Pity post alert, and apologies.

The freelance life suits me…

There’s not much better than a sneaky midweek escape on my bike

I make no secret of it, I like being in control. It’s one of the reasons I find a freelance career suits me so well – I get to choose the type of work I do, choose the clients I work with (and those who my gut tells me I should avoid) and I can choose my working hours.

Of course, I need to work to my clients’ agendas and timetables; that’s part of the deal. If an event I’m hosting starts at 6 on a Friday evening, then I’ll be there, fully prepared, looking the part, and in the right frame of mind to perform to the best of my abilities.

But the counter to that is that if I have a deadline of a Wednesday morning and it’s sunny on Tuesday, I can haul my bike out of the shed, head for the hills, and maybe squeeze in a sneaky swim while I’m at it.

I’ll return to my laptop full of endorphins and in a much better frame of mind to work late into the night, if that’s what it takes. I’ve had my fun, enjoyed he best of the day, and – as often happens – my mind will have worked out exactly how to solve the problem. It’s a win-win. If you’ve had the flexibility of working from home these past couple of years, you might get where I’m coming from.

Freelance work has been my life for the past 20-plus years, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, it has its downsides. While I have clients who I’ve become close to over the years, I’m always conscious that they are still clients, and our working relationship depends on me continuing to deliver. I miss not having an IT or finance department. And – crucially I don’t have back-up if something goes wrong.

… until things go wrong

Things hardly ever go wrong, but they did last week, and I have rarely felt more guilty and helpless than when calling to let someone down. I woke up last Thursday unable to move through back pain. More than just painful, it was embarrassing. Thankfully a friend ably stepped in on my behalf. But even that didn’t alleviate my guilt.

Instead of a weekend spent working on Friday, then cycling, gardening and out with friends on Saturday and Sunday, I was counting the hours till I could take my next drugs. The cocktail of pills took the edge off my pain, but left me feeling drowsy, nauseous and in all honestly, teary, and pathetic.

Back pain? I hear you. I get it.

This isn’t just a pity post, it’s an apology too. My pain – worse than childbirth – will be temporary, I hope.

But if you have ever complained to me of your own back pain and received a less than sincerely sympathetic response, I wholeheartedly apologise. I just didn’t get it. I hear you know.

Just now, I am grateful. For understanding clients, good friends, and strong painkillers. And with deadlines delayed, I’m back off to bed.

The Silver Lining – Pride and Prejudice

One thing I have managed to achieve during my fug of inactivity, was listening to the audiobook of Pride and Prejudice. It’s one of those texts we had to struggle through at school. Then, I found it completely inaccessible. School made us read great books far too soon – Catcher in the Rye is another, as is To Kill a Mockingbird. Feel free to share your own.

The first time I realised the joy of Austen’s story (and the attraction of the proud Mr Darcy) was in that fabulous 1995 six-part BBC adaptation starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. But even that was heavily edited.

If you have an Audible subscription (It’s the best £7.99 I spend every month) then I commend it to you. Rosamund Pike reads it in 11 hours and 35 minutes and it’s utterly delicious. Maybe I should force myself to lie flat more often if these are the silver linings.

Thankfully, I have spawned a feeder!

The hairiest dog. Matching blossom and tongue.

Letting go of control (in an enforced ‘I can’t actually do it myself’ way has given me another silver lining – Daughter #2’s cooking. She has moved back home, bringing her wonderful, affectionate, desperately hairy, red golden lab, and she has cooked for me, like it or not.

She has force-fed me with veg-packed and protein rich meals when all I had asked for was a cup of tea and a biscuit, and watched over me till I have eaten ever last chickpea, spinach leaf and red pepper.

Children inherit different traits from their parents. I am grateful she has inherited my need to feed.

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