Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Who am I today?

Life is a many stranded thing
We all wear different hats. I'm mother, wife, sister, auntie, daughter, friend (and perhaps enemy!), business colleague, fellow alto, yoga student, community busybody etc etc etc. Professionally, I also have multiple roles. One of the joys of being self-employed is that I can do lots of different things to earn a crust, but the two main threads are teaching yoga and word-wrangling. There is some cross-over between the two - I write for Om magazine and have just had an article published in the British Wheel of Yoga's journal, Spectrum, for instance - but I tend to promote them separately. I have a website for my yoga and place ads in local publications to publicise my classes; but I also have entries in business directories for my editorial stuff.

But it's getting complicated. My website has a contacts form that doesn't feature my email address, but nevertheless any enquiries are forwarded to my all-purpose Googlemail. I have this blog, which is, again, a multipurpose outlet for my writing but takes in whatever is on my mind at the time. I monitor my choir's email address (admin@) which is diverted to my personal one and am the fingers behind the choir's Twitter feed. I've also got a fairly idle Facebook account, but that is so I can look at stuff, rather than post it.

However, I've just uploaded a couple of stories to Ether books, a site from which folk can download stories (some free, some not) to be read on a mobile phone. (Thanks to the Literary Pig for the tip.) The site suggests social networking as a really good way to promote my stuff, which makes sense, given the target market. I can't be bothered with Facebook, and don't want to tweet personal trivia, but quite like the idea of having a 'Julia as writer' Twitter that I can just use for wordy news. But this means another account and, for simplicity and to reduce the risk of my posting details of a new writing competition to the choral music community, another email address.

Does this sound like a rational way to carry on?

Friday, 23 November 2012

Who is liable?


Here's a thing for you to consider.

I've just drawn out £250 from the cash machine outside the Santander branch where I hold an account. I then went straight to HSBC to pay the same notes into my account there.

The HSBC machine clicked and whirred and then spat out a receipt for £230, with a message  that one suspected counterfeit note had been detected and retained. The staff in the branch confirmed that the note would be examined and that if it was indeed a phony I would lose the £20. Whoever handles it last before it is detected is deemed to be guilty. This process will take a couple of weeks.

Needless to say I have rung Santander, who claim this has never happened before. Really? Does the bank check its notes before putting them in the ATMs, I wonder? If the HSBC machine was able to detect a fake note on the way in, surely the Santander system must also have similar technology in place.

Of course, it might turn out that the machine has made a mistake (surely not!). If, not, I'm sure that the good people of Santander will reimburse me (well, Rory in the call centre said they would, which is good enough for me).

The annoying thing is that if I'd queued up at the counter and handed the money over to a human, this problem wouldn't have arisen.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Seasonal flavour

Two-Tiered Tree Cupcakes
Life's too short...

Food does not feature high on my list of priorities. Yes, I like to eat good food, but going out for a meal holds no special appeal other than that it provides an opportunity to meet with friends for a good old natter. I like my dishes to be tasty, nutritious and good value, but faffing about with jus and reductions is, to my mind, a complete waste of time.

So I’m not reading all the advice that is already forthcoming on how to make stuffing balls, create filo parcels or decorate cupcakes with greengrass icing for that perfect edible Christmas tree.

My one major concession to the mythical homemade Christmas is mincemeat and, if I’m honest, it’s my husband who makes it, not me. I’m allowed to join in with the peeling, slicing and dicing of the apples, but measuring and mixing the other ingredients, including, like Colonel Sanders, his own secret blend of spices, is strictly his domain. And very good at it he is, too. All this takes place in October, when the apple harvest is in full swing. He makes a huge vat of the stuff, which he leaves to mature in a cool, dark corner of the house, occasionally stirring and tasting it, perhaps tweaking the flavour slightly. Eventually it's ready to be transferred into jars.

(At this point I should mention a small detail: if you put cold mincemeat into hot sterilised jars and seal them immediately the mixture will expand and seep out through the lids to create an immovable sticky mess. Don’t ask me how I know: just trust me on this.)

Then, my husband will put into practice all his years of bakery training to create the lightest pastry ever to grace the palate and produce the finest batch of mincepies in the land. The first few dozen for this year are in the oven as I write, and the heavenly smell is driving me crazy.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Love your local radio station

BBC Radio Northampton 104.2FM 103.6FM

I know I'm going on about this, but my choir is performing in a concert on Saturday in aid of Help for Heroes. Not that it's filling my every waking moment. I sat up in bed with a start a couple of nights ago worrying about chaperones for the young performers. Then today, someone asked the perfectly reasonable question: 'Does the keyboard we are borrowing have a music stand?' I don't know; never thought to ask; put it on the list of things to sort out.

Getting publicity for the event has been challenging. Our formerly daily local paper is now weekly, so there is increased competition for space. With this in mind the choir decided for the first time ever to take out a paid-for advert to appear in last week's paper, giving readers 10 days to rush out and by their tickets. The paper took our money but didn't run the ad. Profuse apologies were forthcoming, and the ad is in tonight (twice, actually!), but that's not the point.

So local radio to the rescue. The fabulous team at BBC Northampton have mentioned us in several shows and I've been on air twice doing my Sixty-second Sell. So huge thanks to everyone in the mighty Abington Road studio for all their support.  

Friday, 2 November 2012

Happy Anniversary

It is a year today since I started this blog. My 2011 diary records that 2 November was a Wednesday and it was National Stress Awareness Day. I seem to have spent the day working predominantly on editorial stuff and then taught a yoga class in the evening. Well, the editorial client is still with me and my yoga class continues to flourish. So has anything changed?

Workwise the balance has shifted slightly. I now doing much more teaching and less editing; but my actual writing has picked up and I've had some modest successes here and there. Domestically, one son has moved out, the other has left school and is a student/drummer. The lizard is no longer with us, but we still have two tanks of fish (notwithstanding that we had to do an emergency transfer of one lot the other day when a small but potentially fatal leak was found in one aquarium).

Thank you for sticking with me. Here's to the next 12 months.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The last few days have been a bit up and down

The last few days have been a bit up and down.

I've been on BBC Radio Northampton promoting my choir's concert, which was exciting. It was for a slot called 'Sixty-second Sell', in which - you won't be surprised to learn - I was given exactly one minute to plug our forthcoming event. Naturally, being a Monica I rehearsed this with a stopwatch, so that I was able to say everything I needed to before the buzzer went.

Crouch End 1979 - see Best of British, October 2012 Copyright Julia Thorley
I've had a couple of writing successes, too. I've had something accepted for AlphaFit, which is a magazine given away free in gyms. I've also had a little something published in October's issue of Best of British - but I only know this because the editor emailed me for my address so he could send me my cheque. Sadly, I missed this issue, so if you've got it perhaps you'd let me know how it looks. In the November issue there is a letter referring to my piece, which is nice. (Ego starting to inflate.)

I've also been to The Yoga Show, where I finally got to meet the editor of Om magazine. He said some nice things about my column. (Ego getting bigger.)

But then the universe gave me a bit of a slap when one of my yoga contracts suddenly came to an end. I have been teaching in a health retreat and they have decided to shake up the timetable, which means no room for my yoga class. (Ego deflated.)

When my boys were little we had a Snakes & Ladders game where each climb up or slither down was connected with a proverb. As I write this I'm recalling the pictures for 'Pride cometh before a fall'.