>Slight change of plan

>I spent such a long time in front of the computer on Sunday, updating the gig list for September, that I couldn’t be bothered to cook. Instead, yesterday I baked biscuits (cookies) and later today I’ll do the cottage pies. The biscuits were okay, considering this is only the 2nd time I’ve attempted them. I’m quite surprised they actually taste like biscuits – always amazes me, does that – but I need to be more consistent with my rolling. Some are fat and doughy while others are thin and crispy. The dough was far too sticky – it’s not like making pastry, is it? – so I need to master that. When I have, this will be my basic biscuit mixture and I’ll add currants, cherries, mixed peel, etc, to add variation.

Today it’s finally pay day and while this 5 weekend month of living without credit has been a struggle, I was delighted to start the new month with £13 in my purse and £1 in my bank account. I’m checking the bank account daily now, just to make sure there’s nothing I’ve forgotten.

To celebrate having money again, I filled the car up with petrol (gas), and was left with a bit of a conundrum. At another petrol station, where the fuel was cheaper than at this morning’s at the time, I wasn’t driving on dregs and it cost me £37 to fill up. This morning, with fresh air in the tank, I filled up for £36. This suggests that either one or the other’s pumps aren’t set right … and I know which one I’ll try to go to in future. When I started trying to budget a year or so ago, I was spending just £30 a month on petrol. Now it’s getting closer to £50 a month – such is the increase in fuel prices, and we were already one of the highest in the world.

I get my hair cut on Thursday, which is good as it’s been 5 weeks since the last trim, 9 weeks since the last proper cut, and I’m tripping over my fringe. I also look like the wild woman of the west again as it goes naturally curly/wavy when it needs cutting.

To continue the celebration, but very well budgeted, I’m off to Huddersfield Friday night to see a mate in his current band’s penultimate gig. Huddersfield is quite the jaunt for a Friday night after work and I may need Saturday to recover. I’ll probably do my shopping on Saturday too, so I get home earlier on Friday. On Sunday I’ll probably go visit Mom and Dad, if they’re in, then on bank holiday Monday I have a 3-line whip to attend a local charity music festival. I’m taking Tuesday off so I feel as though I’ve had a bank holiday. Bank holidays are just like any other week seeing as I don’t do Mondays, and I was starting to feel a bit cheated. So I’m taking Tuesday off and calling it my bank holiday.

Ah yes, Holly started to forget to limp yesterday … by this morning it was gone. I think she’ll live.

At work I’ve had a bit of a dilemma. Two of our articles came in short, and I’d rather find something else to fill the space than ask the author to pad. So we did very well and got the space filled with extra articles. Then the final 2 articles came in at 2 pages over – each – which is also good because I wasn’t expecting one of them at all, and the author of the other wasn’t sure he could stretch it to 2 pages per language (I told him as soon as he got going it would come naturally, and so it did).

As part of our little contribution to cost cutting and weathering the storm, I’ve relented and gone down to a 28 page magazine. I like 36 pages, my boss likes 32 pages, and 28 pages was our sacrifice. We have to go up in pages of 4, and preferably 8s, but we definitely don’t do 2s. So while I’m 2 pages over, I also have 2 pages of news that would have served as fillers, but we don’t need fillers. So the good news is, until I receive instruction to the contrary from on high, I’m working on a 32 page magazine this time, plus a UK insert. Whoo-hoo!

Of course that also means I’m going to be busy. Very busy. Starting today. I’m about to go into my busiest 3 – 4 weeks of the quarter anyway (3 weeks of frantic working; 1 week of boring waiting), so if I disappear, you know why.

See you on the other side. Play nicely.

>Well done England

>I’ve never really been much into cricket, and I pretend I don’t know much about it, but it was our holiday game at every single caravan site we ever went to as a family, best way to make lots of new friends – and my dad was the best at everything, naturally – and my first husband used to play. So I do actually know about it, I just don’t often shout about it. However, since earlier in the summer when I got dragged to see Barnsley Cricket Club play, I decided I really ought to concentrate a bit more on it – I’ve always been a football fan, I understand all the rules (even the offside one), and there are more goals …

Today, while I updated the gig list, and to make that less of a chore, I’ve been listening to the 4th day of the current test match online … and it was actually quite exciting. I never thought I’d ever see the day that I’d say that. About an hour ago it looked like it might go into the 5th and final day after all, and I went onto the guestbook and said I wished they could have got it in the bag today … less than an hour later they did exactly that. England won the ashes. :-/

I think I need to be careful what I wish for … or everyone else should be careful what I wish for. Fantastic result. Well done England!

Friday
This was a very busy day at work. It was deadline day and I have to say that every single article save one came in – and the one that didn’t had already asked for an extension. Much of the day was checking content and pictures, chatting to my boss, rejigging the page plan, and getting the whole thing ready to go. I did that but was so shattered by the end of the day, I went straight home to chill.

Saturday
Since I’ve been living without credit I’ve been budgeting quite well, but this was my first 5 weekend month. I was down to my last £20 in my purse with about £1.13p in my bank account, driving on fresh air, and eating dust. On Saturday I had a bit of a lie in, then spent the day washing (5 loads) and ironing (2 hours) and baking (rice pudding and sticky ginger cake). I cooked a chili con carne (here’s one I made earlier) and had it with a giant baked spud. Then I slobbed in front of X-Factor. I started to watch The Constant Gardener, but gave up on that at 10pm and went for an early night.

Sunday
Maybe because I had an early night and slept right through, I was up at 9am today. Very unusual for a Sunday. I put one more wash through, then got so carried away on the gig list, listening to the cricket, that I forgot to hang it out. There’s a job for tomorrow if the rain holds off. For tea I’m supposed to be batch-cooking cottage pies and baking 2 dozen biscuits (cookies), but I’m feeling quite weary having already spent almost the entire day in front of the computer. I’ve not used the car, but I did nip to the local shop at dinnertime and managed to spend less than £7 on a few essentials, which left me with £13. Good result. I always, always have more than enough food in for the cats, but I needed to get milk, bread, eggs, fizzy pop and, erm, chocolate buttons … um, I did say essentials

Holly woke with a swollen arm, a limp, and a tender shoulder. I think it’s just a sprain, but she was off her food first thing and wouldn’t let me near her. She asked to go out twice, but for much of the day I’ve made her stay indoors and quiet. Fingers crossed, the limping seems to have diminished and she’s gone and had 2 greedy sittings at the cat mats. I haven’t budgeted for vet fees yet, but if she needs the vet, I’ll take that money out of my “pocket money” budget.

Not cricket
I started with the cricket and I’ll finish with it. As I say I’ve always been more the football fan, and footballers do get some stick for diving and appealing for hand ball and all sorts of other silly excuses. I don’t believe, though, that I’ve ever heard the excuse they were using on the cricket this morning – they were blaming a “misbehaving ball” … :-/

>What a day …

>I got here again on time, so I’m still earning Brownie points there, but I couldn’t get into anything … “deep” again because we’d all been summoned to an all staff meeting at short notice, so I was clock watching for some of the time, faffing with bitty stuff the rest of the time. Then off we all toddled to our meeting, and for the first time in ages we had some good news.

During lunch I thought I’d have half an hour on the gig list, but I forgot to eat. So I was about to munch at about 2:10pm when a call came in: “Diane, you’re supposed to be in our manual handling training, aren’t you?” Um, it started at 2pm. So off I toddled to that. It was a useful workshop and didn’t go on too long.

And now it’s too late to get into anything … “deep” because I’m clock watching again for home time. So I thought I’d sneak in this post while I actually eat my, um, lunch. I shan’t be hungry at tea time but will probably be starved by bedtime.

Tonight I’m taking all the phones off the hook, pulling the curtains and locking the doors. It’s Mentalist night on telly, the last 2 episodes are being shown back to back, but before that there are 2 background programmes on the show too, and I want to treat myself.

And I’m afraid that’s it for today. As I keep saying to folk, I feel like I’m chasing my tail and meeting myself coming back at the moment, but nothing seems to be getting done. Hopefully that will all change tomorrow as it’s deadline day. I’m also gearing up for a weekend of chores, writing, reading and, um, X-Factor. I’m grounded this weekend as it’s a 5 weekend month and I’m living without credit.

>One step forward …

>Two steps back. Although we did have some progress today.

My multi-poster campaign was finalised last Friday, copy-wise, but the designer wasn’t in on Friday so she couldn’t make the changes. I wasn’t in on Monday, and when the changes were made, she didn’t think to let me know until after she realised I wasn’t going over there because, well, I didn’t know they were ready. She had left a message on my phone late yesterday afternoon, and I was here till nearly 5pm in the end (found a doctor to go and sit with …). But I didn’t see the light flashing on my phone when I got back to my office and started to close down for the evening.

This morning I was in on time again – I’m doing sooooo well on this just lately, considering I was regularly getting in at 10am before, for several weeks. These past few weeks, since things started to get better, I’ve been getting in at 9am. Then, because I’ve done my 7 hours + 30 min lunch break by 4:30pm, I’ve geen getting off earlier too and, therefore, home earlier. I knew I had a telecon this morning at 9:30am, so I was determined to get in early, and I did – even before 9am.

I still didn’t notice the message light flashing though, until my conference call came in and there was an annoying beep on someone’s handset … my handset. It was my message telling me the posters were ready. It bleeped every few seconds for over 2 hours …

While I was in this meeting, which I’d scheduled in my online diary (that everyone can see) for 3 hours, an email came in from the poster customer saying she needed to okay the posters today and get them printed. Because I was in a meeting, she also got a message to the designer. I finished the meeting, fielded a telephone call, then had a look at the draft posters. Then I went over to the designer to give her my “aesthetic” changes.

I’ve done all I can now and we’re just waiting for the originator to okay the textual changes. Then we can go to print.

I had my dinner break, then just had a quick look over some posters that have come in via corporate … and everyone (so far) agrees that the ones we did ourselves, which arrived last week and were hung by the beginning of this week, look tons better.

The 4-page article I confirmed with the ex-deputy editor yesterday is going to be a day late, as he’s waiting for some input from India and Holland. It’s okay to ask for an extension before the deadline (Friday); but had it just not arrived, I would have been slightly peeved. However, he used to be my deputy editor and I trained him well.

Everything else (sshhhh) seems to be on track …

Over the past few mornings I’ve been greeted by lots of horrible little black flies on my front door and all over my car. They’re not thunderflies (or thrips), but they do remind me of miniature horse flies, or smaller versions of the ones that bit us to death at Point Pelee in Ontario, Canada in 1999. I open the front door, and they fall into the house. They get stuck on the mat and some of them escape again. I get in the car, and they follow me in, then spend the next 30 minutes annoying me by flying around my field of vision.

Today, though, about half a dozen clung to the car in a cluster. I reckon one of them ended up coming to work with me yesterday, and as it survived to tell the tale, they’re all joining in now for a free joy-ride and a chance to sow their wild oats in a different town. They’re probably harmless, but they’re making me feel very riffy. (scratch, scratch, scratch)

Post Script: Do you remember the story I wrote the other week that I thought wouldn’t be suitable for many of our markets? I think I just found an anthology to submit it to … (2:30pm)

>Can’t get going

>I’m in the office today but I’ve not really been able to get going on much.

Not long after I got here, our head of HR stuck her head around the door and asked me to be on standby from 10am so I could join a fire marshall-type of demonstration that I’d missed previously. So for almost an hour, I couldn’t settle to anything because I knew I could get called to this presentation at any minute. The call came in at 10:50am, so I was twiddling my thumbs and trying to do bitty stuff while at the same time trying to ignore the phone – didn’t want to have to cut anyone short for this “prior engagement”.

A phone call did come in from one of the contributors who wanted to know if I had 2 pages free for him or 4. He was hoping for 2 as he’d not started his article yet, but I still wanted him to provide 4 because … well, read the next paragraph.

Then I had a natter with my boss. Our original deadline for the magazine was this coming Friday, then it was moved to last Friday because he’s on holiday mid-production and wanted to get as much of the translation done as possible. But then our designer let me know his holidays and rather than try and get someone else to understand what I want, we decided to move the deadline back again. We’ve had a few articles come in and 2 of them are 2 pages short, which means I have to find 4 pages. Until all the articles are in, I don’t know how many extra pages we have to fill, but we have 2 pictorial events already in the bag, “just in case”, plus another tomorrow over in Holland.

During this conversation we realised that material put on the magazine database in Holland yesterday hasn’t replicated through to England yet, and it’s only supposed to take 3 hours tops … And this means I don’t have the latest version of one of the articles.

I was just about to break for lunch when my lovely ex-deputy editor dropped by. It was a scheduled visit, we just didn’t know what time it would be, although it had to be before 2pm as he had an off-site meeting then. He’d forgotten he was providing an article, but I didn’t want to lose another 2 pages, so he’s still aiming at 4 pages. He’s really good at writing articles for me because I’ll “brief” him and he’ll write it down while at the same time brainstorming with me and asking for pointers and suggestions. They always come in bang on length and exactly what I asked for.

It was going far too smoothly before, but I’m all out of sorts now and don’t want to settle to anything until I’ve seen what I have to play with. I have to do another brand new running order and I won’t be able to start that until Friday now.

So I can’t get going. It’s one of those days where I think I may as well go home, go to bed early, and when tomorrow comes things will be better, brighter. But as I’m contractually obliged to stay here until 4:30pm …

>The snowball effect + pictures

>I keep this blog mostly to keep in touch with my friends and family since I moved away from Birmingham. I also use it as an online journal. But the one use that really comes into its own is as a networking/marketing device.

I gave up with the website and may point that here at some stage or change hosts when I have the time to faff – or when I have a pet webmaster that can do it standing on his head. Until that day, if it ever happens, I’m trying to keep this blog a teeny bit professional while trying not to lose my personality nor any of the personal stuff that many of you have said you enjoy reading about.

In the past week I’ve had 3 people contact me, all blasts from the past, including an editor I once interviewed when I worked for Writers’ News. We hit it off so well he asked if I’d like to write for the magazine he was currently editing, and of course I jumped at that because at the time, it was a lovely magazine. When that editor moved to another publication, he took me with him. Now he’s moved again and is working on a different kind of project, but when thinking of people that could possibly work with/for him, he thought of me, Googled me, and found this blog. Then he fired off an email, and of course hopefully, the rest will follow.

I’m dead chuffed he remembered me, moreso that he thought to ask if I’d like to be considered for work. But at least my blog didn’t put him off, and we’ve found a few other interests in common too as a result.

Okay, here are Sunday’s pictures from Old Moor RSPB Reserve:

I love flowers like these:

Rose hips:

One of the many carvings:

More flora:

Water reeds:

I love this:

Honestinjun, this is a damselfly:

The only butterfly that would let me get close enough for long enough:

And to prove I was there … my best side:


To see all the photos, follow this link. Enjoy.

>Great weekend

>Things really do seem to be getting better and better, all the while.

Friday was a bit of a disappointment, I’ll admit. After a non-stop day at work I wanted to go to see a band I’d not seen before, but by the time I finished work, did the shopping, got home, put the shopping away, and had tea, there wasn’t time. By Saturday dinner time I was climbing up the walls and sent out a few messages to see who was going where Saturday night and when I decided what to do, I sent more messages out seeing who wanted to join me.

I was going to try and see 2 bands on Saturday, but I couldn’t remember the way to the first venue so decided to go straight to the second and meet everyone there for a full set. There were loads of mates there and while it was nice to see the drummer (not seen him in ages) and meet the guitarist for the first time, the evening’s big event was mostly social.

This morning I went walking locally. The beauty of Old Moor is that it’s a stone’s throw away and quite a short circuit, plus, it’s RSPB and I’m a member so therefore it’s free entry. I spent a couple of hours there, taking pictures (to follow when the battery’s recharged in the camera), mostly of the flora as there weren’t many birds on view. The busy time is over now until migration starts and a good green cover makes birdwatching a challenge. So I went for the walk, for the sunshine, and for the flowers.

I dashed back for the football, thinking kickoff was about 2pm, but the first half was already almost over. Birmingham City’s defence sounded dreadful on the radio, and they conceded an apparently easy goal. I was too tired to listen to the rest, and caught a nap before getting ready to go out tonight.

I dashed over to Castleford, putting my last tenner in the tank, thinking I was going to miss the first set, and when I got there I thought they’d already been, cleared up, and gone. But they thought it was a later start than Sundays usually are and they didn’t finish setting up and sound checking until well after 8pm. When they started, though, they were well worth the wait. I thought I might slope off early, but managed to stay until nearly 11pm. And I had another great night with some good mates.

Two late nights on the trot plus a walk in the sunshine knocked it out of me a bit, and I also had a restless night going over and over stuff in my head. So I’m a bit tired, but happy. Very happy.

>Economy Gastronomy

>We had advance delivery of some of the posters this morning, and they look gorgeous. There are still about 4 to come, although I think one of those will be going straight to Wales rather than here. But we’re very, very pleased with them and even forgive my bad grammar in the first sentence. We’re going to call it “user friendly language”. Tut, tut, Diane. Must try harder.

Today would normally be a day off for me, but as I threw a sickie last week and moved last week’s alternate Thursday to this week, I’m here. And I made it by 9am too. I have a lot to do, though. I have magazine work to do again and finalise again, I have brochure work to do, I have video conferences to arrange, and I still have last week’s timesheet to fill in.

Yesterday I got a load of admin done, which included sorting out my online banking. I’ve been doing this a bit blind since switching accounts at the end of June, but I’ve done reasonably well, under the circumstances. I’ve not overspent at any rate. I also shifted a load of correspondence and did some good budget work – very good in that the big red number is starting to get smaller. If we got our contracted bonuses (based on last year’s profits), I’d be in the black already. Well in the black. This is why the freelance work will help – it will subsidise my wages while we wait for them to pay us.

Last night I watched Economy Gastronomy on BBC2. A few of us “old-style” moneysavingexperts(.com) were anticipating this programme with scepticism. We thought the people involved would be buying their food from Harrods and Fortnum and Mason and throwing most of it away and cooking lah-di-dah recipes. But it’s actually quite watchable, very interesting, and still informative, even to some of the most rigid of old-stylers. After yesterday’s 2nd episode, and before Life, I sat down and did a meal plan for the next 2 weeks, a shopping list for this weekend, and I started the meal plan for week 3.

Obviously I don’t have a family of 5 to cater for, but I will try some of the recipes, and maybe buy the book, and do much batch cooking and freezing there-of. I’ve already got my shopping budget down to within around £40 per week, when I was often spending between £75 and £120 (although I did overspend by £8 last week …), but hopefully this will help me bring it down yet further.

The first few meal plans were easy – I’m emptying the freezer of all pre-prepared meals. If I batch cook something every weekend, I’ll soon have a ready supply of my own ready meals, and at least I’ll know what’s gone in them.

It’s a lovely day in Sleepy Hollow. I put on a jumper today because it was chilly yesterday. I think I may overheat …

>Posters

>All of yesterday was spent on poster work. Despite telling both “customers” that the first drafts would be ready for proofing yesterday, I had chasing emails from both of them asking when they’d be ready and if they could have them yesterday. Then, after “nagging” me in this way, both had disappeared into separate meetings by the time I went looking for them. One of them, the single poster campaign but with shuffled pictures, was sorted by the end of the day and will be delivered by Friday of this week. The other, the multi poster campaign, went back to the drawing board. On proofs day.

Today is going to be spent going through the running order and flat plan of the magazine. I had it all sorted beautifully, with all word counts set and deadlines agreed. And then they started to come in too short or too long or the pictures were rubbish or we couldn’t use them after all or we had to use these 2 instead. Fortunately my lovely boss has already had a go at a revised running order. But that will be my work for today, and probably tomorrow. I also have to organise some material for the newsletter.

On Monday one of my lovely gig buddies put a link on the guestbook, and a contact number. One of our local magazine publishers is looking for “creative writers” to “work on our magazines”. I didn’t even check it out, I trust this man so much (he’s an ex-copper and a good mate). I called the number straight away and had a chat, after office hours which was very sweet of her, with the girl that answered the phone.

They’re looking for writers to work on advertorials, general features and interviews, and for someone that can come up with ideas. I can do all of those things, and some. After a really nice conversation, it seems I’m exactly what they’re looking for. Most people are being asked to submit a CV to prove that they’re actually “proper writers”, but as I’m “experienced”, and sound as though I know what I’m doing (well, that’s a start …), I just had to send an email with a brief bio and links to a few work samples. I did this yesterday, and it gave me the chance to polish my e-submission cover “letter” and save it as a template. They also pay a fair wage and are looking for good lengths: 200 – 500 words and 1,000 words.

I’m waiting to hear from them to confirm, but I have a good feeling about it as they’re looking for several writers and not just one. I’m worried about my email address, though, as it’s been “phishing” itself and my email may go straight in the spam folder. I’ll give them a day or so, and maybe call again just to make sure they’ve received it. The auto-receipts don’t always work either.

I do seem to be getting back into this ol’ routine, but please keep everything crossed that things start to work out for me again. I talked about cosmic ordering a few weeks ago. Well, so far, it’s not let me down.