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.

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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.

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IMG_3190Mandarin Oriental Bar Knightsbridge_

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!