At last – a job for love AND money!

After blogging wishful witterings about my job situation in September, my work life has turned round! I was offered a freelance contract until Christmas that was well paid, based at a company I’d worked with before and with people I loved. Just as I was signing up for that, another company got in touch to offer me an interview for a permanent job I had applied for 5 weeks before! It’s amazing what a difference a few days can make…

Fast forward to the end of November and I was once again having a farewell lunch with my work colleagues. They had agreed to release me early from my freelance contract as I’d been offered a permanent role… On 28th November, I started the next phase of my career, possibly in one of my dream jobs; Social Media Community Manager for a large retailer. 

One month on and I’m totally immersed in all things Facebook and Twitter. My friends can’t believe I get paid to be on Facebook all day, and it does sound kind of cool when you say it like that! The actual job reality is far more involved. My days are spent juggling expectations of many different departments who all want to flaunt their wares using these social channels, without understanding that our job is to build conversations within a community, not just flog them stuff!

It’s immersive, intensive and the long hours are ruining my plans to go to the gym after work each night! But I’m loving the challenge and looking forward to 2012 being a whole year of job satisfaction…

Is work about the love or the money?

Freelancing as a career can mess with your mind!

It’s great when work comes in a steady stream – I love meeting new people and being able to slot-in as part of their team, applying my skills to whatever industry they happen to be in (and believe me, these industries can be really random!)

When work slows down – I know all freelancers experience this, but after a short break you start to wonder: Will someone else hire me soon? Am I good at what I do? Should I start applying for permanent jobs?

I’ve had a little quiet time on the work front recently and I’ve thought all of the above. However, I’ve also done a couple of unpaid favours for friends during this time – a CV rewrite, some profiling and blog editing – and it reminds me that I’m good at what I do, so I mustn’t lose heart!

Although I’m freelancing, I’m also on the lookout for my permanent ‘dream job’ – I’m not 100% sure what it is, but I do know it will involve or be inspired by:
Social media
Girlie stuff

An eclectic mix I’m sure you’ll agree, but a spark from one or more of these favourite things will lead me to a brilliant role one of these days!

It’s not just about the money, it’s about the love of the job that’s really important to me…

Hazzard help for cyclists!

For me, bike riding is freedom. I have the pedal power to transport myself all over the local area, with the wind in my hair and the occasional bug in my teeth! However, I didn’t realise as a newbie that there are potential hazards to be avoided on the way, so let me pass on my findings…

Lefties rule!
Cycle pathsDuring our first ride, Other Half and I rode on the cycle paths in Stevenage at a leisurely pace, side by side, when in the distance, I could see a fellow male cyclist coming towards us. He and I were both on the right hand side of the cycle path; we both had plenty of opportunity to move over, but neither of us did. Hmm I thought, is this some sort of game of chicken bike initiation test? Neither of us budged, (although I moved as far to the edge on the right as I could) and we passed with only a small gap between us.

I tutted and shook my head wondering why he had been so stubborn about staying on my side when Other Half laughingly pointed out that cycle paths observe the same rules as the road i.e. you ride on the left! Unfortunately, the other cyclist was too far gone to hear my apology or see my flush of embarrassment. In my defence, the cycle path was unmarked and it’s only now that I’ve ridden on other routes with painted white lines, that the road-style layout is obvious. Still, another lesson learned…

It’s a bugs life…
Bug in teethFreewheeling down a hill or struggling to get up a steep gradient may create an involuntary smile or grimace, thus leading to the accidental ingestion of various bugs. I’m pretty sure it’s happened to me already and despite not being a vegetarian, I still find it difficult to consider it ‘an extra bit of protein’! I guess only time will tell if I remember to my mouth closed when out riding, but as Other Half will testify, it’s not that often that I don’t have something to say…

URO (Unidentified Random Objects) including:
Bike hazzardsDebris – including tree branches, carrier bags and fast food containers. You see them up ahead but the more you think about not running over them, somehow it seems to bring on the inevitability that you do. A good tip is to keep your eyes firmly on the route ahead instead of staring at the obstacle; I find the chance of avoiding it increase dramatically!
Children on bikes – appearing from nowhere screaming “I can’t stop!” at the top of their voices and zooming past your front wheel with only inches to spare.
Animals – although I’ve only encountered a few dogs off the lead and a horse rider so far, I read this blog post ‘Animals that potentially ruin bike rides’ with great interest.

What are your tips about ‘Things I wish I known when I started cycling’?

My current mountain biking kit for beginners: 2011 Merida Matts 20-MD Bike, Giro Skyla helmet, Altura Ladies Trail Liner Cycling Shorts, Altura Ladies Ascent Baggy Cycling Shorts, Altura Synchro Baggy Short 3/4, Endura Women’s Rapido Mitts

Thanks to for the bug image!

Does my bum look big in padded shorts?

3/4, Baggy and Trail Liner Altura Padded Shorts

3/4, Baggy and Trail Liner Altura Padded Shorts

The world should be a comfier place now I own 3 pairs of padded shorts! Yes, I’ve entered the incredibly glamorous world of bike riding and these fashion forward statement pieces are amongst my newest purchases. It’s doubtful when wearing them that I’ll ask “Does my bum look big in this?” as blatantly, it does. However, I like to think my rounded posterior is more JLo-esque than nappy-esque, and can be happy in this ignorance as I don’t have rear view mirrors on my mountain bike!

Giro Skyla bike helmet

Giro Skyla bike helmet £34.99

My Giro Skyla bike helmet could also give rise to a quick snigger from non-bikers on first glance; it enhances my ears (fortunately, they’re not too big!), leaves tramlines on my forehead from the padding and, flattens my hair in ways straighteners could only dream off. Still, safety is the main priority as my head is worth looking after, so I’m just going to concentrate on whizzing past the smirkers on two wheels…

Endura Women's Rapido Mitts

Endura Women's Rapido Mitts £15.99

Least embarrassing are my Endura Rapido Mitts (known to non-bikers as fingerless padded gloves!) They give me a look of ‘she’s-a-proper-bike-rider’, as well as adding practical comfort. Although I could enter a whole world of bike specific clothing (shoes, socks, lycra leggings, tops etc) I think I’d better actually go out for more than one ride before I start investing…

My current mountain biking kit for beginners: 2011 Merida Matts 20-MD Bike, Giro Skyla helmet, Altura Ladies Trail Liner Cycling Shorts, Altura Ladies Ascent Baggy Cycling Shorts, Altura Synchro Baggy Short 3/4, Endura Women’s Rapido Mitts

Australia claims my Starbucks drinking buddy…

I got some really happy/sad news, in just over a week my lovely friend CB is emigrating to Australia. We’ve been friends for a relatively short period but every time we meet up at Starbucks, our chats literally go on for hours!

I admire her so much because she is brave enough to move thousands of miles away to start another chapter of her life. She is doing something I think I might want to do, but will probably never know if I have the guts to do it…

Lifestyle is a huge happiness factor; the sparkle in CB’s eyes when she talks about the last time she worked in Oz explains exactly why she’s going back. Of course it will be really difficult to move away from family and friends but with facebook, twitter, email and skype, it’s a long way from the days of keeping in touch with postcards and letters.

As a great fan of everything American, Other Half and I think we would like to move there and try out the work and lifestyle, at least for a year or two. It’s easy to think that now, knowing how difficult it is to actually get it (our chances are virtually nill) but in reality, could we really live so far away from the families we are so close to?

Back in the 60’s, my mam and dad both travelled to the bright lights of London from their homes in Sunderland and Devon, excited about who they would meet and what they would find. Their fearless nature led to a good few years of working hard and playing hard. Today’s version of London are places like America, Australia and even Dubai; you just need to work in the right kind of global company. There are opportunities out there, it’s often just a case of right time, right place… Maybe one day?

The power of Twitter to get a wiggle on…

Twitter iconWow, what a great day to be a customer! The power of Twitter shone through for me this week when I bought some bike shorts from Wiggle. I ordered them late on Tuesday night, chose free first class delivery, and the goods arrived Thursday morning. I tweeted Wiggle that day to convey my joy at their speedy delivery (because I always think you should tell someone if you are happy with their service!)

As I tried the shorts on that night, the padded liner was missing from one pair so, I packaged them up to send back the next day. I tweeted the following that night: 

@wigglebikeshop quick delivery but missing liner in shorts! 😦 testing out your customer services now – reserving judgement on first order!

At 8.45am the next day, I got a tweet from them:

@ThatCopyGirl Sorry to hear that, could you tweet me your order number and I will make sure this issue is dealt with ASAP! Have a nice day!

I retweeted this and added #impressivecustomerservice tag.

Two hours later, I also had an email from them apologising again and offering a £5 voucher for the inconvenience. Well done Wiggle for excellent customer service! 

Long gone are the days of writing letters or ringing customer services – this is the age of social media and instant responses. Tweeting = consumer power!

A mountain bike without the mountain, please!

Race for Life 2011

Yes, my face goes that colour every time I run!

38 minutes 6 seconds is never going to gain me entry into the Olympics, but last Sunday I finished the St Albans Race for Life 5k, six and a half minutes faster than last year.

As proud as I felt at that moment for raising money for charity and not giving up, I also hated every minute of running round that course, so I’m officially switching from being a ‘runner’ to being a ‘biker’.

Yes, that’s right, Other Half and I have invested our pennies in two brand new mountain bikes that arrived this week – I say pennies when in fact it was many pounds; I cannot believe how expensive it is to get a decent mountain bike! After many, many, many hours of research (“By me!” shouts Other Half in the background), we did get a great web deal on two 2011 Merida Matts 20-MD mountain bikes that were £200 cheaper than their usual selling price. There are a few reasons we are trying out the bike route:

  • Biking has GOT to be easier than running for no other reason than I find running really hard!
  • My sister’s Other Half got a bike 2 months ago and has totally transformed into a ‘Slim Jim’ – we want it to be our magic weight loss bullet too!
  • We have lots of cycle paths near to where we live that don’t involve big hills – I’m a fan of flat paths/gentle slopes (as a beginner!)

It’s just a case now of literally getting on our bikes, in our padded shorts… (more on that after the first ride!)

My current mountain biking kit for beginners: 2011 Merida Matts 20-MD Bike

Is blog honesty the best policy?

Last week, I joined the More To Life Than Shoes website, and after only a few days, got a message from Nadia (our fabulous leader!) She passed on an ad from a company looking for a part-time copywriter / blogger, so I sent an email to investigate…

The initial feedback sounded interesting. The company is based within the film and TV industry, located within a half hour drive and, there is potential for an avalanche of copywriting. The owner is interesting and engaging to talk to, and has seen a spark of potential in me through reading this blog!

I have often wondered if blog honesty is the best policy. I’ve written in detail about the highs and lows of searching for a great copywriting / blogging job, and did wonder if it would ever come back to bite me! My out-of-the-blue email enquiry, backed up by my blog, is either going to fade into nothing or, provide a great step into an interesting new world…

Running 5k (away from peanut butter!)

Since coming back from holiday in April half a stone heavier, (all that lovely American food was worth it!), my fitness regime has taken a bit of a nosedive. I haven’t had the desire to get back on the Weight Watchers bandwagon yet, so I’ve been relying on sporadic gym visits to get me back on track.

Peanut butter on toastAlas, I’m only human, and I’m not working out enough to combat the speed I can eat peanut butter on toast! To spur me on, I’ve signed up again this year for the St Albans Race for Life. The thought of running a 5k where I MUST BEAT last year’s time, is enough pressure to get my trainers back on!

Being a great fan of ‘The Biggest Loser USA’ and MTV’s ‘I Used To Be Fat’, I’m mortified to see people weighing twice as much as I do, running 5K in half the time it takes me! Ok, so these people work out for 6 hours every day with a personal trainer by their side but even so, I was feeling pretty inadequate.

For all you treadmill junkies out there, I usually run on a 7.2km speed and build up slowly to 8.5km by the end. If I complete the 5k (because sometimes I haven’t got the stamina to run more than 3k), it takes around 45 minutes. To up the ante, my speed is now 8.5km for most of the run with a quick sprint right at the end, in desperation to get finished! This takes about 35 minutes.

I’m never going to break any Olympic speed records at this rate, but as long as I can run the whole way AND beat last year’s time, it will be a great achievement for me! Why not donate the cost of one cup of coffee to a great cause? £2.50 can help to make a world of difference in cancer research… If you’d like to sponsor me, follow this link

Thanks to for the image!

Super-size, American style!

Anyone who knows me is familiar with my love affair with America – it’s the holiday destination of choice for Other Half and I (every year if finances allow!) One of the reasons we love going is to sample the different foods on offer but, one thing never fails to amaze us – the portion sizes are out of this world, but not in a good way!

Whilst in Florida, we visited Olive Garden – a popular Italian style restaurant chain. We went in for lunch and ordered a pizza for me and a pasta dish for Other Half. The waitress asked whether I wanted soup or salad and I politely declined either. She looked at me wide-eyed in shock and said, “But it’s free?!?” To keep the peace, I agreed to a salad and Other Half chose one of the 4 soups on offer. We had delicious warm, fluffy garlic breadsticks left on the table to occupy us while we waited.

Less than 10 minutes later, my super-sized salad arrived…
  Olive Garden Salad

I’m not sure if the photo conveys how big this 1 person salad is, but it’s no exaggeration to say I could have worn the bowl as a hat! We also heard from the customer behind us that the soup and salad can be replenished at no extra cost, as many times as you like. This is all before the main course has even arrived…

This is the norm in America. I often wonder what the Yanks think when they visit Britain – are they astounded that you have to order and pay for a separate starter? When the main course arrives, are they startled by the average sized portion?

I love America and its wonderfully hospitable people, but they are literally killing themselves with kindness…