Something I’m working on (whilst watching series 3 of The unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) #lemonading

I lost 7 years
Crying worthless tears
And I don’t have anywhere left to go
Hiding my sorrow is all I know
Stuck in second gear
For 7 years

Gave up my career
Raised my kids instead
How’d we end up here?
We had everything

Everyone falls
Stumbles and stalls
Heads into walls
Stand tall

Working overtime
To reclaim what’s mine
Anxious all the time
Drinking too much wine

Know that I’ll be fine
Resilience time

Got too much pride
To be a lonely wife
Living a humdrum life
I’m ride or die

Don’t want to live this lie
So get out
Bye bye
I’ll swim not drown
Fix my crown

Started taking pills
Too tired to feel
Rested up and chilled
Reassessed my skills

When your life’s a joke
You’re lost and broke
And your man ain’t your bloke
Be strong
Find hope

When your friends stop calling
And your ex comes back crawling
To what he thought was a sure thing
Get up
Start walking

Cos I got pride
Abundant drive
Know I’ll survive
Rise up and thrive

Copyright Nnena McKenzie 2017

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Being single isn’t easy.  Especially in today’s recessionary dating economic climate.

I realised my new Austerity at Home program wasn’t going according to plan when I overheard my son tell a playdate that we didn’t have an X Box because his mum was poor now. “Is that why you live in a flat?” his friend asked.  My son nodded sagely.

I like writing for a living.  Especially in investment management where I get paid to write about debt, risk and the prevailing economic environment.  It’s a challenge to write convincingly about complex  investment strategies designed to persuade a sceptic public of investor skill and human decision-making in an age of technology that frankly, suggests otherwise.

Creative work environments help me formulate my thoughts and crystallise ideas. Writing can be solitary. I enjoy a team dynamic.

It’s not easy being a mum, especially if you try to be a good one.  Being shamed back into your old job by a 7 year old’s perception of your finances is one of my all time top comedic family moments.  It’s also much more prevalent than you’d think.

I started reading Broke by economist David Boyle by chance. The tagline is Who killed the Middle classes?

I once wrote a letter to King’s College Cambridge, requesting a bursary at the end of my first year of university.  I kept my begging letter short and for impact wrote “I am black and working class”.  Five days later I received a cheque for £500 (an enormous sum for someone in my situation).  I subsequently wrote myself out of poverty the hard way enjoying equal helpings of tragedy, luck and tremendous good fortune. I’m still black and working class, but thanks to my own mum’s endeavours I’m also very well educated.

Money earned in a single generation skips the middle classes and so I’m richer than I need to be, but not as wealthy as my children would like.

Broke analyses how affluent middle class families were afflicted by a new austerity for which they only have themselves to blame.  It can’t end well, so it’s up to me to change my narrative.

I don’t know when or how my life became so dramatic – a tragi-comedy of errors and sudden bid for independence that ruined faux, familial idyll, changing everything for the better.  But as a writer I have more perspective now: on other people’s lives not just my own.  I also have funnier anecdotes (every writer’s bread and butter).

I thought it would be healthier for me to write and work from home. Apparently, my kids don’t need me healthier.  They need me wealthier.

Please share this with your network if you think they might enjoy it.

THIS IS NOT MY FLAT

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Setting up a business can be lonely.  Especially if you work from home without a sales team, business partner or life partner to bounce ideas off or tap for friendly advice.

There are good networking events out there but you need to do your home work. Avoid anything that claims an annual membership fee will mysteriously grow sales.  Try anything that allows you to attend on an event by event basis and has great guest speakers.  It’s up to you to make the most of networking opportunities as they present themselves by showing a genuine interest in others and thinking of ways to work productively either in partnership with them or at the very least leveraging their network and contacts to mutual advantage.  Expect to learn something, but don’t expect miracles.  You still need to apply yourself.

This morning’s breakfast briefing run by Fat Buzz and WeDO Scotland on blogging was well worth the £19.10 attendance fee.  I’ve been to these events before and they’re always well attended, great for networking (the central venue, Tiger Lilly, free coffee and bacon rolls ensures no one arrives late so there’s plenty of time to network with fellow attendees and talk to the speakers afterwards).

I blog because I enjoy it, but have also learnt that the process of blogging helps you learn about yourself, understand your audience and the industry you work in and disciplines you to keep up to date.  Blogging also unlocks hidden thoughts and ideas.

I’m no fan of interior design as an industry but I love creating interiors.  Where once I strived for perfection now I embrace doing things differently and going against the grain. If it doesn’t work it’s easy to fall back on standard design rules but often I come up with something unexpected, that’s better than anything I could have dreamed of.

I scour junk shops to find things I love because no ones making furniture or artwork that inspires or excites me.  I love classics because they lend themselves to experimentation.

So I was very excited when my Saudi Arabian lodger suggested I look up the American comic Fluffy on Youtube for his standup tour of Saudi Arabia, courtesy of a Saudi Prince.  Why? Because it inspired me to look at marketing my interior designs a little differently.

I’ve lost count of the number of times interior professionals and photographers have told me my interiors ideas would work well in London, Glasgow or anywhere but where I live in Edinburgh.  “Edinburgh only does timeless classics,” is something I hear all the time.  Georgian property lends itself to modern interior design, vintage classics and edgy, quirky touches so for me the timeless limitation is a missed opportunity.

I’m not sure whether a comic Youtube video on Edinburgh interior design would work.  But I’m willing to give it a try.  After all who needs another droll “How to make or solve an interior problem lecture”?  Far funnier to joke about the difficult business climate, the mistakes you’ve made long the way, the crazy things you’ve done to survive instead of an illusory perfection others struggle to relate to.

How we laughed when my friend opened her interiors shop, powder coated 6 reclaimed radiators only to discover there was no gas coming in.

How she cried when rectifying the problem cost several thousands of pounds leaving no money for stock.  The only reason she still has a business is because we literally raided our houses for items to sell until she made sufficient sales to place a decent Christmas order.  Small failings are the stuff of life.  Doing whatever it takes the new business reality.

Starting a business can be lonely.  Initial mistakes can be hilarious.   How better to gain an audience for your blog than sharing some of them? Everybody laughs at comic failures that make you who you are and somehow, in spite of everything, lead to well deserved success.

PLEASE SHARE THIS IF YOU ENJOYED IT!

IMG_3190Mandarin Oriental Bar Knightsbridge_

I love this light, but haven’t figured out how best to market it.  Photography only just does it justice and I may need to do a Trade Show if the economy ever picks up and people start spending money on interiors again.

Douglas Gibb was the photographer.  You can see more of his work on her-indoors the blog written by his wife Alison, documenting his interior photography around the UK.  I’m also hoping to showcase the light at night thanks to a computer science student I met with a love of panoramic photography.  He’s in the middle of photographing the exterior and interior of the house but already the results are stunning.  I’ve no idea why estate agents don’t do this sort of photography as standard.  It gives a real sense of how interior space flows.  He’s back again this week to finish up.  Can’t wait to upload the finished results.

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I love glimpses into other people’s lives.  Especially their interiors.  So when yesterday my friend Eva and I spent an exhilarating day in London enjoying lunch with friends on board The World I was in heaven.

There’s no denying the beauty and buzz of London.  Especially when you spend much of it on water with fabulous hosts, glorious weather and a wonderful group of friends.

Fun, quirky interiors inspire me and trump timeless elegance and formality every time.  Our hosts’ apartment was packed full of quirky, contemporary art and sculpture that made the space feel large despite being compact.  By far my favourite ornament was a large wooden painted penguin so realistic I half expected it to waddle in amongst us as we chatted before diving off the balcony to swim with friends.

I can only imagine the freedom such a lifestyle brings but am glad to see that art, design and friendship play a vital part in a liberating approach to life and business that happily accommodates many months at sea.

It’s refreshing meeting successful people who’ve taken a different approach.  To friendship, to living harmoniously with their soul mate, to balancing motherhood with work commitments, to business and relationships in general.  Taking a different approach takes confidence, something women often lack, so meeting brilliant, confident women and the men confident enough to be married to and do business with them was an invigorating delight.

Perhaps secretly we’re all pirates stealing moments of pleasure with our children, seeking love, adventure and work related riches that are ours for the taking if only we were brave enough to fight for what we need in life and the people we believe in.

I’ve not figured out how I’m going to create an interior styling business based in Edinburgh that works with international London clients but I’m more inspired and determined to than ever.

I met a very interesting gentlemen doing something different and exciting in high end property.  At the heart of his business model was putting client’s interest first and doing everything he could to satisfy clients’ commercial goals whilst surpassing the service offering of the traditional estate agency model.

It’s amazing how few businesses put client service at the heart of their business.  Those that do soon realize this not only leads to happy clients, but managed carefully, is a recipe for success.

Once lost, trust can rarely be recovered.  This is as true in business as it is in personal relationships.  Financial services learnt this the hard way, so it’s always interesting to meet people intelligent enough to seek reward for clients by eschewing outdated business models and doing things very differently.

As a child my mother always instilled the importance of writing thank you cards.  I had a truly wonderful time in London but as I sit here choosing a card to send my hosts, I can’t help wondering. “How do you send a thank you note to friends who live on board a boat?”

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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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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