I need a holiday.  I need it now.  And aside from selling drugs, selling myself or going on holiday with my ex again I don’t care how I pay for it.

This morning I woke up all guns blazing.  My credit card bill alone was enough to shock me into action but freak sunshine and cold weather also played a part.

I have great survival instincts and love the ingenuity that goes with being an entrepreneur.  I also hate confinement, incarceration and sitting at a desk.

I’m always happiest on the move with few possessions. I loved the movie Heat because it stars 3 of my favourite actors chasing something that eludes them.  It also has a scene that encapsulates my life.  Particularly the line by Robert de Niro’s character . . .

“Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner” (Robert de Niro’s character, Heat).   

It’s tricky balancing that sentiment with young children who need me all the time.  In their loving adoring eyes I’m irreplaceable.  I fear for them daily and am well aware what they’ll become if I’m not around to remind them what’s important.  But I have to work when they’re not with me.  This is no simple case of Fight or Flight.  I need to find a way of doing both.

I’m used to making sacrifices.  But sacrifice in motherhood is different. I sacrificed a lot to be with their father but I could never be the woman who stayed for the sake of the children. I know my worth both as an individual and human being and won’t allow anyone to treat me daily as if I’m worthless.

I hate doing nothing.  Way too many people sit around in offices doing that already.  A good few more make serious money at it.  I spend whatever I make because I like the challenge of having it all to do over and over again.  Daily risks and challenges make me feel alive.  I’ve never wanted a marriage that offered certainty or forever especially if that certainty was financial security based on living and working for a financial services firm in Edinburgh for the rest of my life.

I don’t like risking my life, my sanity or my home. But I do like the idea of waking up every day feeling I have a new business and a new challenge even if I don’t have a new man.

Listening to Ranald MacDonald’s entrepreneurial advice on Jazz FM’s business hour I’m inspired by the words “Money follows great endeavour”.

I wrote the lyrics to this song on Saturday and am off to London on Wednesday to consider various options.

This week saw the publication of the Richest people in Sport and after worrying about my son’s pronouncement 2 weeks ago that I needn’t worry about money because “when we’re tennis stars we’ll buy you a house” I now think this isn’t as ludicrous a scenario as it sounds.

But having someone else buy a house that suits their needs not yours isn’t freedom.  It’s how I ended up with Woodlands, a place I’d dearly love to sell.  Beauty isn’t everything.  Freedom is.

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Hard work rarely leads to riches.  But all work no matter how tedious helps pass the time of day.

I used to know a lot of wealthy people.  None of them did anything you’d call hard let alone work so this week I put my trust in human agency, forgot I’m technically insolvent and booked the best interiors photographer in Scotland to shoot my home.  The chat alone was money well spent.

If I were rich I’d be discreet about it. I’d own one small apartment, have little else that needed upkeep, work less, take off more and go on adventures with my children. I’d also be generous.  Anonymously.  So I could sleep at night.

Anonymity is hugely underrated.  So is generosity.

In my experience people either inherit vast wealth or steal it.  But then I used to work in financial services and briefly worked for Russian oligarchs.

Neither of these scenarios make for well adjusted individuals or families happy with their lot.  Blatent latent familial discontent amongst relations carving up ancestral wealth makes tense dinner conversation.  So does working in financial services when you feel the sly and the privileged somehow privatised imaginary wealth that led to crippling public debt.

Most people expect others to have more than them.  Few posses the grace or generosity to smile at anothers gain.

I applaud creative entrepreneurship and the guilt selflessness that leads to charitable donations.  But sometimes the only generosity needed is a smile or casual ‘Hello”.

I’ve never understood celebrity attention seeking.  I love the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode showcasing Ted Danson’s fake philanthropy/faux anonymity in The Anonymous Donor.

It’s hard not to judge those you once loved harshly and unfairly. Harder still taking responsibility for your follies, past mistakes and loved one’s woes.

This week I learnt reluctantly that rich men often cheat.  Apparently their wives put up with it because they have too good a deal.  I don’t know why I wasn’t like that.  Or why I’d rather be alone and broke working for a living with crippling debts than married to a wealthy man that controls and pays for everything.  I guess when freedom’s more important to you, money gets you everything but the girl.

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I hate the loneliness of creativity.  I want to join the party not be the one creating it.  These Mariah Carey lyrics perfectly encapsulate the drama of my leaving Edinburgh to work in London, after outing my fraudulent ex. Who wouldn’t love the line “and don’t keep calling from your momma’s house.” as the ultimate esmaculation when you’ve a deluded view of your success.  The girl’s still got it when it comes to nailing catchy tunes.  I just hope I have too.

People often tell me I should write a book of my experiences. My writing style is precise and clipped so blogging/copywriting I enjoy – autobiography not so much.  Besides why write a book when life’s momentous events can be captured in a song?  Especially wry humorous ones.

Sometimes when I write blog posts I end up writing songs.  I always leave the lyrics for 6 months or so, then return to them cold to check they still have resonance.  Occasionally they do and those are the ones I adapt hoping there’s a struggling singer who’ll jump at the chance of recording them.

I hate performing.  Ending my fledgling singing career’s not something I regret.  Dance and choreography was what I wanted to pursue. Height and academic ability soon put paid to that.  But now I’m older and past caring what people make of me I’ve booked professional singing lessons to give me back my confidence.  I can still hold a tune, though admittedly I’m rusty.  And 3 years ago I wrote a song I can’t get out of my head.

I had a gentle operatic quality to my voice when I was younger.  The songs I write require gritty interpretation and considerable vocal ability I sadly don’t possess.  Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey were my idols and as a clever bookish child, reluctant to take on challenges my mother or school weren’t supportive of I was never going to get out of going to university.  Which is just as well.  Who would listen to me when they could be listening to Whitney?

These are not my lyrics.  I just love them.

Whe I break, I break

Most days, no matter how bad my week I find joy in life’s imperfections. I lived with a supreme narcissist and his mother, for years so am deeply suspicious of perfection – in life, interiors, and especially in adults.

Perfectionism excludes the majority, restricts the practical use and pursuits of the minority who attain it and is basically only ever a good look on children unaware of their power to mesmerise. For everyone else it’s suicide.

Achieving perfection is overrated, because it usually involves neglecting the basics. The fact that people like to wear clothes they can breathe in, prefer practical chairs they can sit on, and eat in restaurants that don’t poison them. Who cares about the deliciousness of the fatted calf or duck if kitchen hands are dirty and unwittingly poisoning patrons? Who needs 2 for the price of 1 or clubcard points when 100% beef means 10% horsemeat?

No adult body’s perfect. Neither’s their brand or career.

Truly brilliant creatives achieve brilliance inadvertently without trying. Ask any artist, writer or poet, mathematician or legendary sporting great. Much of their career is spent chasing the perfection they achieved without realising just how they did it.

Most perfectionists are hacks just like the rest of us regaling a devoted audience with flashes of brilliance their PR and advertising agents draw our attention to.

I may only ever write one great sentence, design two decent pieces of lighting and demo three hummable songs. But when I do I’ll reflect and learn from my shortcomings without drawing too much attention to them, in much the same way I lovingly correct my children.

Poul Henningsen artichole light (replica)

These are not my lights. I just stole them.

I started Nordic Black with a clear vision.  To be a simple lifestyle alternative to the White Company beloved of my peers.  I wanted to be online only and wholesale. Gillian Tett’s article in the Weekend FT magazine on how J Brand started out with the sole intention of designing flattering jeans reminds me how far I’ve gone adrift.

My intention was always to be small with 6-10 good products so I could find my creative niche.  I didn’t want to run a business where I’d be managing lots of people.  I wanted to collaborate with others.  Me doing my thing to the best of my ability and them doing theirs.  This is proving much more difficult than I thought.

Despite starting with a strong brand identity and tagline, my best intentions have been hijacked by the business priorities of others and it’s all my own fault. It’s time to stop the rot and get firmly back on track.

This morning I unwittingly annoyed the woman who inspired me.  No one wants to listen to the agnostic who’s lost faith so I accept her advice has reached the limit of it’s usefulness, apologise for causing offence and unsubscribe from further posts.

It’s sad when what once inspired and made you happy abruptly comes to an end, but in life as with interiors you have to brush up and get on with it.

My kids are currently obsessed with Minecraft which has a creative and survivor mode of play.  The last of these involves fighting zombies, spiders and bowmen from the home that you create and I can’t help thinking this is what my life has become.  “On creative mode,” my daughter explains, “you just get everything given to you on a plate.”

It’s time to stop creating willy nilly and launch a focused creative attack.Image

Awoke this morning and read my favourite blog.  I have a love hate relationship with Abigail Ahern’s design advice.  I love her because her ‘go for it’ advice is the reason my once magnolia home now looks AMAZING – and more importantly made the cover of Scotland on Sunday magazine.

But the more I read her addictive style of decorating the more I want to buy and embellish a home that (as I’m downsizing) doesn’t need more stuff. She’s the interior equivalent to Carrie Bradshaw – who led a completely fabricated existence of consumption gone wild. It doesn’t help that like Carrie/SJP Abigail also has curly hair.

I hate shopping and am not a natural spender.  When it comes to clothing I hate change and could happily live in 5 pairs of identical black leggings and hoodies over grey or white t shirts and a simple black designer dress for dressier occasions.

I only shop when I’m avoiding something – reality, work, my children – the disturbing fact that right now my daughter’s lying in a bath full of water in the mermaid tail costume I bought her wishing she could swim away.

I love painting because it demands I wear my favourite dress code (leggings).  I dislike working in an office because office attire requires tights.

When I found myself single overnight I took in lodgers, got myself a job in London, rented my home out for film, TV and advertising shoots and promptly made a fortune.  Only to find myself panic buying the very lifestyle my cohabiting self had just rejected.

I’m all for moving on, firmly focused on the future.  But if you don’t address your shortcomings, how will changing your address leave you anywhere but firmly back where you started? At some point don’t we have to evaluate our priorities, stop buying things and pay off all our debts? I couldn’t help but wonder,  “can you really change your future without reflecting on your past?”

The married me bought a lot of stuff happy me would never look at twice. Sometimes when you lose your bearings what you really lose is who you are. Working me was like Miranda. But mother-to-be me became enthralled to a witty, pretty writer who spent her way to happiness.  Like Carrie, I couldn’t secure the undivided attention of the man I planned to marry.  There were always other women – at dinner, at airport check-ins, in hotel lobbies, by the pool and at the office.

I fear without reflection my life will come full circle.  Once again I’ll be adrift in the very place I’m trying to escape.

Because at the end of yet another failed relationship, when all I have want is my kids happiness, my own wealth health, and to eradicate my lingering self-doubt “I couldn’t help but wonder, no matter how far you travel or how much you run from it, can you ever really escape your past?” (SATC Episode thirteen, “Escape from New York”)

 

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Scotlnad on Sunday At Home Magazine

There’s a mirror in my bedroom leaning up against the wall.  It’s never suited its surroundings despite its beauty and being tall height.  “Where do you want it?” my cleaner asked, as she helped me move it from the corner to the door.  “I never really thought it belonged in here.”

 I KNOW EXACTLY HOW SHE FEELS!

I could put it in the garage with other neglected junk. But it’s too shiny and high maintenance to sit there rotting in the cold.  Or sell it for a pittance and hope it finds a happier home.  Or take its awkward solid frame to wherever I may go.

I lie awake at night hoping it won’t dislodge and fall on top of me and can’t help thinking it should never have been made.  I won’t destroy it though. And am reminded of my favourite story of the moment, THIS IS NOT MY HAT.

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This is not my home!

I have a grim week of viewings to face this week for a house that will not sell.  I know this because there are 3 other houses in the immediate vicinity that have been for sale for over a year.  The lucky ones have buyers making lowball offers with terms divorcing owners cannot afford to accept.  And so the misery of living together in financial desperation continues.

So when yesterday I packed my children off to holiday with their father,I flirted momentarily with packing my own bags and leaving all of this behind for good.

I excel at running.  Running households, running up bills hills, running myself ragged and this month running on empty.  But until now I have never run away.  Not even when my first husband died 12 years ago exactly a year after our house flooded and left me tens of thousands of pounds in debt.

I often imagine saying goodbye to the furniture Doris Lessing-style in The Golden Notebooks, but try and focus on the things I can control and restyle rooms that aren’t quite working for yet another pointless family viewing.

First up I tackle a guest bedroom.  I’m not happy with the black faux fireplace and paint it fossil, then vintage it with dusk.  The result transforms the room. Instead of completely painting out the black and gold of the original piece I brush over it lightly so bits of black and gold peek through to heighten the faux vintage effect.

The thing about working from home is that sometimes life takes over.  This happens despite me never going out, never returning phone calls and never having people over.  It’s frustrating when the barbed wire defences we erect to keep problems and people at bay fail to let the messiness of life overwhelm us but in the words of Lenin “What is to be done?”

I used to write in an office for a living, but much prefer painting.  Writing to deadline with no music surrounded by people you occasionally sleep eat with was paid hard work.  I thought decorating and blogging would be lifechanging easy, but have come to accept mine is a 3 prong strategy.  Life is one of the prongs.

Most people are lazy when it comes to moving.  I know, because my agent tells me not to bother cleaning all day right up until the viewing. IS HE INSANE?  Properties above £1m aren’t selling. Buyers wait excitedly to watch prices tumble further. Sellers wonder why on earth they ever needed so much space.

In some ways I’m back to my old self gain.  Firing on all cylinders with 3 loads of washing done, the rubbish out, contemplating whether to go for a run or clean the house before breakfast. I wonder if there’ll ever be a life for me beyond housework?

But back to business.  I figure my house appeals to financial services types who only like what they can’t afford. Experience has taught me never underestimate other people’s greed needs.

Wealthy aspirational buyers will pay for what they want.  But only if they see it there in front of them.  Handed to them on a plate. Red Ferrari in the drive . . . keys in the ignition . . . dream house styled to perfection.  I call it buyer’s lust.  Their heart beats faster as the adrenaline kicks in and they’ll sell their children if it gets them what they want. I know this because I observed it for many years working as a writer for financial services.  It’s partly why I left. It’s hard to write repeatedly that your firm’s a meritocracy when partners line their pockets with the hard work of others.

Many people in financial services, some like me who grew up with nothing, despite gaining great wealth by everyone else’s standards, never seem to have enough. Women are well known for succumbing to this in the handbag or shoe department, but with men it can reach a whole other dimension.  Sports cars aren’t cheap.  Neither is prime property.

It’s crazy to be selling now when everybody else is desperate to downsize so it makes sense to go the extra mile and give that one potential buyer exactly what they want. STATUS.  Money can buy you many things but it can’t buy you style.

My original title for this post was “Face your Fears” but that fleeting moment of overconfidence has past.  Like the property market, I’ve opted for realism.

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This week my children are a little out of sorts.  My son’s especially clingy and is generally seeking reassurance from his newborn little sister.  Whenever I attempt to leave the room he shouts “mummy I need you!” and whenever I sit down he climbs on my lap and bear hugs me until my ribs hurt.

Luckily I sent a ton of work to Juliana before the Easter holidays so only need the odd half hour to check her progress, advise on graphics and send links to copy I’ve already written.

I love the creative process and as well as advising on my website and offline marketing material, I’m advising on an interior as we speak.

It’s the most amazing space, with a myriad of rooms complete with fireplaces, curved walls and other quirky original features all in great condition but for some unexplained reason, lacking linger appeal.  Some rooms clients want to leave as soon as they enter. My challenge is to help the owner make dark rooms feel less cold and uninviting and create a cohesive experience for guests as they explore each room’s interior and ascend to the magnificent upper floor.

When it comes to commercial spaces there are no hard and fast rules.  The trick is to decide the mood or experience you want to create, and then find a colour scheme you like that draws people in, holds their curiosity long enough to drink in the atmosphere before encouraging them to take the next tantalizing bite of your interior commercial apple.

Because in life as with interiors people leave footprints on each other, as clear and deep as barefoot children running in the sand.  It takes a lot of courage to rise above those sodden ashes, start afresh, and try something new.  But for those courageous enough to take the plunge a new dawn and exciting possibilities await.

I stumbled across the quote “When nothing goes right, go left” on Pinterest and it inspired me to commission a neon quote that states “When nothing’s left, turn right”.  I figure it’s a fitting light reminder of this crossroads in my life.

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