Monday, 16 January 2017


I didn't enjoy today - I was really tired and had a lot on my mind - and apparently it's 'Blue Monday' - that figures.

Last week a client I have worked with on and off for 20 years and have done a lot of good stuff for contacted me about coming over to Brighton next week to meet a new client - over the last couple of years they have booked me and canceled at short notice, but later on the work we had talked about appears finished on their website - clearly done internally and generally not that well. I wasn't expecting this new invitation but quite happy about it. Today I was asked to confirm - it's actually a train strike day and it would take me rough 2 - 2.5 hours to get there (and back) - so it's a full day out of the studio. Also - I decided to ask who/what the client was. No point in my turning up 'cold'. After some  back and forth emails the truth emerged. The just wanted me to populate their office and make it look busy - the client didn't need to see me, and there wasn't any actual work, and they would only be prepared to pay my train fare. Obviously - I refused their kind offer. Without getting angry.

I did actually lose my temper last week with someone and came close to throwing them out of the studio. It got shouty. They have since apologised to me and have been much nicer.

Work has been busy - but messy. On Sunday I went for lunch with some friends - it was a set menu priced at £15 a-head for 2 courses - so for three of us, that would be £45. The bill came and it was £70 plus £7 in service charges. When it was pointed out that they had overcharged by £25 the waiter just tossed it off as a mistake - no apology.

I lost a client on Friday, not that bothered - he was a pain in the arse and turns out that he's passed the work onto someone he knows (me having done all the hard stuff) - I work with him through his agent - who now knows exactly how I feel about being taken advantage of. We haven't spoken since.

Came across my old house in Brighton by accident online. It's from a couple of years ago when it was listed for rent. I'm surprised at just how much is still the same - basically all the 'big' work I did is still there - they just painted everything white and added the porch. I wish I hadn't sold that house. I've probably said before that I went through a strange period of grief afterwards. Seeing this house again made me remember a few things I've not thought about in a decade. On top of my mortgage I was paying my mums mortgage and bills by direct debit, and about £3k per annum in train fares to London, then later on I had to borrow money to replace the whole roof and a load of other bits and pieces - it was a real struggle at the best of times. Commuting was very expensive, I couldn't eat at home during the week so I must have been spending £200 a month on coffee and sandwiches. It got to the point where something had to give and at about that time my mum needed to be sectioned, which was done through me - she was actually hospitalized twice. The first time they called me at home after a few weeks, and after an initially friendly conversation it seemed that they were under the impression that she was going to come and live with me after she was discharged. My sister had a small family and my brother was working long hours in Birmingham - I have a feeling the idea actually came from my mum just to get them to release her back to her own home. She was imobile at this time after having broken her hip a year before. It was impossible for me to take her in, and it would have destroyed me. I became quite upset during this conversation and they backed off - she went back to her own home and had regular care 3 times a day. When she was hospitalised for the 2nd time - the mental health team were much better and told me that I should separate myself from the situation or it would drag me down with her. As I was struggling with the costs and spending almost every weekend back in Liverpool - I decide to move up for what I assumed would be about a year - it would be cheaper and I would be 'on hand' - and I could continue to work freelance. In the end it was 4 years and house prices rose rapidly back in the South, and working up North was much harder than I anticipated. To make it worse, my mum really didn't want me around and was never comfortable with my visits, she would just watch the television and ignore me - so they petered off - but she was still happy to take my money. My initial plan was to be to move back to Brighton where I had friends and work - I even tried to buy my old house back - but it was impossible. I'd also managed to burn through all the profit I had made on the house - having just enough left to put a deposit down on this house - and still with about 17k in credit card debt. Mind you - I like this house - even if it is falling down and I can't afford to do anything about it.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017


Just watched 'Girl With All The Gifts' - actually really liked it - good edition to the genre. Nothing cheerful about it. Have now made my 4th attempt to watch 'The Imitation Game' - gave up again - can't abide the Cumberbatch characterisation of Turing - it's pantomime. Managed about 20 mins this time.

Weird shit part 1

Found a tenner in the road on the early morning dog walk yesterday (very thick blanket of sea fog everywhere) - the first thing that came into my mind was 'I'll be punished for this' - it's a catholic school thing - everything 'good' that ever happens is followed by something very bad.  Later that day I cycled to Bexhill to see a client who I've worked with for years and for some reason hadn't paid his last bill - broached it with him, obviously he was embarrassed about it. Asked me to re-send the invoice. Turns out it was my mistake - the way my online account works now - if money is paid into my account it does not appear until it's cleared - up to 6 days - and then is added to my statement retrospectively on the date it was submitted - on the case - it was added to October despite my 'page' now being November - so I didn't register it. Not only did I make a complete fool of myself - I am much more broke than I thought. Really broke - although for some strange reason loads of work keeps coming in, some of it really good - I am actually quite busy now. Still - that tenner was clearly cursed.

Weird Shit part 2

Was given a free restaurant meal today for myself and a couple of colleagues because I'm helping them out with some design work - I had the all the vegan options as usual. Came home, made a pasta dinner (feeling fine) - half way through began vomiting with such force I thought I was going to pass out. Five minutes later - I'm fine again.  I have no idea what that was about - unless it's punishment for getting a free meal.

I don't know why but I'm generally in a very good mood - but really worried about money. However - everyone is struggling. Friend who has caner has refused chemo (there is going to be a fund raising event for them later in the month). Another friends father died unexpectedly (and dramatically) yesterday - and hours later - his mother was taken to hospital herself - but seems stable. And to top it all - had a conversation with a friend who is also struggling, and I became quite concerned for their wellbeing. Have to tread carefully there. First thing this morning the only guy who came in early took a call from his very distressed wife at the vets who was forced to have their dog put to sleep. All this grief never seems to end.

Witnessed a conversation on Facebook today where a long time labour party activist announced that he had thrown in the towel and had resigned his membership - followed by people admitting they had done the same and others throwing abuse at him. I know exactly how he feels - my subscription isn't due until June - if things don't improve by then - I'll be doing the same.

I'm vaguely thinking of alternative things to do on the day of Trump's inauguration - I need something to take my mind off things. It's ironic that all the stress I get from politics as just an observer is distracting me from the mess of my own life - I'm trying to amuse myself by imagining the newspaper headlines for the day it all goes horribly wrong. I can assure you every print edition in the civilised world has already set the type for 'You're Fired' - but that could be some time away - and a painful time it will be.

Apparently we are going to get something called 'Thunder-Snow' shortly - I have no idea what that is supposed to be. I'm not holding my breath.

Saddest thing. Saw this on a cliff edge at Galley Hill yesterday.

Sunday, 8 January 2017


Oddly warm and spring-like this morning. Plenty of green shoots and some flowers - the weather is a mess. Pretty damp too.

I had 48 hours of constant screaming from the woman next door - I honestly think she only has 2 settings. Screaming and asleep - however - the discarded box for a 49inch flat screen TV they dumped this morning kinda explains the silence today.

I worked really hard last week - I actually seem to have a lot of really good, challenging PAID work on at the moment - but nothing in the bank so I'm still on lockdown, I'm trying not to think about that part - but I'm enjoying being busy and my head is working really hard.

The cracks to the front of my house are getting worse. I need to pull about 10k out of the bag really soon - I'm getting quite stressed about that one.

For some unknown reason - the new window cleaner did his work dressed as an elf or leprechaun yesterday morning (he cleans all the windows opposite) - It was very strange.

Pulled my back out again, in a different way to before - but not badly. It's just sore and uncomfortable.

One of my neighbours (just round the corner) has chopped down the trees that have always hidden their house. It's changed the way everything looks. This house was hidden before.

Watched a few films last week, including two recent British thrillers - both of which had strange and unexpected local connections and similarities. 'The Last Passenger' A film with Dougray Scott and Lindsay Duncan set on the train from London Bridge to Hastings that gets hijacked by a nutter - they make a big thing about the actually journey itself and end up (badly) in a fire and crash roughly a mile from my house, and 'Howl' - which is set on exactly the same route - a sort of 'American Werewolf' type film that tries to persuade us there are werewolves in Eastbourne It doesn't have to try too hard. I actually really enjoyed them both. Harmless fun and both with surprisingly high production values.

I have a heavy day tomorrow - lots of work, some politics to deal with and a couple of challenges I could do without. Extracting money from people is the hard part. Transport is still all over the place so nobody is going anywhere soon - I think the London Underground will also be on strike from tonight.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Firstly back, part 2.

Nobody is back at work except me and one other guy. Town was empty and all the shops closed. One client returned an email from The Maldives - nobody else was bothered.

Have a meeting with someone in digital tomorrow - before I go into the studio, with a view to working together. Couple of potential joint jobs lined up. Client in Brighton is still keen to work with me, despite the fact there is no real train service now and It will take at least 2 hours to visit their office for briefing, just need to actually get the work confirmed.

If you are a regular reader you will know that I used to do a lot of on door/bar security/FOH and coat check work in nightclubs. Had a highly entertaining conversation today with someone who owns a venue and has very busy late night event, I have repeatedly had the conversation with them that they should NEVER offer a coat check / cloakroom option. On NYE - they decided they knew better. At least they had the good grace to admit it had been a mistake. They were frankly horrified by just how appalling drunk people can be - I'm so glad I stayed at home.

Despite still not having been paid by anyone, and literally running on empty - I managed to get a lot done today and seem to be in a really good mood.

First day back

Town centre is very quiet - many of the shops are closed, I think most people are taking a few more days off this week. Nobody seems to want to get back to life. It's very cold suddenly - this mornings dawn chorus was blotted out by the sound of angry neighbours scraping their car windscreens or running their engine while they had another cup of coffee. None of my neighbours want to take their Christmas decorations down. Because I set the alarm this morning, the dogs instantly realised I wasn't going to be at home today and became very badly behaved.

I'm back in the studio. Wondering where to start. Most of my clients are still away - some are abroad. I am supposed to find out this week if the work in Brighton is confirmed - I should have been told last year, however - I can't turn anything else down in case it doesn't - and the trains are now on strike for 3 days - so I can't actually get there anyway, which pretty much means it's not going to happen. I know two people (working in retail) who have lost their jobs because of the rail strikes - and it's looking like it will cost me dear as well.

According to their instagram feeds, a couple of people who haven't paid me since November are still enjoying a holiday abroad.

Over the weekend - as part of a bit of industry research, I worked out where everyone I went to college with is now. None of the girls work in design, most don't work at all and some have never worked - giving up their careers as soon as they married. One is divorced and has gone back to work but made a very good settlement and has a large house in Brighton, she does craft based design that she sells at fairs. Of the men, I was quite surprised to find that I am the only one who has remained self employed / freelance consulting all this time. Most were in full time design roles, and most are now in management or teaching. One has only ever taught. The only person I have a question mark over was the one guy who was 'favourite' in college - he was hidden away from us and supported by all the staff, he did very well for a time and still has a studio in North London but hasn't updated his website in several years. Freelance is very hard, much harder than people give us credit for.

I have to talk to someone shortly who owes me money - it's one of the worst parts of my job and I hate doing it - if you don't have to do that yourself - consider yourself lucky.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Years day.

It's raining, it's cold, it's windy and there is a thick fog.

Last night I watched the film Shallow Grave - first time since it came out - in 1994.

It always amazes me just how good my visual memory is, I thought at the time that it was a remarkable film and a visual treat, but every tiny detail seems to have embedded itself somewhere in my head. Obviously, the main actors look much older now - and there isn't a single person in the film who hasn't gone on to become a major star (even the pale faced boy working in the Travel Agent is Tony Curran - who is quite a big star himself now but shall be ever immortal for this one role). I remember reading at the time that they tried very hard to make the apartment where most of the action takes place into a character in the film - and I think they succeeded.

It was remarkable because it was full of striking, angry, vivid colours (all of which are now desperately fashionable) but at the time, in a world of rag-rolling and mushroom and biscuit sponged dado rails - it was quite shocking. The appartment, a huge mansion flat in Edinburgh - is beautiful beyond belief and exactly where I have always waned to live - I can still recall seeing it and thinking to myself - 'that's where I'm going to end up, eventually - in a home just like that'. There are a number of well placed bits and pieces of very good contemporary art scattered around the flat in the background - including a number of paintings by the Scottish artist Stephen Conroy - another favourite, and the script, plotting and characterisation is still as brilliant, savage and disturbing now as it was then. It could quite easily make an exceptional stage production.

What struck me now - that I couldn't possibly have understood at the time, was that it was also an observation on the people of the times. How selfish, greedy, gloating and stupid the 90's were. It was all about money, power, possession and winning, just taking what you wanted, regardless of the consequences for anyone else. They were what we now fatuously refer to as 'Thatcher's Children'. I remember that the girl who gave me a lift to the cinema (a really lovely girl called Ingrid who had a Swedish Mother and was an excellent social worker) was in a relationship with a staggeringly wealthy hedge fund manager at the time - he was a complete cock) and I was seeing someone who worked as a political lobbyist for Ian Greer Associates, the company that collapsed after it was investigated for very dubious actions in the lead up to the Blair government - it was a short relationship, because despite presenting himself as a hard working Labour party member - he was probably the most corrupt person imaginable. Every at that time seemed obsessed with wining and money - and I'm afraid we're reaping the rewards of that one now.

If you get the chance to watch it again - do. I know quite a few people in film and have a very different eye now - so I can look at detail, technique and the astonishing craft that went into that film in a very different way, it's full of discovery. At one point - you are in a scene set in Christopher Ecclestone's office, all the other chartered accountants are wearing sleeveless pullovers, the focus pulls through a row of 5 young men and you see in astonishing detail that each one is wearing the exact same quite beautiful hand knitted sweater, just in different colours, it's just an aside but a wonderful detail. One thing I've always questioned. I could never decide (and I still can't)  if Ewan McGregor was actually dead in the final scene and talking/laughing to camera seen only by the audience - it makes sense, but I'm still not sure. It still has the very best 'payoff' shot in any film I have ever seen - I honestly didn't know what was going to be in that suitcase at the end - I didn't see that one coming, which is probably the point of the whole film. At every stage there were a thousand things they could have done differently, and still won - but their greed and stupidity drove them down to hell.

I also watched 'Sean Of The Dead' to cheer myself up and it really reminded of living in London in my 20's, and feeling free and without anything holding my back or any responsibilities (not including the whole 'end of the world' subplot etc )

One thing I didn't mention over Christmas (yeah, I know I've posted a lot - I needed to clear my mind a bit) was that I had a quite substantial outbreak of Psoriasis on Christmas eve, all over my face, head and neck - it's now gone, but I had to shave my head and beard to deal with it, something I hate doing. Partly because now that my face has 'calmed down' I have quite a substantial and noticeable droop to one side of my mouth where most of the repair work was done - which never closes properly now and having a beard helps. Another reason to stay at home over Christmas. It's OK now - and thanks to eating properly, staying quiet, not drinking and refusing to be stressed out too much for 10 days - I actually look pretty good.

Here I am doing my 'Singing detective' act - frankly - shaving all my hair off is worse than the psoriasis. Those are my 'at home' glasses - the ones I wear for work are a lot less heavy. I clearly wasn't very happy when that photograph was taken. The paint is peeling off the bathroom wall behind me because next door refuse to repair the flashing on their roof.