Friday, July 26, 2013

The Curse Of The Freelancer

The freelancer's curse is sending politely chasing emails. You know - when someone approaches you to do something, and at first it's all "GO! GO! GO!" and then fizzles sadly out. Like an amazing one-night stand. Only, after a one-night stand, we all know the rules - you send a couple of follow up texts, cry and then move on.

With freelance projects, that's not what you do. The correct etiquette is to regularly stand outside your potential employer's window at 4am with a Mariachi band playing Mandy. At least once a week you have to send them the awful "Hey, any news?" email. And they have to send you the "No, sadly. Will keep you posted!" reply. It's sadly pointless on both sides. But them's the rules.

As my mother put it: "I don't understand. They'll get in touch at the last minute if they want it." My mother, please note, has never worked in the media. And Yet She Knows All.

Just for once, it'd be nice to say: "Hello! You know that project you said was definite a month ago, and that I should clear my schedule for? Well, I did. And since then, you know, I've heard nothing much from you. I get it. I know you're busy. I know it's probably not happening after all. But that's okay. I've got other work coming in. I'll be fine.It would have been lovely to do. More than lovely - amazing. But, these things happen. So just fire me and I can stop worrying about letting you down when it's suddenly all back on again."

But no. Instead, here I am about to type: "Hey there... any news?"

Sunday, July 14, 2013

There's An App For That

I'm relearning a language before going on holiday. I downloaded an app that promised to help. I spent half an hour on it yesterday while waiting outside a phone shop.

It was bloody depressing. My experience with just like one of the recent Star Wars films.
"Ooh, this is shiny and different."
"Oh, I'm not sure about this."
"I kind of miss the old way."
"Eurgh! Eurgh! Eurgh!"
"Let's pretend this never happened."

There really is no magical secret to language learning. It's just effort and repetition. An app can help. But not when it makes you upload practice examples to a community space, where people can instantly tell you you've got it wrong. Of course I've got it wrong - my iphone doesn't have all the letters in your alphabet. Thanks for sending me lots of imessages saying "Someone has corrected your exercise". Thanks.

Also, thank you for waking me up this morning to ask me if I'd learned any new words today. No, I hadn't. It was 6am. orospu çocuğu.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


I left it too late to get a credit card. I missed out on the golden age of free money. My first memory of a credit card is when one of Paul's wives on Neighbours got into trouble and he cut up her card for her, thereby solving all her money worries. I think they got a puppy the next week.

I spent the first half of my twenties definitely not having a credit card. Then along came Amazon and it seemed vital to have one in order to be able to get Digital Versatile Discs. The problem was that I had left it too late. Everyone else had got a credit card years ago, if not four of them. My lack of existing debt actually made me a problem for a bank - if I hadn't got one by the age of 24 there must be something wrong with me.

Eventually I persuaded a bank and it was joyous (how I remember the X-Files season 1 turning up like an alien artefact, a bargain at only $150). Nervous of my card, I paid off the balance every month in full, until, of course, that skiing holiday which, in many ways, I feel I'm still paying for (you've never lived till you've eaten 20 euros worth of tepid spagbol on top of a mountain).

After that my credit card became a companion. Now, don't worry, this isn't going to be a terrible story of debt and bankruptcy. I'm just saying that it was chic. The early 2000s was the era when people you'd never heard of would send you credit cards through the post. GET SOME MORE DEBT, the post would scream. The sign of a good holiday was telling friends "We spent so much I had to ring up the bank for more!". And we'd laugh. Because there was something fun, absurd about owing a couple of months' salary. Which, of course, you'd pay off. At some point in the never never. A sign of how successful you were was how much thrilling debt you had.

Even credit card fraud was glamorous. I still remember giggling with someone at the bank after my card had had a wild weekend without me in Monaco. Some day, I decided, I too would like to blow two grand on casinos and lingerie. We all laughed at all this money, money owed by someone to someone. But the good news was that it wasn't us. Or at least, not today.

It all seems so long ago. The bank no longer rings you up after your card's been fiddled with. Now they stop the card the moment they detect you trying to do anything unusual. In the last two months I've tried to book a couple of cheap flights and a theatre ticket deal. In 2005, this would have been the credit card equivalent of a tin of value beans and a panda cola. Hardly lingerie and roulette. But in 2013, alarm bells went off both times.

Banks are no longer Bertie Wooster - they're one of his more Presbyterian Aunts. They're more cautious. Or maybe their fraud systems are better. The nice lady at first direct (sometimes I wonder if, when nice people die, they go to work for first direct) did say something curious about it all; "I'm sorry this has happened. But I'm afraid it's not the bank. It's a problem with society."

She said it in the jolly tones of your favourite teacher shortly before a lesson on making shortbread and the deaths of the saints. But the phrase stuck with me. Even first direct has a training manual. A nice one. And I wondered how often over the last few years we've heard a variation on the phrase: "It's not the bank. It's a problem with society."

Monday, July 01, 2013

ur been used

The mysterious local graffiti about the enigmatic Tracy is back and there's no shifting it. It's everywhere like an over-keen viral marketing campaign for a doomed interactive drama. In the latest episode we've learned that the police are just using her, that she sho
uldn't trust the men she is seeing, that Steven still loves her, and that, if you are planning on going on a date with Tracy you should be careful what you tell her. 

I don't know Tracy, but I'd like to imagine she knows none of this, has moved to Hove, and when told about it, just laughs. But I doubt it.