>I had a great day yesterday, once I got to my parents’. The ride down wasn’t so bad, considering I drove through 3 lots of roadworks and quite a few squally showers. Me and Mom went into Solihull and spent loads of money on shoes and clothes, and we had a nice snack in the Manor House tea room. The rain held off at least while we were in the open, but the ride back took a while longer as the first 15 mile roadwork section was heavily congested and traffic came to a standstill at least 5 times. I was shattered when I got home, so had an easy tea, slobbed in front of The Mentalist, and then an early night. The cats were out so I slept right through.

Today I came back to a bit of a debate on my guestbook regarding fees, and I can’t help but notice the similarites between music gigs and writing gigs. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin. There’s a similar story on The Scruffy Dog Review.

When I started out writing, I felt Very Lucky to get £100 per 1,000 words. This was, like, Rockafella money. Today, I still feel Very Lucky to get £100 per 1,000 words, 25 years on. Twenty. Five. Years. In those days, the “going rate” was probably closer to £35 – £75 per 1,000 words and you only got the higher, “premium” rate if you were a member of the NUJ. These days, if you expect any more than £50 per 1,000 words, you’re being greedy.

Pay rates for writers haven’t remained static, they’ve gone DOWN. Yet cost of living and inflation has gone UP, which means in real terms the wages have gone down yet further.

At the moment there is outcry because regular staff workers can’t expect an annual pay rise in the current economic climate. Can you imagine if they’d not received a pay rise in 25 years, AND/OR their wage had gone down? It just wouldn’t be acceptable and there would have been a major downing of tools.

When you’re starting out as a writer – or in a band – you would be forgiven for taking on the lower paid jobs. This would be part of an apprenticeship, while you’re getting your name known, building experience, and getting better. I have never, ever done a job for free, but I have done work for low rates just to get my foot on the bottom rung of that ladder.

As you build experience, gain a reputation, prove your worth, and customers start to come to you, you would be quite within your right to raise your fees or settle on a certain fee you wouldn’t go below, perhaps citing “we draw a crowd” or “you get a good deal for your money”. The ONLY exceptions to this rule would be maybe charity work or customers that genuinely can’t afford to pay you more but for whom you have the greatest of respect or affection, or if you would maybe like to repay them for helping to get you started, aka remembering your roots.

It’s a bit like pro-bono work for solicitors. Sometimes they take on a cause that’s close to their heart, or they do a favour for a friend, or they repay a debt, or so many hours are expected of them if they want to continue working for that company.

So too for writers, or bands.

If a charity magazine can only pay you expenses, and you have a lot of time for either the charity or the volunteers that work there, then you do it. If a pub or club can only pay a nominal fee of £100, if it’s a venue you love, if you feel you want to thank them for giving you a start, then you do it. And you don’t bellyache about it.

However, if a magazine or a venue is only paying a certain amount because they know they can get away with it, then you need to rethink.

Day job
Because of the alarming drop in fees for freelances, and because I needed a regular income in order to survive the breakdown of my 2nd marriage, I went “back to work”. I got a day job to give me that safety net, although I made sure it was a bloody good job and one that I would enjoy. But if there weren’t sufficient “enthusastic amateurs” out there content to do my job for nothing, I would still be freelancing now. And this is what writers and bands also need to bear in mind.

If you have a day job, or if you don’t NEED the income, how fair is it to do this work for free or on the cheap when there are people out there whose only income this is? In effect you’re stealing the cookies from their tables; snatching the food from their children’s mouths.

How would you like it if I came and did YOUR job for nothing, or if I undercut you by 50%?

As with everything, there are exceptions to the rule, already alluded to above.

There are some publications, some venues, that can genuinely only afford to pay £35 per 1,000 words or £100 per gig, and it’s down to you, the supplier, to decide if you want to do it, and if you get more of a buzz from doing that kind of job than one that pays £150 – £300 per 1,000 words or £1,000 per gig.

But when it’s because they know they can find someone cheaper than you, they know they can get away with it, or they’re honestly being skinflints, if you accept it, then it weakens the argument for those of us that make a living from it, and it ensures things won’t get any better for you or any of us in the future.

I once had an exchange of emails with an editor of a magazine who actually said: “Why should I pay your extortionate rates when I have hundreds of enthusiastic amateurs willing to do it for free?” Oh, did he get a typically Diane-esque reply, which basically said: “If you pay peanuts, expect monkeys – and be prepared to spend a week knocking their submission into shape. If you pay my ‘extortionate rate’ (which at the time was £120), expect to drop the article into place untouched and it will fit exactly, so saving you all of that extra unnecessary work – and work out how much money my extortionate rate actually saves you in real terms.”

His reply was very apologetic, but he did say: “I didn’t realise I was dealing with a professional.” Well, IT SHOULDN’T MATTER. You should pay a fair rate for a fair job, whoever is writing it for you.

Guess what – the sky didn’t fall, I wasn’t destined to never work for that editor again. I got the gig, I got the £120, and I got more work out of it in the bargain. I also hope I helped get some of his “enthusiastic amateurs” a fair price too.

So, my advice is this. (For what it’s worth.)

By all means, when you’re starting out, accept whatever you’re offered – just don’t do it for free. But when you’ve built up a port-folio, experience and a good reputation, ask for and expect a pay rise. Then, when you feel really confident, set yourself a minimum rate. Mine is still £100 per 1,000 words. And if you decide to do cheaper jobs, do them for the right reasons, not because you’re being bullied.

Remember, how you act, what you’re prepared to tolerate, has a knock-on effect, both to others in the same field and to the future of the business you’re in.

Do a £100-gig if you’re starting out, if you love the venue, if you feel you owe them a favour, if there’s a good crowd, if it’s your home pub/crowd, enter your reason here. But don’t do it just because you’re scared they may never hire you again. If that’s the case, it ain’t worth it and there are higher paying gigs out there.

Have some respect for the work that you do and the service you provide.

Thank you for reading.


>Brrr. (Pretend I can roll my Rs …) It’s so cold here at the moment, if feels more like October than the end of July. We’re in the middle of the UK’s holiday season and people are considering switching their heating on. I just went for a walk in the rain – real heavy, straight-down, near-torrential rain – and I was wondering if I should have taken gloves. I’m sat in my office with a long-sleeved top and a woollen cardigan over the top. Brrr.

The magazine is finalised, the page plan is full. The 2 poster campaigns are complete, I just have to fine tune before sending everything off. I’ve started to think about our new brochure, and I’m wondering how to breathe life into our website. I have just under 4 weeks before I go into production, and it’s going to be a busy 4 weeks. The rest of this week (well, the rest of today and then Friday as tomorrow is my regular other Thursday off) will be thinking, pondering, contemplating, musing, considering, and no doubt talking to people as and when I see them or they call me up.

Tomorrow I’m in Brum.


>So I’m on a 3-day week this week, with lots to pack into that short time, and today I’ve not stopped since I got here. It’s been like New Street Station (or Paddington, or Grand Central, please feel to substitute with a busy station of your choice), and some people have been back twice. It’s nice to be popular, though, and I do prefer to be busy.

However, my feet don’t seem to have touched the ground (even though I’ve been seated for much of the day), and my head is spinning. It’s 2:30pm and I only just took my dinner break.

People have been ringing me too, and I’ve been ringing them, just so we can finalise the magazine – I couldn’t get hold of everyone on Friday, it being school holidays lots of staff are out – and I’ve had emails to finalise about 6 posters for our 2 poster campaigns I’ve become involved with. I’ll be tidying those up and getting them submitted to our graphics department just as soon as possible.

This week I also have to give feedback on our new brochure and get some kind of status report on everything drawn up.

And this week doesn’t stop there. With the new month starting on Saturday, I’ve done half of the gig list (A to M) plus the venues for August. Over the next few evenings I have to finish the rest. It got hacked recently, with some silly childish stuff, nothing too serious, just gigs deleted or changed or moved around a bit, so everything was switched off over the weekend while I sorted out security, and I’ve shared the information with my co-poster on the gig list (and co-moderator on the guestbook).

Thursday I hope to go down to Birmingham to take my mom shopping. I promised I’d do that in July and I thought it would be the last Thursday in July as that would normally be a day off and after pay day. Friday night I’m off to Castleford to see another of my favourite bands as their vocalist is leaving after Sunday’s gig and this is the last chance I get to see the current line up.

Saturday will be a day of rest, chores, shopping and telly, then on Sunday I’m walking on the Pocklington Canal with 2 of my Facebook friends. It’s another hour-long walk, but 2 miles this time (we’re only doing a section of it), and we intend to finish at the pub for lunch.

When’s home time? I think I need to go and lie down …

>Derwent Reservoir

>I tried to upload these pictures yesterday but Blogger and Photobucket were having none of it. I use Photobucket for these pictures because they take up too much room on the server space we’re allocated at Blogger.

And so yesterday I drove to Derwent Reservoir in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside. It’s only 25 miles from where I live and there are lots of different walks of different lengths and for different abilities. This was an easy, 1.25 mile walk that took me just over 1 hour – and that’s with dawdling and taking pictures and just enjoying the view (when I go with the Ramblers it’s head down full throttle forward). I walked just over 3,900 steps and burned off 117 calories – feel like that should be more.

The new shoes were brilliant. They did rub, but not to the extent that I had to stop and I didn’t have to dress the feet until I got back to the car. The weather was kind; it rained all the way there, held off for my walk, then came down with a vengeance when I was back in the car eating my picnic.

Here then is the top of the (actually quite steep) beginning to the walk:

And to prove I was there – and to show off that I finally found the self timer on my wonderful Panasonic camera – here I am modeling Goldigger combats, Lonsdale T, and USA-Pro jacket. I managed to cut my lovely new shoes off:


There are 2 benches on the hillside overlooking the Derwent reservoir. Here is what one had carved into it:

And this is the view:

The dam, close up:

The memorial stone to Tip the sheepdog:

I was really disappointed that I couldn’t get closer to the commemoration stone to the 617 “dambusters” squadron. This is behind a locked gate at the entrance to the dam, but it is opened on occasions when there is also a small museum exhibition on display:

This is the bridge we have to cross in order to get close to the dam wall – and we can get very close:

Such a pity it wasn’t in operation, as the sight and sound must be phenomenal:

This is a nature trail off the walk I’d opted for, but I just had to get a closer look at those statues:

And here I am again to give you some perspective – hey, you can see my shoes in this one:

I had a lovely walk in the fresh air, my feet aren’t at all sore today, and when I bragged about it on my Facebook, I discovered 2 friends that want to come with me next time, which is great. So this Sunday, we’re doing a canal walk in the Vale of York. I’m keeping the walks short and easy at the moment while I break in the shoes.

When I got back to the car I drafted up my “walk” article while it was still so fresh in my mind. I’ll probably gather a few together and maybe send half a dozen off at once, on spec.

This morning I spent over an hour shredding. This is why even mundane tasks need to be scheduled in. My next chore is going through a pile of clutter and making a new shredding pile. Then I have some correspondence to deal with and some publicity material to sort out.

Enjoy the pictures.

>These shoes were made for walking

> My sister nagged me to get a new pair of boots as my old new boots crippled me and my gorgeous old old boots are letting in (and I spiked a sole earlier this year too, so they completely lost their weatherproof). She got some shoes last year for her South West Coast Path walk and I thought I might like to try a pair of those instead of boots. So I did a quick internet search, and I found these, on sale, just down the road. At Sports Direct. (Reduced from £69.99 to £20.99.)

Aren’t they lovely? (As walking shoes go.) They’re Karrimor. I have a lot of Karrimor stuff.

I walked around and around the shop in a battered beige/khaki pair, and then I got a brand new beige/khaki pair to see how much harder they were. I can feel them rubbing, but I’ll take lots of dressings and it’s easier to keep stopping to dress feet when you’re on your own than when you’re with a party. You don’t feel so guilty. The walk I’m going on is only an hour too. How much damage can they do in one hour? Also, the battered, shop-worn pair proved that they will give, which is more than I can say for my Gor-Tex-type new boots. (The old ones are suede.)

I got the charcoal/pink ones in the end because they match my walking trousers. If there’s one thing I don’t need it’s an excuse to spend yet more money on new walking trousers, when I already have 2 pairs that will go with these very well. I gave myself a pat on the back for that, because I did like the beige/khaki ones. Until I saw these.

That’s the slush fund exhausted for this month – but at least I didn’t get them on credit. I’ll let you know how I get on tomorrow.

>Coast to coast

>I don’t really have very much to say this morning, other than I’m off out tonight to see another of my favourite bands at my favourite club, and I’m going walking on Sunday.

In Barnsley, there’s a mickey take where they say “coast to coast is Wath-upon-Dearne to Ladybower”. The Dearne is a river; Ladybower is a reservoir to the west of Sheffield on the way to Glossop. So I suppose that means I’ll be walking on the west coast – I’m going to Ladybower to do one of the shorter walks there.

So far I already know that there’s a memorial to a sheep dog that stayed with her master’s body for 15 weeks during one winter (warning: tearjerker alert), and there’s a commemoration to the Dambusters 617 Squadron who rehearsed their bouncing bomb theatre on Derwent Water. I wonder what else I’ll find out when I get there. If it’s nice enough there will be pictures.

Here is the rest of the Barnsley ditty mentioned above – locals will smile, I hope. Have a great weekend.

You know you’re from Barnsley when:

  • You define Summer as three months of bad coal picking.
  • Your definition of a small town is one that only has five pubs.
  • Bull bars, ‘Tarn Army’ and ‘traffic light’ air fresheners come standard on all your cars.
  • You refer to the Tykes as “we”.
  • At least 50% of your relatives used to work down t’pit.
  • You can make sense out of the word Asthagorowttegivus.
  • You have been frostbitten and suntanned in the same week.
  • You identify a Sheffield accent as “Southern”.
  • You know what “twocking” is. (Taking Without Owners Consent)
  • You learned to drive a Reliant Robin before the training wheels were off your bike.
  • “Down South” to you means Chapeltown.
  • Traveling coast to coast means going from Wath-on-Dearne to the Ladybower Res.
  • Snap is something you eat.
  • You know that a bag of spice is something kids eat.
  • You were brassed off by the movie Brassed Off.
  • You have no problem saying Peniston.
  • You consider Holmfirth “exotic”.
  • You got a passport to go to Leeds.
  • Your idea of foreign culture is listening to Oasis.
  • You don’t have a coughing fit from one sip of Barnsley Bitter.
  • Summat to Eight is a meal, not the time of day.
  • You used to think Mischievous Night was included as an official school holiday.
  • You know that Jump is a real place.
  • You have one word that means Hello, How are you,Whats this, Hang on a minute and bloody hell! (Eyup.)
  • A Chip oil and a Bug oil is a grand night owt.
  • Eastern Promise is a blind date in Doncaster.
  • Your idea of creative landscaping is a statue of a miner next to your Leylandii.
  • You think there should be a “Southern puff, go home” bumper sticker on every car north of Ecclesfield.
  • Your neighbour throws a party to celebrate his new flymo.
  • A Friday night out is taking your girlfriend yomping up the tips with the rotweiller.
  • You go to work in a shellsuit in the morning and return home wearing someone else’s shorts.
  • Kids roar.
  • Pop is a drink, not your grandad.
  • Formal wear is a kappa shirt, union jack boxers and a baseball cap.
  • You think a warm winter coat is Thompsons Waterseal.
  • You are unaware there is a legal drinking age.
  • You have to go to Tenerife to get a tan in August.
  • You know where the towns of Pogmoor and Pilley are.
  • You decided to have a picnic this summer because it fell on a weekend.
  • You know that “Oo war shi wi”, “She wa wi ersen”, “O wa Shee Naa” and “aaah shi wa” isn’t Chinese.
  • You proudly claim that the Town Hall is the highest point in Yorkshire.
  • You have subsidence insurance.
  • Your idea of a cruise ship is a tin bath in the Dearne, and your idea of a foreign cruise ship is rowing boat on Elsecar Reservoir.
  • You can pronounce “Alhambra” but can’t spell it.
  • If someone says “Castlereagh”, “Pitt” or “Peel” you think Street instead of Prime Minister.
  • You get on a bus marked “Jump Circular” without a second thought.
  • You can cross two lanes of heavy traffic and U-turn through a central reservation while avoiding two joggers and a traccy bus then fit into the oncoming traffic flow while never touching the brake.
  • You can consistently be the second or third person to run a red stop light.
  • You got rear-ended 10 times by people with no insurance.
  • The major question when the Barnsley Chronicle runs a restaurant review is “What’s a restaurant?”
  • The rest of the review is about how Barnsley got all cosmopolitan when Burtons sold out to Ronald McDonald.
  • You judge a cafe by its black pudding and gravy.
  • You call drinking water “Council Pop”.
  • You visit another town and they “claim” to have Barnsley Chop – but you know better.


>I’m upping my social life, my hobbies and my pastimes, but I’m trying not to take on too much because there are only so many hours in the day. Instead, I’ve decided to do a few things purely for me, and others that can be marketed in some form of writing, but only if I’m interested enough and/or enjoy it enough.

The sewing and knitting I’m doing just for me. I’m watching more programmes on telly, and I read well. I’d like to learn how to use my dSLR camera properly – I could use my old SLR camera perfectly and I’m getting better with the digital compact Panasonic, which is brilliant and covers a lot of what I want it to. But I’d like to have some good quality sharp images of publishable standard. Yes, I can illustrate articles, but I want to be able to do full page and double page spreads, calendars and jigsaws too – or at least to that standard. I want to go back to the football as and when I can afford it, and that will be just for me too.

Walking is something I can share in so many ways. You’ve already seen how many ideas I get just with a quick brainstorm, and not even having to think very hard about it. I see and learn about so much when I’m on a walk that it’s interesting and exciting enough for me to want to write about. Chatting to interesting people is something I enjoy too, and I’m a natural interviewer (apparently).

So, all the stuff in the paragraph above the last one is going to be for me and anyone else that wants to join me. The above stuff is going to be what I also share. I’m going to specialise, plus chuck in the odd things that simply shout for me to write about (like the parenting idea I’ve already mentioned).

I want to try and concentrate on writing for one general interest title, one walking title, and one bird watching title. And that will be my core. Anything else will be a bonus.

Behind all of this too is the day job and the book. (By the way, hands up everyone that noticed the word meter in the side bar shoot up.) And the novel/s, when I get to work on it/them.

Walking holiday
At Easter this year I was supposed to be walking the Thames long distance path, but a few things happened that made that impossible this time (money, cats, being crippled by new walking boots, etc). However, I love walking and it keeps me fit and healthy. So a walking holiday next year will be what I hope my slush fund will pay for.

I have to build up to it, though. I’ve not walked since my new boots nearly killed me. But this weekend I WILL go for a short walk, possibly on Sunday. I’ll start small, and build up gradually until I can comfortably manage 10 miles in a day. And for every single walk I go on, I want to try to get at least one walking article and maybe one other-interest article or short story.

When I can afford to replace the killer boots, I’ll take those out for shorter walks to break them in Saturdays when I’m not at the football.

I’m using the Jarrold pathfinder and short walks guides with the OS Explorer maps. When I do the Thames Path, I’ll also be using the Cicerone guide.

This morning I picked up 3 magazines on my way into work: Country Walking; Bird Watching; and Outdoor Photography. All are for my own interest, 2 are also for market study.

>First "treat"

>I slept in this morning. After yesterday’s dawn start, a late night, and a restless sleep, I slept in.

Yesterday’s meeting went on longer than expected and I also had 3 very long phone conversations too, so much of yesterday’s planned work has been shifted along. Good stuff was agreed and planned, though, and I’m looking forward to being involved with the variety of work.

Last night I discovered something a bit unusual … Domino (the cat that doesn’t live here) comes to a whistle. Just like a dog. I was whistling along to an advert on the telly when she jumped down from her settee and joined me and Holly on ours. Then later, when the same ad came on and I joined in again, she moved from the other end of the settee to my lap. So I put it to the test. When it was time for them to come in at bed time, Holly came straight away and I whistled … in the dark I heard a mew of reply before a pair of yellow eyes appeared just above the little gate.

This cat is very house trained, she likes her home comforts, she’s not fallen pregnant – yet (which suggests she may have been “done”, the amount of tom cats we have around about, but I won’t hold my breath until I know), and she comes to a whistle. All of this suggests she had a home once, and isn’t feral. Perhaps she got lost, perhaps something happened to her owner. And now I’m wondering if the occasional tom cat that also appeared at the same time as her is her “brother”. At least, I think it’s a tom cat … it hasn’t let me get that close to find out.

And so to my first “treat” since choosing to live without credit, seeing as I had to cancel my trip to the Edinburgh Book Festival.

My grocery shopping budget for July was 4 weeks @ £40 per week = £160. It’s pay day this Friday, so the August budget starts this weekend for 5 weeks. However, during July my total spend came to less than £110. That gives me just over £50 in my “slush fund” or “treats and special purchases”. I’m dead chuffed with that and I wouldn’t have managed it had I not been so disciplined or still in possession of valid “plastic”.

I’ve been talking of going to Oakwell this year, home ground of Barnsley FC (soccer club), but the first game of the season is away to Sheffield Wednesday on 8 August. Shef Wed is my “other” adopted club, it’s a local derby – so a fantastic game to go to – and it’s the first game of the season. I contacted Barnsley FC first for tickets, as that’s where I live, but they were only selling one per season ticket holder. So I went to Sheffield Wednesday – and got TWO tickets. In the Kop – that’s behind the goal. And my sister’s coming with me.

This football ground, Hillsborough, was the scene of one of the worst sporting disasters in known history, and was the reason UK football stadiums converted to all-seaters and steel fences were taken down. I’ve never been fond of Liverpool FC (more than 90 fans were killed that day, 20 years ago this year), but it will still be a poignant moment for me. And I do have a soft spot for the Owls.

The firewall at work was a bit aggressive yesterday. It seems to have calmed down again today.

>Up with the larks

>It was 5:30am when I suddenly awoke and realised I have less than 9 months to submit my local history book to the publisher. At that point, other things started to course through my mind too: Where was the memory stick with the original material on? Where was the CD with my port folio on? Where was my Rosemary Conley pedometer? Where was the sample Voices book the original publisher sent me 4 years ago? At 5:45am I decided to get up. I found everything, except for the pedometer (the cheap one from Argos needed a new battery and as a battery was dearer than the pedometer, I decided to buy a new pedometer instead, only I’ve not been to Argos or where I have been has been sold out … I should have kept the cheap one and just got the battery changed).

I made my sandwiches and put together a load of other stuff to take to work, including a little desk-top deckchair to hold my mobile phone and a giant highlighter pen-pot with lid containing 4 highlighter pens (the pot is designed to look like a giant highlighter pen). It was far too early to eat – 6am really is waaaayyyyy too early for that – so I added my breakfast to the feast I’d already prepared, and I got in at 7:30am.

It was such a joy to drive an empty road to work, although there were different cars parked in different places, and there were different idiots on different sections on the road. But I was able to choose my parking space when I got here and reverse in to boot. So far it’s still just me, the cleaners and security in my block.

Getting in at 7:30am will give me an additional 90 minutes to myself. This plus my half hour lunch equals a wonderful 2 hours all for me. However, when I got in I found that “blogs and personal sites” had been added to the firewall. So I’m sending this by email to see how it goes. I can titivate it from the mobile phone if necessary, it will just take a while longer and it will serve them right. I DO put my day job on the blog and people use it to find out if I’m in or not. We had them blocked before so I’ll see how it goes. Next to go will be the webmail … but as ours is so rubbish, that IS a legitimate business requirement as the printer has to send the pdfs to my personal address.

Day job
It’s a 4-day week this week. Today I have a meeting at 11am to discuss 3 poster campaigns for our Health & Safety department. I’m also helping out on another poster campaign for our Human Resources department. I have to finalise the magazine flat plan (we had an article drop out last week, which is okay as it’s not deadline yet), get the confirmation emails out, complete a few timesheets (ahem …), and do some diary work. I’m transferring stuff from the diary to our Lotus Notes system so I can get a smaller diary pack this year. When I was working freelance full time, everything was on MS Outlook with alarms reminding me to take a break or move on to the next time segment.

Diary of a book
Because there is less than 9 months left for me to submit my book, I’m pulling out the stops a bit. I’ll probably spend my “me time” today working on that. I have old interviews to word-count and the publicity material to finalise. If I can get there in time, I’ll get the first lot to the Barnsley libraries before close of play today. On another day I’ll do the Rotherham libraries on the way home, but I think Doncaster will be a trip on a bus, possibly next Monday. What an adventure that will be.