Freelance Reflections #9

It’s nearly a year on from becoming self-employed, and I’m finally getting a routine together. I have six students across Monday to Wednesday, which takes up about six hours on each day because most of this is travelling. It’s a constant battle in my mind between money and travel. I live at home, so I am able to save, but the sacrifice is time.

It begs the question: what is my time worth?

I figure I’ll stay put for now, and embrace the time travelling by reading, doing any admin I can on-the-go, and sometimes just daydreaming out of windows, listening to music. I’ll be turning 30 next May, so maybe I’ll freak out then and feel the urge to uproot. But at least by then I’ll have saved some more.

My mornings are spent planning lessons and marking. This takes up a lot of time as well, but it’s okay. If I stick at it, the work will get easier with time. The type of subjects the students are studying often means I have to go over each paper to make sure that I not only know the answers, but know how to teach the students how to get those answers.

The students themselves are lovely and a pleasure to work with. The other day, I was doing a creative warm-up game with Rory’s Story Cubes, and we made a story that was so funny that we both got the giggles. It was about dice that wouldn’t stop rolling. It relied on an implicit communication as we each continued the story, the dice still rolling in the story, and whilst it was seemingly unprofessional to laugh quite to the extent I did (barely being able to speak), we bonded in that moment, and it is those moments that will make it hard when the tuition stops.

The last couple of weeks, I have been focusing on trying to get into the routines that I want to continue. Sometimes I question whether I’m doing enough paid work. I have this mentality that I should be trying to make as much as I would need to survive if I didn’t live with my parents. But, how am I going to progress with my writing career if I don’t give it the time it deserves? When talking to fellow creative Daisy Dockrill a few months back, she said to do exactly this, for the reason that I would be able to give myself that time to write more.

As well as planning and marking in the mornings, I do content writing, and I said I wouldn’t do this past Wednesday, but this slipped into Thursday the last couple of weeks. Today I’m going to aim to do at least four hours of writing, but I also have a book tour to organise and there’s still (always) a lot to do for that! I’ve been trying to do bits and pieces to do with it, but as always, it never feels like there’s enough time. I’ve been socialising a fair bit too, but this week has been all work really. I’m looking forward to a couple of social things over the weekend, including Common Ground – a free festival I found out about. Hopefully the weather will be nice!

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Last week also saw the first instalment of She Grrrowls at The Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. It was really lovely, with the most audience we’ve had in a long time. I didn’t make quite enough to cover costs now I have to pay for the venue as well as the acts, not to mention paid advertising. The features were Annie Hayter, who is a Barbican Young Poet; Anvi, who is on an ACE-funded stay from India; and Good Canary, who is a musician!

I’ve been exercising every day until today. I was really itching to, but I just got a new tattoo, so I can’t wear a tight sports bra over it. I’ve been doing a bit of Spanish, including some reading, but could push myself more with this to get up to scratch. I’ll be starting intermediate conversation classes soon, which is scary! Next week I’ll be in Leicester for the second date in the She Grrrowls Autumn 2018 Book Tour, and the first outside of London!

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She Grrrowls & Politics

She Grrrowls Logo

With She Grrrowls just finding its feet and me just about recovering from a post-launch cold, I think it’s about time I wrote about its first instalment. I arrived at The Gallery Café over 3 hours before the event’s start time. As I can’t afford to fork out £50 on a sound technician, I decided to bring a pad of paper and pen to note down the basics. It seemed easier enough and despite some initial problems, it was working. That was when things started to take a turn for the worst. There was a party of 30 people due an hour before the event for a buffet, which did no good for my pre-show anxiety. Then, my comedy act got in contact to say she was too ill to do the show. I was further sent into a panic when part of the She Grrrowls team was taken down by a kidney infection. I was on the edge of a meltdown. Still, guest host Joelle Taylor turned up and got her hands dirty moving tables with me, providing a welcome relief.

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Twenty minutes before the start, I tested the music again. No sound came out. No sound. We had no sound. What was I going to do? The events manager was off sick, and I hadn’t a clue how to work out what the problem was, let alone fix it. The café never closed its doors, so people were coming in and I was running round like a headless chicken. Joelle kindly jumped on stage to tell people to pay and I ran back and forth to collect money and check on the sound. Time was a blur, and somehow, with the help of the café staff and the band, the sound began to work through one speaker – not the ones above, but one sat on the stage. Booking a six-piece band for the first event was probably a bit ambitious, but through working together, it all turned out okay and we were able to start the show before 8pm.

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My head was a whirlwind, but I was thankful I didn’t have to worry about the audience and the artists. The open mic’ (themed ‘politics’) was a great success… from a rather unusual but expected ‘alternative view’ to established poets like Pete the Temp and Mark ‘Mr T’ Thompson, as well as emerging artists I was glad to see take to the stage, including a lovely lady called Imogen who rhymes under ‘Average White Female’. The audience looked packed – we ran out of seats (mostly because I didn’t have time to remove all the tables) and I counted around 40-50 people. The best part of this means that each act took away around £30 payment (although the ever-supportive Joelle tried to give the money back to She Grrrowls) and I would love to increase that amount by getting bigger audiences. What’s more is that the event had positive feedback – one couple who had come in for food (the guy had just arrived back from Canada) were convinced to stay for the show and left telling Joelle that this was just the kind of event they had been looking for: good quality poetry without the pretence.

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I managed to relax enough to talk to a couple of friends who came to watch, and to be able to enjoy the rest of the show. Momina Mela offered us beautiful poetry with words that melt your soul, each word spoken slowly, carefully, as if each word was a jewel offered as a gift to the audience. Momina has an uncanny way with words and amazes with each line of poetry. Aisling Fahey then wowed the audience with her raw honesty; lines like ‘how to hold their frame without wishing there were less of it’, although about eating disorders, was both horribly relatable and undenyably tragic. A poem that goes beyond the experience of eating disorders and makes you wonder why you would ever want to be less of yourself, like you’d be destroying a part of yourself.

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Sunshine in Mae finished the night and left everyone with a smile on their face. Fronted by Sula Mae, this six piece band also had some guys in it (see – showcasing female talent, not completely banning men). I knew Sula Mae from university as a solo artists so it was incredible to see her songs grow to such a level, hearing new tracks and old favourites like ‘Wake up Mr. Billy’. People hung around after and chatted, before Joelle helped me pack all the equipment away (what a star!) I was left exhausted, but elated, and so so thankful to everyone who was involved in making She Grrrowls a success.

Watch some of the poetry from the launch on the She Grrrowls Youtube Channel.

Since then, I encountered yet another hurdle! The booking system at The Gallery Cafe hadn’t registered future She Grrrrowls events. After waves of panic via email and feeling sick all day, I was able to sort it out and have spent the last week re-arranging bookings. The next event will be on Saturday 5th October – I had to change a couple of acts but you can see the confirmed line-up below… the change of theme to ‘sex’ seemed appropriate (well, we couldn’t do ‘space’ without Helen Keen)! I’m excited as I won’t be tired from work and my boyfriend will be there to enjoy the show (and help me out) – poetry on a Saturday night, what a treat! The rest will be every THIRD MONDAY of each month.

She Grrrowls Oct 2013 NEW

xxx

Hold Your Beliefs Lightly

Last week I saw my friend Siobhan Belingy for her birthday and she gave me this cool pink ring – it’s eyes move!  I also saw Grayson Perry’s exhibition at The British Museum and loved it!  My Gran and Siobhan had both said it was unmissable so I’m really glad I got to see it.  I loved the mix of old and new, Perry’s unique style (with the use of some of my favourite colours) and the use of text and poetry.  It also dealt with really interesting subject matters, and I’d really recommend it.  There’s a picture of the bike outside with my boyfriend Matt.  We also went to the East London Design Show (good but we had to pay to get in?!) and Winter Wonderland which was lovely but neither me or my boyfriend could afford even a bag of candy floss!

Lastly, on Tuesday I went to my last open mic night for some time at Herne Hill’s Half Moon pub for Needle & Thread.  I did some new material but stumbled quite a lot so wasn’t the best gig.

I’m now going into hiatus for a bit to concentrate on my MA work as the essays have been stressing me out.  I’ve got a few things in the pipe-line (I met up with another poet this night to discuss future event plans) but I’m not going to hit the open mic nights regularly until at least around May.  Also, Angel from Big Brother was performing at this open mic!  I don’t know if anyone else knew who she was but I’ve watched every year of Big Brother so I found it rather exciting! Me and Matt have been flyering and getting organised with that but him mum reckons we should be charging for them.  We’ve actually learnt a lot from doing it but it would be great if anyone knew how to get different shops selling them!  We could have made about £90-390 from them!

I’ll keep an update on what I’m up to other than not going to open mic events 🙂

xxx

Verbal Detox CWS Open Mic

Monday I did the open mic and my friend Laura came along with me which was nice.  The theme was ‘detox’ and we were encouraged to show the “new you” so I did all new material, including one about my new haircut, whilst wearing a new dress, just £2 from primark! However I didn’t get any of the prize potatoes, so had to ask for some at the end as I do love potatoes!

A couple of girls came up to me and said how much they liked my set and said how they felt the words I spoke, which was great to hear because of it being new material, and that’s kind of the aim of what I do.  I want people to understand and feel what I feel, like when you hear songs that just speak to you.

There were all the usual performers really, apart from one girl at the start who was good but brought one REALLY irritating and, quite frankly, rude friend.  She was constantly texting, eating, talking, laughing and had her back to the performers all night.  I thought maybe she was going out after and just there for pre-drinks because her friends were there, but I noticed her change from heels to flats.  It was just weird, I couldn’t help thinking WHY IS SHE HERE?!

John Simpson Wedge was doing a ‘feature’ set and it was the best he’d ever performed.  There was a lot of variety, as he ventured away from the comedy and did an amazing serious prose piece, and then a Coolio parody which was funny.

Me and Laura ended up accidentally going out and went to Havana’s.  It was fun but I didn’t want to drink as much as I did.  It was good to meet some guys from The Birdcage but on the dance floor I was astounded at the disgusting behaviour from men in there.  There was a big group of guys that just dominated an area and it just felt really unpleasant and predatory.  At one point two of them came up to me and started to try to “dance” with me from in front and behind and I was creeped out and got them to move away, or rather, I just moved away.  There were a group of scary guys that kept asking for a dance and then when we said no, they asked if we spoke English, and also asked if we would dance with their uncle, who was an elderly, short man.  They followed us when we moved away, another guy even tried to keep one away from us.  They attempted to touch Laura from behind and I told them to back off.  Later, we saw they were leaving and glad, they walked past as and one pinched my bum so I pushed him away and felt incredibly angry.  He turned to me in a threatening manner and I shouted not to touch me.  They left but it ruined the night a bit and we decided to leave and got chips.  We talked whilst waiting for the bus but didn’t get home until 4.30am.  So I was pretty tired the next day!

Anyway, that’s about it.  DJ set at The Birdcage tomorrow with Kristy and our laptops haha.

xxx

Mistletoe and Whine

Just came back from the last UEA CWS open mic of the year.  I’m on a certain antibiotic at the moment which is supposed to give you an insane headache if you drink alcohol on it so I spent 60p on two pints of blackcurrant squash.  Seeing as I’ve already spent nearly all my money on Christmas presents, this no drinking thing is probably for the best.  I’ve been going to alcohol counselling in an attempt to stop binge drinking and develop a healthier relationship with alcohol so it was interesting when I went to the last LitSoc social sober.  The pub crawl part was actually really fun, and I think I made the most effort of anyone with the two members (who weren’t the committee or friends of the committee) that showed up.  The club was where it went downhill.  I hadn’t heard good things about the change from Po Na Na’s to Lola Lo’s but I went in with an open mind.  Sadly, I couldn’t take advantage of the free vodka, and the mince pies never turned up.  From then on, I felt like I was waiting for people to get drunk, and couldn’t really talk as the music was so loud.  Eventually some of us danced for a bit, but then the others got fed up and I left early with a few people.  It was around 1am so I felt that was an okay time, considering I still had lots of coursework to do!

Anyway, back to tonight.  I felt more nervous as I don’t think I have done a gig without a little dutch courage for over a year at Starbucks (they don’t do alcohol).   Anyway, I felt like it went well and got a couple of compliments, not only on my poetry but also my outfit – Reko dress, white tights, vintage shoes and a Father Christmas hat.  I got to speak to Leo Hunt who I remember liking the last time, and he’s a nice chap.  I also remembered how much I adore Greta Healey’s voice; again, I think my Words & Music lecturer would like it.  Anyway, I read a new poem called I Am No Better which was inspired by events at Hop Farm Festival last year, including a drunken vision of Kaya Scodelario (Effie from Skins), so it has been a long time coming, but hopefully that means it’s a gooden.  I then dedicated my poem Passing Time, to a guy I’ve been acquainted with for a couple of weeks who said he’d never go to see poetry.  I then did Drama as I was reminded of it whilst doing research for my Children’s Literature module.  I finished on Tick the Box, which another performer told me they liked best.

So, I was happy.  On top of that, I won a chocolate prize for my attempt at the fancy dress! As the only effort was the hat, I’m pretty pleased… though am not sure I should be as the rest was just a normal outfit!  Oh well, chocolate, can’t complain!  I really enjoyed Christopher Ogden’s prose piece and think I prefer it to his poetry, which is unusual as it is more difficult to keep the audience’s attention with prose.  Angela Robinson was really enjoyable again, and I find her work very cinematic, in an American way, but in a positive way that makes you want to take a trip! Chris Gray was next and his set was really funny, and delivered with confidence.  Catherine Woodward is someone who impresses me more and more each time I see her, and is published so hopefully would be able to get her for a pure LitSoc event if we end up doing that. 

Robyn Comfort did a nice mix of poetry and song to acoustic guitar, including one about her boyfriend which was sweet; it reminded me of when I read at the Poetry Cafe and dedicated a poem to my boyfriend at the time, and how in that moment I made his heart feel more for me than he ever has since.  Amy Wragg didn’t turn up, which I was disappointed about as I was looking forward to hearing her read.  Laurie Eaves was as good as ever, and even worked a reference to one of Angela’s poems in his.  Josephine Lister was headliner, and I’m still working out what I think about her poetry, as she’s quite loud and so maybe she should have more variation or something, I can’t put my finger on it, that said, I loved her poem The Way You Look Tonight.  I also think I might fancy her just a bit.

I’m really wanting to break open my chocolate snowman, but I’ve already had a massive Homemade Quorn Cottage Pie that should really serve two, and a strip of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.  I should also go to bed now as I still have essays to edit and expand upon (UNDER the word limit!)  I also need to draw and scan in illustrations for my creative project for Children’s Literature.  Then once that’s over, time to start on my Creative Entrepreneurship MA application and reading for my dissertation.

xxx

I also realised I didn’t do any Christmas-themed poems, so here’s one from last year:

Nativity

 

You were Father Christmas in the nativity.

I was a snow flake.

If we met in reception I wonder

what we would be now,

and whether we would have been friends

back then.

Would you have pulled my hair?

Would you have known my name?

In the playground playing games

would you have been my aim in kiss chase?

Or would you be kicking a football

while I was tangled up I skipping ropes

and standing on one leg in hopscotch?

Would you save me if I was stuck in the mud?

Find a plaster for my grazed knees?

Or be the cause for my bruises

for pushing me too hard?

You, eating Christmas dinner in the hall.

Would I be on pack lunch at this time?

‘Cause I always changed my mind.

Would you watch my cartwheels

or comment on my hairy legs?

Would we keep in contact?

Grow older as friends.

Or more.

Would we be shy?

Would we camp together at music festivals?

Would I fall in love with you,

and your family,

would they call me their baby?

Get pissed together?

Bite nails and smoke cigarettes?

And experience what went on behind bike sheds?

Because in reality I stopped riding bikes at secondary school.

Would we comfort eat?

Or have someone to share the cakes with?

Would we swap presents every year?

Would we write pain into our history books

or just play hangman at the back of the classroom?

Would I go away?

And you come visit me,

hug goodbye

but always say see you soon.

Would you ride off with reindeer to the moon?

And dust me off your shoulder.

Would you see life without me is colder?

Share a bed with a hot water bottle, one duvet

and two pillows.

So She Said

I enjoyed the last fundraiser for LadyFest Ten so much I decided to go again to this one.  I was worried the tube strike would force me to take buses and get lost as I have a habit of travelling in the wrong direction.  Since I came all the way from South West London to Mile End, there was really no excuse for anyone not attending!  I think it’s more the idea that there will be problems travelling that stopped them coming, rather than any real obstacles.

I was with my friend Elliot again as he lives walking distance, and we sat in the same place as before; I’m a creature of habit.  We were given Poetry Bingo cards and edible DIY-poetry biscuits which we made with icing sugar glue.  I thought that was really fun!  The other acts this time weren’t as impressive and it wasn’t really as good as the time before, if I’m honest.  The performers that stood out for me were Sophia Blackwell, of course, and Elliot’s friend Aurélie Jestin who played guitar and sang – I didn’t understand what she was saying as it was in French but I loved everything else you can like about music with lyrics you don’t understand.

My own performance, I wasn’t that happy with… I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling it.  I had to bend to the mic a bit as it wasn’t positioned right, which is wierd as I’m quite short… and I messed up a few lines.  Aurélie and Elliot liked it and the audience did make some ‘woo’ noises so I suppose I should stop being so miserable and just be pleased haha.  However…there was this group of girls that wouldn’t stop talking throughout my set, and Sophia Blackwell… in fact, everyone!  They seemed like such posers, all like “we’re at a feminist event!  We’re lesbians/bisexual/friends with lesbians!  We’re at a poetry event! We’re so cool!”  It was just like, why are you here if you’re going to talk throughout the whole thing?  I get really annoyed at people like that, it’s just plain rude!  I wouldn’t make those statements about them normally, but that’s just the impression I got from their ignorance of attending something like this and not bloody paying attention!

Well, rant over, that’s pretty much all I have to say.  I’m deliberating whether to go to an open mic night next week… and if so, which to go to?  It’s between Farrago and Spoonful of Poison.  Farrago costs £5 which is a big factor really, since my main reason for wanting to go is out of obligation as I said I’d try to go to one before I go back to uni in Norwich.  Spoonful of Poison I said I’d go to a couple of weeks ago but forgot and double booked, so feel a pull to go to that as well, but this one is also FREE to go to, so that would be good.  I’m also hoping to see my friend Natalie on that date and she would probably prefer Spoonful as it’s free and she even did her first poetry reading there.

Dilemmasss!  Any advice about that would be welcome, but I’ll probably end up going to whatever Natalie wants to go to… hopefully she will actually be back from Greece by then.

xxx

The Queen’s Speech

Last night I went to an open mic in Brixton’s Queen’s Head.  It was quite at first and I arrived an hour early so sat at a lamp with Proust and a glass of wine.  Rachel Pantechnicon was the featue who I’d seen a few times before at Farrago but had’nt spoken until this time, and I also recognised one of the open mic acts.

I felt a bit embarrassed when I got off the stage after performing ‘Cinderella’ to press record again on my camera, and the microphone kept swinging away from me.  Other than that, the audience were really supportive and seemed to like it.  I really enjoyed it anyway and smiled throughout it.  The video I recorded did cut off my head though.

xxx