my nose exploded and bled all over my top too. My poor mum is heading for a heart attack any day now with the stress I’ve caused her this week alone. Paramedics, appendixes, kidneys oh my! And that was just Sunday! Now concussion. It’s been one hell of a week.
I’m bruised and sore. I’m also in awe of the fact I’ve managed to keep three children alive and well for as long as I have considering my personal safety and spacial awareness skills are f&cked.
Here’s to the NHS, incredible front line staff who work their asses off, still manage a smile and a bit of banter throughout grueling shifts. Here’s to the bed managers at Aintree Hospital – I was parked up next to these women on Sunday night while they tried to get me a bed and I’ve genuinely never seen a work ethic like it.
Here’s to the paramedics lining the corridors with their patients, waiting to be transferred before once again going back to fore for those in need. Including the impromptu case of my 14-year-old who collapsed watching a cannula being inserted into my wrist.
I dunked my malted milk a little bit too long and en route to my mouth, it landed with a splat, in my pen pot. Saturday mornings in bed with my laptop – summed up in one FFS moment.
I woke up with an urgency to write today. Which is awesome. I made a coffee, grabbed a haul of inspirational prompt books which sit on my bookshelf and dived back into bed with a stack of biscuits and a determination to get 500 words down on the page.
What started out as a desire to create, it slowly turning into a procrastination exercise to avoid having to clean my pen pot. All my good pens, the ones I keep from the kids, the hotel pens my boyfriend has swiped from hotels when he travels with work, and all the ace freebies, now coated in a thick layer of malted milk and coffee.
Is it considered old school to still write with pen and paper? To put a blog post live I obviously have to transcribe my writing into digital format, but it feels more personal and real to write a first draft on paper.
I got a tonne of photos printed out yesterday too. Is that old school now? I’ve reverted back to my teens and stuck a load up on my wall above my desk. Pics of the kids, the dog, the boyfriend, snaps I took in Paris a few weeks back. The woman in the photo shop explained that people rarely print now unless its to go straight in a frame on the wall. Or in a cute keyring, snow globe or Valentine’s Day gift (yep, it’s almost that time again), but more on that later.
Playing board games, that’s old school. ALthough I heard yesterday there’s now a 10 minute game of Monopoly available. Probably because no one can afford to buy anything and they’ve swapped out Jail for moving back in with you folks.
Speaking of board games, I took the kids to see Jumanji: The Next Level, at the flicks last weekend. Since watching the original and first instalment reboot featuring Karen Gillan, The Rock and Jack Black, they’re been obsessed. I found myself saying “You know it started out as a board game, right?” quite a lot, as the digital SNES looking game in the film, brought the story up to the modern day expectations. Still, at age 5, 8 and 14 it was a refreshing change to find a film we all wanted to see.
SPOILER ALERT: Danny Devito and Danny Glover are in the latest film and make it a must see if you’ve followed the franchise.
Back to the old school. Tell you what else I absolutely love doing, hold on to your hats here people, it’s about to get raucous. I love doing Sudoku in the free Metro paper you get on the buses and trains. My commute into town seems to go much quicker while I’m wracking my brain trying to get the squares lined up with the correct digit. It’s probably the only time of the day I’m not talking, or listening to music. I’m fully engaged, kicking myself for not trying harder in GCSE Maths and wondering if the woman next to me is silently screaming out ‘YOU’VE F*CKED UP THE TOP RIGHT HAND BOX, YOU TIT.
I dabbled a bit in Brain Training on the DS when I could be arsed remembering to charge it. But providing I’ve got a pen, which come on, who hasn’t got a random biro in their bag? I’m good to go, even if it needs a wipe clean first. Malted Milk, FFS.
As you might have gathered from the previous post, things haven’t exactly plain sailing of late. It’s time to move on.
I’ve been working as a freelance journalist for the last 4 years. I loved it. Until a few months ago when I realised I’d stopped being fun. I shouted at my kids, for being kids. I was living hand to mouth because I’d prioritise doing fun, work-related stuff instead of making sure I had enough money for a rainy day.
It’s hardly the crime of the century, I know. I mean who has money to save in the current economic climate? But the reason this has bitten me so badly in the ass, is because it’s now three weeks until Christmas and I have a grand total of £87 in the bank.
WHY did I stop being a freelance journalist so close to Christmas? Why not see it through until I had another job, or at least until January? Well, mainly because I was so ridden with anxiety and down about it, I walked around the Christmas Markets with my kids, randomly bursting into tears. That’s usually a sign something isn’t right.
For four years I’ve (just about) managed to juggle everything. Three kids, a full time, pretty demanding job, a house, a dog and a boyfriend. Working in the media is like having another child. 24 hour commitment and this overwhelming feeling of not being able to switch off and never quite being good enough.
Every update my Iphone spewed out about how many hours screen time I’ve accumulated (Approx 7.58 hours per day FYI) I’ve felt increasingly like I’m missing out on my kids, yet I wouldn’t put my phone down. I’d work harder to get my workload done so I could chill out, only for another deadline to arise, and another and another.
A steady stream of work is absolutely nothing to be sniffed at, again, especially not in the current climate. But my god it’s so hard to keep up. I got teary. My persistent nose bleeds got even worse. I got the shakes and then the random bouts of crying my eyes out started.
I woke this morning to the sound of my electricity metre beeping. This means it’s low on credit. No credit, no internet, no work, no money – no electricity. Who’d have thought it? Someone having such an amazing time, bossing it at work, going to parties and meeting famous people – would be wondering where the hell the next £10 electricity is coming from?
It’s two weeks before Christmas. I have £85 in the bank and I’ve spent so long applying for jobs and ticking ‘I Am Not A Robot’ Captcha boxes that I think I actually am a robot.
It’s terrifying. But it was still the right thing to do. My mental health has taken serious nose dive and while it’s going to be a really tough few weeks, it can only get better. I took the advice of a friend and looked at Universal Credit while I’m applying for jobs all over the country.
I would genuinely rather pluck my own eyes out than have to go through that absolute shit storm of an application process, which at the minimum takes 5 weeks to reach a decision. Now I can fully understand just how desperate it must be when even though you’ve worked and paid into the system, there is nothing to help you bounce back when you need it. Thank god for family and friends.
Back to square one it is. I’ve written this primarily to look back and realise how low I’d gotten before I did something. Wanting to do you best at work is a great attribute. Letting it blind you to the reality of a situation, is a curse.