Category Archives: Self employment

Village life

scone and creamHaving complained that I didn’t seem to be part of the community I can now officially inform you that I appear to be blending in a bit better.  How do I know?  I’m being informed when people die, that’s how!  As various members of the community people are now telling HWIOO and I about their sad demises.  This is unexpected as we know none of the deceased but we do now.  I wonder if I should attend their funerals to make their acquaintance or at least the acquaintance of their nearest and dearest? There’s certainly always a large turn out for funerals.

Aside from that after a rather prolonged silence on the domestic goddess front I have partaken in the gentle art of serving afternoon cream teas on a bank holiday Saturday.  I have discovered that its an excellent way of bonding as a group.  I’ve no idea why people spend a fortune on team building exercises.  They don’t need to go paint balling or build giant, not to mention useless, structures out of paper and straws, nor do they need to go off on some “jolly” together – what they need to do is organise scones and then spend the day in a confined space preparing and serving cream teas to locals and holiday makers.  This also has the bonus of helping a worthy cause.

HWIOO is still pottering along.  As ever, we’re working at the pacing but we’re trying to cut out the afternoon nap very gradually as I mentioned in January.  HWIOO can now do two afternoons without a snooze so long as they aren’t in succession.  We have learned that if the Little Madams come that for two days after they go he has to revert to doing something for an hour and then changing activity entirely but that he can be more himself during their visit – so in other words to quote the Right Little Madam, he isn’t as broken as he once was.

Meanwhile we still haven’t done something nice beginning with I, although I have found out about the Information Commission Office (ICO) and its requirements.  I have also parted with my cash to register.  I don’t think this of itself is particularly nice but it is exciting that I am becoming more self-employed.  Now all I have to do is find a few more venues, complete the WI speaker course (don’t ask) and write a history book.  I may not move fast but I will get there in the end!


That was the week that was – and it’s still only Thursday.

John-dogsLast night not only did my house have carpet- it had a bed rather than a mattress on the floor, pictures on the walls, books arranged in height order on the bookcase and clean (and ironed) laundry in the drawers. This, so far as I am concerned, was brilliant. It was less good for HWIOO who awoke at three and in his half sleeping state forgot that he was now several feet off the ground…and rolled out of bed. I must have been very soundly asleep indeed because I didn’t hear the dull thud of him landing (maybe the carpet has a much thicker pile than I realised) or the sound of him getting tangled in the airer that I’d put up in the bathroom to finish off drying the last load of laundry. No, he didn’t put the light on first and yes he did know it was there – I’m not that cruel as to set traps for him.

And of course, today was King John – it was really lovely to see so many familiar faces and to meet some new ones as well. I still can’t make my mind up about the youngest of Henry II’s brood. He was definitely a bad man – text book baddie in many respects. If he’d been Victorian he’d have had a moustache to twirl and tied young women to railway lines – but then again when you look at his parents, his brothers, his vassals, the time in which he lived and his neighbours you can sort of see where he might have been coming from. And he was good with animals.

As ever the paperwork ate into teaching time and there wasn’t enough of it despite my best endeavours. I shall worry about that tomorrow.

What was also nice was that HWIOO accompanied me – so I had a porter and by the looks of it I’m about to acquire a manager. Let’s hope I don’t also acquire someone who carries out quality audits and inspects me on a regular basis! he spotted that I hadn’t done my plenary activity at the end of the session and hadn’t gone through the learning outcomes with folk but I shall turn the plenary into a post tomorrow.  HWIOO is very organised and will probably create an action plan for me with a set of targets along with dates and outcomes. He’s also threatened to lock me in a room with my laptop and no Internet until I’ve written the best selling novel. He says he’s looking forward to being a kept man…I must buy him some more jigsaw puzzles once the renovations are finished.

After the class finished we set off for deepest darkest Cumbria. I didn’t have a chauffeur this morning because HWIOO was feeling rather wobbly – it might have had something to do with rolling out of bed in the middle of the night but I did have a chauffeur heading north. I enjoyed the approach to Keithley as by that time it was growing dark, houses had their lights on but their occupiers hadn’t drawn their curtains so I was able to admire their décor or not as the case might be.

I am now happily ensconced, having had a refreshing shower, in bed with a toothbrush mug of red wine and a bar of plain chocolate.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

We have washing!

I’m a very happy person – my washing machine is now plumbed into place.  I no longer need to wander like some itinerant washer woman clutching our unwashed laundry in search of someone who will let me borrow their machine. Whilst many of my direct ancestoresses were laundresses it doesn’t mean I want to channel them or indeed Mr Toad escaping prison for that matter.

Whilst we are on the subject of water, I am temporarily doing the washing up in the bathroom…doesn’t everyone?  On account of the fact that we once again badly miscalculated how long it would take HWIOO to fit the kitchen.  Last time he did it in two days – so I thought a week but I hadn’t accounted for the fact that for every day HWIOO works there is a day of rest to be considered.  In addition there’s the brain fog.  This means that instead of being precise and organised and several steps ahead of me I am often called upon to check everything is set out in the right order before HWIOO gets started or that he’ll be half way through a job and then realise he’s forgotten something.  He finds it all very frustrating but it’s something that both of us just have to come to terms with. It looks like being two weeks and that’s not counting the tiling.

Talking of which I have had my choice of tile curtailed.  It was pointed out to me that the lovely Moroccan pattern that I liked would have been a nightmare to grout and we’re not repeating that experience apparently (I can’t imagine why) so I have opted for a chequerboard pattern of green and creamy yellow tiles which do not have bevelled edges or any embossed patterns that will need time and attention lavished upon them.  Photographs edge ever closer.

Once the work surface is fitted I can begin to empty some of my boxes which will enable me to unearth my craft knives in one of the boxes behind all the kitchen paraphernalia which will enable me to cut the silhouette I want to make for the cover of my ebook which I will then be able to upload.  More progress.

Perhaps by then I will have heard back from my lovely organiser at the WEA who is trying to find me six dates across the coming academic year for a range of day schools on topics as diverse as the Pastons and Hans Holbein.  There’s also the local newspaper I submitted an article to in response for their advert for regular columnists to be considered…how long do you leave it before writing a politely worded email asking the editor for some feedback or simply sending another email with another article?  I mean, there’s option 1 – perseverance that could ultimately be rewarded with a regular history column yielding more speaking engagements and a gateway to a publisher possibly or option 2- mad woman whose emails the editor permanently blocks.  I’m aiming at option 1 rather than option 2 by the way.

At the same time as trying to reinvent myself as a successful writer and guest lecturer I have started painting the courtyard- the same colour as it was before I hasten to add on account of the fact that we live in a conservation area and there are rules about what you can and can’t do with your exterior masonry.  Our next door neighbour wanted to re-render the exterior of his house and then to repaint it in white and blue.  It took in excess of six months, many phones calls and much cash to produce the end result.  We have enough complication in our lives without the council becoming involved.  Once I’ve painted the walls which currently involved mortaring some of the wall that has previously been excavated by my more enthusiastic chisellings and then shifting the debris that’s being stored out there I can ask HWIOO to fix my washing line – oh joy unbounded – I hope by then I also have a functioning kitchen sink  but I’m not going to hold my breath as I know I’ve got to allow more time than I think – so double it and then double it again whilst hoping that HWIOO doesn’t do his overstretched piece of elastic impersonation which requires at least a week of sleep – Rip Van Winkle style.

It’s Friday…so what?

It’s not that long ago that when Friday came around that HWIOO used to arrive home heave a sigh of relief and collapse into the sofa for the weekend.  We’ve changed somewhat – the weekends are now days when we don’t venture far.  The car parks are full and so are the shops.  We’ve also discovered that being within spitting distance of a tourist destination isn’t necessarily good for the traffic.  But never mind, we don’t play by those rules any more.

We play by the rules of CFS – which translates as two days work and three days recovery.  And HWIOO is feeling very pleased with himself. He’s on the home straight when it comes to the tiling.  Yes, I know that means he has to do yet more grouting but we have been out today and ordered the vinyl for the floor – so we must be nearly done.

I’ve painted the ceiling – not once, not twice but three times and apparently I’ve got to do it again.  Happy days.  Actually I’ve painted the kitchen ceiling four times and on the four th attempt I even managed to get it to break out in chickenpox.  Apparently the blobbing or ‘blebbing’ as HWIOO called it is caused by an assortment of faults – a dirty ceiling for one.  Well not in my case.  I washed it first: so there.  Latex paint: nope.  Moisture: no again.  This leaves one other option which I find very hard to believe – HEAT.  Who would have thought it a mildly warm day in June causes paint to come over all peculiar.

Even more delightful that pristine white ceilings is the fact that I have painted half the kitchen and the wall units are up.  Huzzah!  Things are in cupboards – my cup overflows; well it would if I could find them.  Currently our crockery consists of two plates, the Little Madams’ plastic breakfast bowls (HWIOO is not amused by Peter Rabbit), two mugs, two glasses and one wine glass.

Having said that we’ve set ourselves a bit of a challenge.  We’ve order the flooring for the kitchen as well – this means that lists will be made and jobs will need to be done.  I now do the noisy jobs while HWIOO is awake and the quiet ones while he slumbers. Though, I’m under strict instructions not to demolish the remaining work surface and the kitchen sink while he’s not looking.  Apparently subsisting with a tap taped to the wall is not something we are going to do for the next six weeks – well, that’s a relief.It’s also quite a compliment.  HWIOO assumes that I can unplumbed the tap and replumb it – he is very wrong on that particular score.

It’s Friday, so what?  So tomorrow I need to finish sanding a beam – the only exposed beam in the cottage.  It will then need filling – with a facsimile grain suitably etched and then it will need to be lime washed.  Apparently a tube of white acrylic, a thinner and a rag should have the desired effect.  The alternative is something called lime paste – not to be mistaken with a cooking ingredient.  So that will be all of Saturday gone.

On Sunday the Little Madams are coming to inspect our efforts.  The eldest little madam has enquired whether we’ve mended the house yet.  I feel she’ll be sadly disappointed but probably consoled by the fact that the television is now functional.  The Right Little Madam will probably roll up her sleeves and demand to be of assistance.  The biggest question however, is what will the Littlest Madam make of our new toilet complete with its soft close lid – she could be in there for hours.

And yes, I know there’s still no pictures but I have managed to work out how Sigil works and am currently formatting like a woman possessed.  All in all, don’t tell anyone, I think we’re starting to make progress.

Action Plans and Pay Back

I discovered this morning that an action plan is much more than a list – which is what I’d created and actually started working my way through as I thought of what I needed to do in the coming week and months.  To be honest sometimes I write things on my ‘to do’ list that I’ve already done just for the pleasure of crossing them off.  Not any more apparently, HWIOO announced that not only was this cheating but that my listing technique was all wrong.  I must, because of my new freelance status, have an annual action plan.

An action plan prioritises tasks, breaks them down into their component elements, sets target dates for completion, identifies who is doing what and when.  There’s also a final column for monitoring. This is a worrying development. Somehow I feel that I won’t be monitoring myself and I’d have thought most of the outcomes will be fairly clear.  At one end of the spectrum either HWIOO will go to his underwear drawer and find a neat pile of clean undies or he won’t. At the other end of the scale either I will deliver a manuscript to my publisher or I won’t be speaking at next year’s Words by the Water at Keswick.  To avoid either of the disasters, I am now told, I must think what to do and when to do it by….I’m not sure just doing it as I think of it or multi-tasking comes into the equation.  I think HWIOO might be getting work withdrawal symptoms despite what he says to the contrary.

Having left me identifying the fact that a mountain of ironing was my most immediate target HWIOO took himself off to bed.  He’s definitely experiencing pay back for all that festive merriment.  He feels as though he’s run the marathon and doesn’t feel any better after several hours of sleeping.  However, looking at it positively I’ve been able to do half the ironing, set up my Etsy account and do some writing as well without any managerial intervention.  I’m not sure if all that should have been broken down into component parts before I started but I can cross something off my list.

HWIOO went to sleep at midday, it’s getting on for four-thirty now.  It just goes to show how much we’ve got used to HWIOO’s Rip Van Winkle tendencies.  Three years ago I was starting to panic about the amount of sleep he required and had just done the thing that everyone tells you not to do…yup- that’s right I googled his symptoms on the quiet.  The Doctor had already ruled out diabetes and I thought it was fairly safe to assume that HWIOO wasn’t pregnant which left a whole lot of things that you really don’t want your nearest and dearest to catch or to develop.  As I recall it was May before the panic subsided and by that time we were grateful for a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue/ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

Actually whilst I was doing the ironing I worked out a cunning plan for HWIOO to earn money during the summer months.  He could become a living statue.  I thought that if we provided him with a very long beard, a tunic and cloak and lots of cobwebs and then spray painted him silver he could be a statue of Old Father Time.  I’m sure I could find a giant egg timer from somewhere…perhaps I should add it to the action plan. I thought that perhaps I could dress the little madams as fairies who could skip around with the collection tin.  On second thoughts scrap that idea – they’d probably demand all the takings or leave HWIOO sleeping peacefully while they went off and purchased ice-cream and chocolate.





New Year’s Resolutions

Last year we said that we would try to go to the cinema at least once a month. I managed to go twice…once in January to see The Hobbit and once in December for a viewing of Paddington. I would have gone to see the little Peruvian as soon as the film came out but HWIOO refused to go without a child in tow.


This year has started off in much the same way. We have said we will go to the cinema on at least twelve occasions and started off with the last instalment of The Hobbit. It was bottom numbingly long once you factored in Pearl and Dean’s offerings followed by the trailers but thankfully we saw the film in 3D – essentially the best bit about the whole thing. Or put another way it was daylight when we went in and dark when we came out.


The resolution was originally  made to ensure that HWIOO didn’t just work and sleep – clearly it didn’t work but as this year as we are reinventing ourselves following HWIOO stopping work it just might.


Having said that the festivities have taken their toll. Despite having an afternoon nap most days during the holiday HWIOO nearly fell asleep in his dinner last night with our friends Hattie and Archie.  He also failed to make the connection between the partially knitted sock that my friend Hattie showed me and one of her Christmas presents – a set of double-pointed needles.


“Do you need so many spares?” he asked looking at the pack.

“They’re different sizes,” Hattie pointed helpfully at the labels.

“But why do you need six?”

Eventually after a conversation that involved a metaphor about drill bits Hattie and I twigged that HWIOO was puzzled about the number of needles in each separate pouch.

“They’re not spares! You need all of them to make one sock.”

“You do?”

“Yes.” We chorused. And it’s not as though he’s never seen double-pointed needles in action before as I also knit socks. It perhaps says more about the number of crafting accessories that he believes Hattie and I to own between us.


This morning HWIOO was awake at his usual time. It’s a shame really as he’s at his most alert between the hours of five and seven-thirty – a time period when I am neither awake nor coherent. Now that I am awake HWIOO has gone back to sleep and will probably remain that way for several more hours. So, New Year’s resolution number two is to get back into the routine of diet, pacing and exercise so that HWIOO is more himself and less Rip Van Winkle. It’s another reason that we’ll be glad when we move.  The current favoured place for a walk is around the nearby graveyard making us feel like extended members of the Adams Family.


Finally there’s New Year’s Resolution number three. Thanks to the gentleman who put in an offer for our house and then withdrew for no apparent reason just before Christmas I currently do not have gainful employment having given in the required notice at work when our solicitor told us we’d be good to go at the end of January – after many glasses of wine we’ve decided it’s probably for the best as it will mean cottage renovation can pick up pace and I didn’t want to live on a building site in any event. However it does mean I need to get that novel out from under the bed and also develop my Etsy website as I need to be effectively self-employed on the grounds that while I do need to lose about a stone in weight I can’t live on fresh air. Inspiration was given an additional shove last night when Hattie showed me the Christmas cards she’d made during the holidays – sixty five professional looking cards all ready to post for Christmas 2015 (now that is organised) and she holds down a very demanding job as well as doing all the other things that domestic goddesses are required to do.

I either need to drink more coffee or get a manager! Perhaps that’s what HWIOO meant by saying I needed an action plan and a gantt chart – whatever one of those might be.