Carry On Regardless!


Mawgan Porth

You might think I’d know better at my age (21), but no! Tripping over at the beginning of a walk from St Mawgan to Mawgan Porth this summer, I felt a rather nasty twinge but rather than turn back, decided to continue in the face of increasing pain. Four miles to the sea and back, the last mile of which I spent being supported by two strong teenage lasses who patiently walked with me as I hopped between them. I’d managed to sprain my foot which, believe me, is excruciating.


Me and my brothers

I am in two minds about my inclination never to give in. I put it down to being brought up as the only girl amongst four brothers – I was never going to be girly, thank you very much! Whatever they could do, I could do as well. And yes, I wanted to be better too, although I can’t say I always achieved that ambition.

I suspect that on more than one occasion, the need to carry on regardless (that sounds like a Sid James / Barbara Windsor film) has not been the right decision, such as the time I fell off a horse and broke my ankle, but jumped back on to ride back to the stables. Or the occasion that I carried on up a very high mountain even though I wasn’t a very good skier, and had to snowplough awkwardly all the way back down.

Chamonix - great for snowploughing..

Chamonix – great for snowploughing..

However, there are good sides to this trait, one being that when I’m faced with a different mountain – that of work – to climb, I always seem to make it to the top in one piece, whilst remaining true to my own exacting standards.

One of the ‘tenets’ of Tae Kwando, which my son does, is the need to have an indomitable spirit. That’s determined, stubborn, tough. I like to think that I am an indomitable writer.

Mountain of work!

Mountain of work!

Whatever my freelance writing life throws at me; marketing copy, PR press releases, features or web copy or all of the above, sometimes at the same time, I know that I will just get on with it. Because that’s what I do. In a similar way, my foot is still sore but I just have to keep taking the dogs for a walk – well nobody else will do it…!

Heatwave and morals – what a combi!

Attendees, Biomass Launch at Bicton EaRTH sml

Very proud to launch the new biomass training facility!

I’ve said before that life as a freelance writer is up and down. One minute paddling furiously, the next becalmed! This week has been so busy, talking with potential new clients and seeing the culmination of pre-launch work for Bicton EaRTH’s new biomass training facility.

I am most grateful that the Western Morning News gave me so much support to get the launch information into a good news story. It’s very gratifying to see the news in print today.

I suddenly have a long list that is stretching over more than one page of my ‘Things to do Today’ bible. And of course this is happening during the first heat wave we’ve had for some years. I’m guessing everyone has decided to give me work so they can go and sit in the sun.

One thing that has come up in conversation more than once this week (for some reason) is the question of how many people in business have a ‘play fair’ attitude. I suspect that if you’re inherently moral, like me, you might not get rich – but you won’t be able to work any other way.

If I don’t feel I’ve nailed something then I am disappointed and my only recourse is to eat chocolate. At the moment, as my fingers are clammy on the keyboards and my wrist is stuck to my mousemat, chocolate in the form of an ice cream is definitely the way ahead.

Sidmouth beach with happy dogs

Sidmouth beach with happy dogs

To everyone working at home and tempted by the sunshine, I suggest waiting to the evening then getting close to water. I ended up walking along the river to Sidmouth beach last night with several happy dogs – and my tea was a bag of chips. It was heaven.

Cranking it up for 2013

I was lucky enough to have a break in Cornwall in April at a wonderful cottage newly on the rental market, not far from Protreath. What a fantastic location.

Loving the sand!

Loving the sand!

The beaches are absolutely breathtaking and there was so much sand! Living in East Devon, you get used to stony shorelines, so it was lovely for Saffy the dog to run on soft sand for a change.

Tate St Ives

Tea break

I finally made it to St Ives, a place I’ve never been – and now I quite understand the appeal. The Tate St Ives was an interesting experience. Perhaps I thought there’d be more on display, but I’m not really complaining as it was free for the children, who enjoyed the exhibition, and the view from the café across the beach was stunning.

Back to work and the spring sunshine has inspired me to think about what’s what. It’s time to take on some new challenges, so I’ve made a few calls, had a few meetings and I’m really positive about the future. Another feature lined up for Devon Life, a new agency client and a partnership on the horizon. Looking good.

I love continuing to learn – give me a new topic to write about and I’ll get my teeth into it. Why, this time last year I knew nothing about the eco-travel industry, now I can recommend exactly where you should go if you want an eco-friendly experience in somewhere off the beaten track (I’m up for the horse-riding in Patagonia, personally).

Patagonia on horseback from the Mantis Collection

Patagonia on horseback from the Mantis Collection

So watch this space and here’s to the second half of 2013 (now where did the first half go?)

Life in Devon – and Devon Life

I’ve lived in Devon for 15 years, nowhere near long enough to have become a local, but enough to understand a little about the Devon way of life.

When I first moved here I found the pace of life very frustrating. Everyone laughs about getting stuck behind a tractor, but when you’re trying to make it to a meeting on time you find yourself willing the driver to “PULL OVER – please, please, please!”

tractorI know most of the farmers round about now, so I’m more inclined to wave at them than gesticulate.

Shops were another frustration. Customers chatting to the cashiers in that lazy Devon accent for what seemed like hours when all I wanted to do was pay for my milk and make a dash for it. Now, I’m afraid, it’s likely to be me holding the queue up as I discuss the weather and potholes. I don’t have that accent though, not even a vague burr. We’ll see what happens with my children, who are real Devon Dumplings. So far they seem to have followed their parents’ pretty bland Hampshire and Oxfordshire accents.

Devon is definitely my home and even when I go on holiday I keep to the South West, this year venturing as far as North Cornwall where I’ll be sure not to go off the road. So I was delighted, as a writer, to discover that our local glossy, Devon Life, was prepared to take an article from me – an incomer.

I wanted to talk about my experiences of returning to riding, which I started in earnest last year at Budleigh Salterton Riding School and which has added a new dimension to my life.

Cuddling Frog, my fave horse

Cuddling Frog, my fave horse

Devon Life published the resulting article this month. I am pleased to report that, even after years of writing and seeing my work in print or hearing it spoken on screen, I still experienced a thrill at seeing something of mine feature in this particular magazine. Buy it now!

I’ve just finished another article for Devon Life for June, which I’m looking forward to seeing in print. Suddenly I feel less Hampshire Hog and more like a Dumpling (although that could be something to do with my waistline rather than my provenance).

It’s Snow Joke!

The jungle drums did their thing today when my children’s school took the decision to close early, due to adverse weather conditions. Parents rang parents and somehow we all found out what was happening.


The school bus wouldn’t brave it, so I drove to school to collect them. The roads were fine, if a little slushy in places, and the snowfall stopped just as I arrived at school. A lot of other parents seemed as bemused as me that the school had closed when, in fact, it was generally just rather wet – a weather condition we’re very used to in Devon these days.

As I am working from home, the closure didn’t cause me any major problems, aside from trying to encourage the children to do something other than play on electronic gadgets (I failed, one’s on a tablet and the other is on a Wii, although cakes were made in the course of the afternoon, so that’s a positive as far as I’m concerned).

I do feel for those parents who have office jobs, who had to call in favours, organise lifts or leave work early. Luckily everyone seems willing to help – I have an extra two children in my house at the moment, and offered to bring others home if necessary.

In the meantime, the snow has given me some great material to work with, as one of my social media clients is a luxury hotel that looks even more enticing snow 1with a dusting of snow. The hotel’s Marketing Assistant ran outside to take some photos, I posted an album on Facebook and it’s getting great responses. It’s great when it works like that.

Getting Under the Skin

One of the things I most enjoy about my work is the variety of subjects I get to research. Take this week.

I handle social media accounts for a number of agency clients, posting daily updates on Twitter and Facebook.  One minute I’m looking at the snowfall in Val d’Isere, the next I’m finding out about the Christmas Market at Gloucester Quays. On another day I learnt about the wide variety of bug life in South Africa and a hotel in a sewage pipe (sic)!

I’ve also been writing blogs for clients and this week I found out all about wildlife on Wimbledon Common. Yes, I’m sure the Wombles do exist but who’d have thought that Koi carp reside in one of the lakes? Then I had a peek at things to do in Central London on New Year’s Eve. For my money, it’s the free Lord Mayor’s firework display that comes out on top there.

Back to heating and plumbing, with an article about underfloor heating and another on heat pumps in retrofit. Regen SW had their annual green energy awards and I had written an awards submission for one of the shortlisted companies. Sadly they didn’t win, but there were a lot of great companies up for this particular award.

I’ve said before that I have never been given a subject to write about that defeated me, although artificial intelligence and hill climbing came close (Dept of Maths, Leeds Uni, cripes!).  So, what’s next on the horizon?  It’s an article about my own experience as a rusty rider. More of this when the article gets published – I do hope the magazine likes it!

Who’d Be a Freelancer? Part Two

I don’t know if other freelance writers have the same work standards as me, although I expect many do. I imagine most of us make sure that we do the very best for clients. After all, we are only as good as our last piece of work (here’s one of mine – 'Taking Control' Installer Magazine).

I try hard to give the best possible service, often over and above what I could probably get away with. I would not be happy with a second rate feature article, for example. If I have to use the same information in a variety of trade magazines I work to ensure that each feature has an original thrust to it, so the editors don’t feel short-changed by duplicate articles in rival mags.

I also make sure that every ‘voice’ I use is unique. This is particularly relevant when working in social media – I have three fairly different social media accounts I work on for one of my clients and I love stepping into character when I switch between the accounts – from ‘Lord of the Manor’ to holiday-junkie, and soon to be Survival Skills expert (watch this space)!

One of my key assets is the speed at which I work. I can’t help myself… I believe I owe it to a client to get work done as quickly as possible – but, of course, also accurately.

It still gives me a kick to see what I’ve written in print – my name is never seen, but I know it’s my work, and that’s enough. Having said that, bless Farming Editor Peter Hall at the Western Morning News for publishing an article I wrote about the Embryo Vets School with my name attached. A journo for a day!

Writing for Renewables

When I first started writing about the renewables sector I was faced with a raft of new technology and whole new group of acronyms – GSHP, CoP, FiT, RHI, DECC, PV – what did it all mean? I attended a number of training courses to help me learn more, and if I’d taken the practical instead of just joining in the theory then who know, maybe today I would be plumbing in an air source heat pump rather than writing about it. Though to be honest, that’s an extremely unlikely scenario.
I write for numerous trade magazines, about individual technologies, integrated systems and case studies, and supplying comment from time to time. I love writing for the heating and plumbing guys – the editors are really friendly and you never feel you’re having to beg to have an article included. The local press are also interested and I’ve contributed to the Big Green Guide published by the Western Morning News on a number of occasions.
I find the whole energy sector fascinating. Finding out about how locked in we are to oil and gas was a real eye-opener for me. I live in a rural area with no mains gas. We inherited a large LPG tank which was supplying a three bar gas radiator and nothing else, and which now supplies our cooker and a gas heater. We put in central heating that runs on oil. Now our property is completely at the mercy of oil and LPG gas prices which have shot up so much in the last few years that it makes me breathless!
The main issue with renewables for space heating as I see it is their relevance to the vast numbers of leaky old properties – like mine – that will never be able to be insulated to a level where a lower flow temperature will suffice unless we can afford to ‘rip it out and start again’, in essence. Solar PV and solar thermal are possible additions, but when you’re in a listed building….
It’s also interesting to watch the Government huffing and puffing, promising this, promising that and never quite hitting the mark. The solar PV debacle was an example of lack of forethought and also an incredible inability to make a judgement call. For space heating we’re all waiting for the Renewable Heat Incentive (domestic version as the commercial one has already started, albeit with a trickle rather than a stream of approved installations), and this has been put off so many times now that some of us have lost the will to live – well, almost.
Sometimes the subjects I write about are not things that have any relevance to or impact on my life. I loved writing a series of scripts for Leeds Uni on Maths in Computing, but to be frank, I’m not sure that I will ever be able to use the information for anything practical unless I decide to build a robot. But energy has a lot of relevance and I genuinely do enjoy seeing what’s going on – all too many of us don’t have a clue!

Who’d be a freelance writer? Part 1

At the moment we’re experiencing a bit of a heatwave and I’ve lost count of the number of clients who have said “It must be nice being at home in the sun.”
Unfortunately I’m sitting inside at my desk gazing from time to time out of a fairly grimy window into my garden where I spy sunshine and greenery and Bob the dog spark out on the driveway – probably snoring, knowing Bob.
I do have friends who are able to sit on a deckchair balancing a laptop on their knees with a glass of Pimms in their left hand, typing a fantastic press release about borage production in the West Country with their right hand, unless they’re left-handed, of course.
If I take my laptop outside in the sun I am unable to see the screen clearly, even with sunglasses on. And then there are the noisy birds. Blimey they’re noisy in Devon. I followed a loud chirrup yesterday only to find it was being made by the tiniest wren in my garden.
I’m afraid, for me, the best method is to work inside where at least it’s cool and relatively quiet, unless Perseus the cat decides he’s hungry. His meow is louder than the wren’s chirrup, and about 100 times more irritating.
As I type, an online training course on plasterboard has arrived. This is proof positive that the life of a freelance writer is all glamour, surely?
It may just be time to move away from the laptop and take a cuppa outside for a five minute break.