A quick note about my new blog

As promised, this is just a quick note to let you know about my new blog. It’s called Cosy Life and it’s where I’ll be writing about personal stuff – e.g. recipes and outings – from now on. Diary of a Freelancer and any other copywriting-related posts will continue on this blog.

If you’d like to continue receiving all my updates, please head on over to Cosy Life and enter your email address to subscribe. Hope you like it – let me know what you think!

Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 13.30.43

Advertisements

Book Review – Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

20140107-205958.jpg

I write this review as a huge – and hugely disappointed – fan of the original Bridget Jones books and films. Do not proceed if you don’t want to read any spoilers.

Having just finished reading this book, I am unable to see any reason why Helen Fielding would have chosen to resurrect Bridget other than a desire to make further money from what had been a much-loved character. She should have left her well alone.

When we last saw Bridget, she was in her early thirties and happily setting off into the sunset with Mr Right, the wonderful Mark Darcy. Readers and film-viewers alike are invited to imagine that the couple lived happily ever after – the perfect ending and one that brought the two books to a pleasing conclusion.

Now, I’m no fantasist, and I know as well as anyone that there is no such thing as a fairytale “happily ever after” in real life. But in books and films, I don’t see why there shouldn’t be.

Fast-forward to Mad About the Boy, and we find – to our horror – that Mark Darcy is no more. He’s been blown up by a landmine in the course of his human rights lawyering in Syria or somewhere like that, and Bridget is now a widow, aged 51 and with two very young children. By my calculations that means that she must have had the children improbably late, in her late forties, but this is never explained. She’s now living in a nice house with all financial worries taken care of by her late husband, meaning that she’s free to spend lots of time obsessing over men once more and also dither around writing a screenplay, a modern retelling of a play that she doesn’t even know how to spell the name of or who the playwright is.

I can’t go any further without commenting that killing off Mark Darcy seems a crass plot twist, employed just to be able to put Bridget in the situation of being single again. It’s contrived, and it seems to indicate a complete lack of respect on the part of the author to her fans.

Even worse, and even more contrived, is the fact that Daniel Cleaver is still on the scene. Having magically been forgiven by Mark after his marriage to Bridget, and the two former rivals then becoming best friends, Daniel is the children’s godfather and enjoys an easy-going friendship with Bridget, who’s happy to leave her kids with him despite the fact that he ends up in rehab towards the end of the book. This was implausible, I thought; Cleaver, though undoubtedly an engaging and entertaining character, treated Bridget like crap throughout both the original books, and having had a similar figure in my life years ago, I can certainly say that I wouldn’t speak to the git again, let alone entrust my theoretical children to him.

Bridget’s situation in life is now so far removed from the original Bridget books that I felt it was now irrelevant to me. The book was completely dominated by boring scenes of kids and motherhood, not of any interest to me whatsoever, and the love interest that occupied most of the book was a stereotypical ‘toy boy’ character called “Roxster”, with whom Bridget seemed mostly to have utterly infantile and unfunny conversations about farts and vomit. Pathetic.

While in the original books Bridget only had the phone to worry about, she now has to contend with the multiple channels of modern communication – texting, email, Twitter etc. Many pages of the book are wasted with her unfunny attempts to get to grips with Twitter, which just seemed a contrived effort to try and bring Bridget into the present decade. Much of the charm of the original books was lost as a result, and the updating of the character was an abysmal failure.

I found the book predictable, mostly badly written and always unconvincing, a dreadful attempt to get some extra mileage from what had been a delightful character and a deeply unsatisfying follow-up to the supposed happy ending that brought The Edge of Reason to such a satisfying conclusion.

There’s another happy ending at the end of this one, with Bridget ditching the toy boy and shacking up with her kids’ school teacher, an ex-SAS guy who conveniently happens to have a massive country house (I know, completely implausible). But now that we know that we can’t trust Helen Fielding’s happy endings, one can only assume that we can expect another book at some point in which Mr Wallaker has been run over by a bus and Bridget’s on her own again, obsessing about some other ill-conceived guy who isn’t a patch on Mark Darcy.

1/5 stars.

9 inane phrases people need to stop using on social media

I’m a big fan of Twitter, and I mostly tolerate Facebook, but lately I’ve been increasingly annoyed by some of the utterly inane words and phrases I’ve seen people using, presumably because they think it makes them look funny, or because they think it makes their boring status update marginally more socially acceptable because it’s phrased in a way that they think is cool. The words and phrases in the list I’ve compiled below are the ones currently irking the hell out of me on social media.

NB: before you say it, yes, I know that language evolves. And before you say it, yes, I know that oft-spouted fact about Shakespeare having made up all those new words. There’s nothing wrong with language evolving, except when it makes you look a total moron. As all these ones do.

1. “Dear [insert name of inanimate object here], blah blah blah blah blah, love me”

Example: “Dear Rain. It was really nice of you to come out and spoil my walk this afternoon and get me soaked. Regards, me.”

It isn’t funny or cute to write like this, it’s just idiotic. Can the rain actually hear you addressing your little letter to it? Is it going to make a blind bit of difference to the situation? And do your friends and followers even care that the rain came out to spoil your walk? No. No. And no. So just shut up.

2. “Oh hai”

Example: “Oh hai, brand new shiny iPad”

I understand that you’re pleased you’ve got a new iPad. I would be too. But why not just say “I’m so happy with my brand new shiny iPad?” Did that really need “Oh hai”? As if the iPad can hear you talking to it? And “hai” isn’t even a word. Variations include “Oh hello” or “Why hello”.

3. “[insert massive show-off object/holiday/whatever]? Don’t mind if I do”

Example: “An all-expenses-paid trip to Barbados by private jet? Don’t mind if I do”

This roundabout way of showing off has crept into the English language thanks to Facebook. People feel the need to show off on social media about what a great time they’re having, or how brilliant their life is, but it’s not very socially acceptable, so they’ve found a method of showing off in a way that, on the face of it, doesn’t look like overt showing off, just a harmless rhetorical question. People who use this phrase aren’t fooling anybody though – we all know that they’re just bragging, and it’s almost worse for the fact that they’ve tried to disguise it. Variations include replacing “Don’t mind if I do” with “As you do”, or “Oh, go on then”.

4. “YOLO”

Example: “Quick selfie #yolo”

Otherwise known as “carpe diem”, but for those who have no intellect, YOLO (“you only live once”) seems to have sprung up fairly recently and appears to be used mostly by daft teenagers who can’t get over how amusing they are. And in the example above – an actual example taken from a quick scan of the “YOLO” hashtag – the fact that one only lives once is NOT an excuse for your habitual vanity.

5. “So”

Example: “So today I was walking down the street and I saw someone walking their cat.”

I know that “So” is a perfectly innocuous word. But as the example above illustrates, for some reason EVERYONE has started beginning ALL their sentences with it. The example I’ve given is just one of pretty much every single other sentence that would work perfectly well without the “So” at the beginning, but this infuriating habit is now everywhere. I really don’t understand how these things start.

6. “I am in you”

Example: “Brighton, I am in you!”

I don’t think you need me to spell out how wrong this phrase sounds. But even leaving aside rude connotations of the phrase “in you”, and the fact that you’re once again addressing something that isn’t a person and therefore can’t hear you, this unfortunate phrase just makes you look an idiotic crowd-follower. You’re only using this phrase because everybody else does. Why don’t you say “Just arrived in Brighton” and accompany this fairly boring fact with something interesting that’s happened along the way?

7. “Totes”, and every single other ludicrous word shortening

Example: “It’s totes amazing”

It’s not “totes”, it’s “totally”. It’s not “ridic”, it’s “ridiculous”. If you’re pushed for characters, just find a shorter word for the same thing. And don’t even get me started on people who actually use these words in their real-life speech.

8. “Amazeballs”

Example: “OMG the new Breaking Bad was totes amazeballs”

I don’t know where this word originated, but there are no words for how horrible it is.

9. “Oh em gee”

Example: “Oh em gee have you heard about so and so?”

“OMG” is an abbreviation of “Oh My God”. That’s fine. BUT IT’S NOT AN ABBREVIATION ANYMORE IF YOU ACTUALLY WRITE IT OUT PHONETICALLY. It’s the same number of letters, you absolute imbecile. As for people who actually say it out loud in real-life speech, the less said about them, the better.

I’ll probably lose a load of followers for this post, but I don’t care. If you have any words or phrases you think should have been on this list, leave a comment below and I’ll add it if I agree with you.

UPDATE

Lots of you got in touch with even more inane phrases you’d like to see the back of, and I remembered a few too.

10. “Sleeps” (as in “10 sleeps til Christmas”. Only acceptable if you’re aged four or under)

11. “.com” (as in “I’m bored.com”. Adding .com to the end of something doesn’t make it any more interesting a sentiment, and it makes you look a fool)

12. “Just sayin'” (adding this to the end of an insult is not an excuse for being rude)

13. “Get your [whatever] on” (as in “get your geek on” – what does that even mean?)

14. “Chez [surname]” (not an acceptable way to describe your house unless you are French)

15. “Le sigh” (why? I just don’t get it)

16. “I’m not being funny, but…” (no, you’re right, you’re not being funny)

17. “BOOM” – is your name Basil Brush? No? Then stop it.

Wendy and Peter Pan at the RSC

Last night we were taken on an enchanting journey to Neverland courtesy of the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. If you think you might want to see this show, I would advise you to save reading this review for after you’ve seen it, because it will contain spoilers. However, I will say straightaway that I would definitely recommend you do go and see it, because it’s brilliant!

It was only the second night of the show, and a reduced price preview that we’d booked ages ago with some vouchers I won for a blogging prize in my old job. Before going into the theatre itself we had a wander around. It had changed a lot since I went in my university days, the tower being completely new (and unfortunately not open for a pre-theatre view of Stratford). There was an absolutely magnificent Christmas tree in one of the cafe areas:

photo 2(10)

There were quite a few clever jars dotted about with ‘fairies’ projected into them so that they looked as though they were moving around – they certainly got you in the mood for a trip to Neverland.

photo 1(10)

The stage at the RST is an Elizabethan style one that juts into the audience, and we had really good seats at the side and near the front.

photo 3(6)

When we arrived, the place was swarming with children and yappy teenagers, but when everyone was sitting down it was clear that the adults vastly outnumbered the youngsters. The first thing that surprised me about the performance was that the actors were all adults, which I thought was a good thing as child actors can be a little annoying. The three Darling boys were very entertaining. If you imagine a stereotypical Oxford student, that would be them. Peter Pan was accompanied by about half a dozen ‘shadows’, who were very good – I got the impression they might be a dance troupe, as they were beautifully choreographed.

Wendy, a character aged 13, was played by someone whom we later learned was 27! I thought she was one of the weakest actors – I’m no expert, but she seemed to be overacting and I couldn’t always tell whether the hesitation in her lines was because she was overacting or because she was actually struggling to remember her lines. The two other actresses were somewhat better – a rather brooding Tiger Lily and a very amusing Tinkerbell, who took everyone by surprise by starting off as a tiny light flying around with a little mouse voice and then morphing into a bitchy, plus-size Essex girl character dressed like a pink ballerina with wings. Brilliant!

Captain Hook was excellently portrayed by Guy Henry, whom I thought I recognised from somewhere. I looked him up on IMDB when we got home, and it turned out that he had had a minor role in Harry Potter and he also played Mr Collins in the ITV series Lost in Austen, which I loved. He was rather different in his pirate guise though, and a good villain. His own arch-nemesis, the Crocodile, representing his battle with time, was one of the best aspects of the performance. Dressed in a top hat, long green leather coat and a very long stripy scarf, he looked like a cross between the Mad Hatter, and Morpheus from the Matrix, holding a pocket watch. He was fabulously enigmatic and moved across the stage doing the splits quite a few times and strutting authoritatively the rest of the time.

The Lost Boys were great, particularly Curly, who had a strong Welsh accent.

The set was stunning, with the actors often ‘flying’ on wires and a proper pirate ship moving around the stage during parts of the performance. I was particularly impressed when the whole stage floor lifted up to reveal a second set, representing the house under the ground in which Peter and the Lost Boys lived.

The language had been subtly updated with anachronistic sayings such as “and the way he’s, like…” or “What happened? Captain Hook happened”, which was quite funny I thought. There was definitely enough there to keep adults entertained just as much as children, a bit like a panto but more sophisticated. One little girl in the audience clearly thought she was at a panto, as during one moment when the pirates were sneaking up behind one of the characters she cried, “He’s behind you!”, much to the amusement of the cast and the audience, the latter even applauding her!

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, topped off by ice creams in the interval – salted caramel for me and double choc for Lee. Yum!

photo 5(2)

Wendy and Peter Pan is on in Stratford until March, so you’ve got loads of time to go and see it!

My first interview – and a bit about my new company

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Lee and I had filmed an interview with Cotswold TV promoting Air Experiences. Well today it went live, and we’re really pleased with it! Click the image below to watch it – the actual interview starts a minute in.

Air Experiences interview

I thought I’d also take this opportunity to write a bit more on here about why we started the company and how we did it, as I’ve not really properly introduced the business on this blog. If you’ve not yet visited the website, you can see it here:  http://www.airexperiences.co.uk.

Why did we set up the company?

Lee had had the idea for an aviation experiences company for quite a long time, as he had managed a couple of gliding clubs and had dealt with the bigger voucher companies from the supplier end. He felt that they offered quite a poor deal to both the flying clubs and the customers, as they required quite big discounts on flying club prices and the cost to the customer was quite a long way above what the actual cost of flying is. I’ve always quite fancied having my own business, particularly being my own boss, and when Lee mentioned the idea, it sounded like a great way of making money, together, doing something we both love. I didn’t realise when we first had the idea for the business, but it would turn out that by the time we launched the business, I would be a freelance copywriter, with Air Experiences as another string to my bow.

I can’t remember the exact moment we decided to go ahead and set up Air Experiences, but it started sometime in August when we purchased a few different domains after a lengthy discussion of what to call the company (and finding that pretty much all the names we thought of had already been taken!). We eventually settled on Air Experiences and I started setting up the website.

Setting up a website takes AGES

Setting up the website was a laborious process, as the first WordPress theme I bought turned out to be a dud, so that wasted a lot of time. I found the current theme and got the basic structure in place, before writing all the copy and getting that fine-tuned. The worst bit of the process was trying to get the e-commerce functionality set up – something I have no experience with, so there was a good deal of trial and error. Still, I am very happy with the result and have had loads of compliments about it. Lee was a massive help in the website build, as among other things he designed the logo, sourced all the images and helped write a load of the copy as well.

Screen shot 2013-11-28 at 16.58.31

There was just SO much to think about and organise…

Lee also masterminded the other major part of this process – getting flying clubs to sign up with us. We initially aimed for a basic minimum offering of gliding, light aircraft and helicopters, but thanks to his hard work and dedication (and mine too!), we ended up launching with flying clubs offering vintage aircraft flights, aerobatics and microlights in addition to what we’d been aiming for. We visited quite a few suppliers in person by flying in to different airfields, and Lee also spoke to lots of clubs up and down the country on the phone and email. This also entailed getting them to sign supplier agreements and negotiating prices, so it was a lot of work.

To support the website, we also got some other marketing materials printed. I wrote a leaflet that we can give out to people, and Lee did the design. Lee also designed some pull-up banners to use for trade stalls, and branded clothing that helps us look the part (as you can see in our interview video!). Oh, and he designed the actual vouchers as well, and business cards. We also had to source nice gold envelopes for the presentation packs, and write booking notes on how people should book their experience and what they should expect on the day. We did our own photoshoot ourselves, at our local airfield, photographing ourselves in and around various aircraft, which we use on the website and in promotional material. I set up social media accounts as well and have been tweeting and Facebooking regularly. Then there’s been the nitty gritty business side of things – setting up a bank account and so forth.

DSC_0155

There has been SO much to think about – so much hard work went into launching the business on 16 October, but it didn’t take long before we had our first order, a £175 hour-long flying lesson. I’m really proud to have got to this point, and it’s nice to have an additional income stream for us both, just in case my freelance copywriting goes through a quiet spell (not looking likely at the moment!). That said, our focus is not on making money, but on being able to run a business together and share our passion for aviation with other people. Our profit margins are low, so we don’t make much from each flight – but that’s not the point. Setting up Air Experiences has been great for developing my own skills too, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of managing our PR, communications, social media and of course copywriting.

What’s next for Air Experiences?

So what’s next? Now that we’ve launched, our aim from here is to publicise the company both locally (in the places we offer flights) and nationally, and get more flying clubs to sign up with us. We’ll be doing some Christmas markets to sell our vouchers on the street and hand out as many flyers as we can, and we have other interviews in the offing as well. We also hope to expand our offering to cover all kinds of aviation, from hot air ballooning to skydiving and wing-walking. 2014 is going to be a busy year!

If you’re stuck for ideas on what to get someone for Christmas, do bear Air Experiences in mind – our vouchers make the perfect present for someone who already has everything they could possibly want!

Freelance copywriter for hire (me)!

I did something pretty scary a couple of weeks ago. I quit my job.

Giving up the financial security of a permanent job may sound slightly mad in these times of economic uncertainty, but I felt it was high time I did what I’ve always wanted to do and set myself up as a freelance copywriter. Copywriting is what I’ve always been most interested in career-wise, and having worked in a rapidly growing travel company and two digital agencies, I’ve had lots of opportunity to build up an enviable portfolio of copywriting work, including Skyscanner and Lancaster University.

Now I feel it’s time for me to take things to the next level by taking the bold step of branching out on my own, which will have the added benefit of giving me the flexibility I need to be able to fly on the rare occasion the weather is actually good enough (at the moment, it’s just my luck that every time the weather is nice I’m chained to my desk!).

I’m going to be officially freelance as of 15 October, offering the full range of copywriting services, both online and offline, but specialising in website content – primarily on-site copy, blogging and news sections. In preparation, I’ve already added a couple of new pages to my site, giving some information about why you should hire me and my rates.

As if this weren’t big enough career news, Lee and I are also setting up a business together doing something completely different, but that will also make use of my skills as a copywriter and my wider digital marketing experience. But more news on that in the next week or two once I finally finish building the website… Watch this space!

Meanwhile, if you’d like to have the honour of becoming my first official freelance client, just fill in the form below to send me an email!

My first solo flight!

A momentous thing happened today – I flew solo for the first time!!! (Yes, that news is exciting enough that it warrants three exclamation marks.)

The normal motorglider I’ve been learning in was offline, so I did my first solo in a motorglider I hadn’t even flown before. Luckily it was actually nicer than my normal one, and the controls were all identical.

We did five take-offs and landings first, during which I successfully managed a simulated field landing and an approach and landing with no airbrakes (so that I would know how to do this if they failed for some reason).

On the penultimate circuit I said to Lee “shall we just do two more including this one and then call it a day?” and he agreed, but after we landed and were about to go up again he asked if I wanted to do a solo one. My initial response was “No!!!” and then “well… ok then”.

Here’s a pic Lee took after he hopped out and I was about to take off on my own for the very first time. Scary stuff!!

photo-5

The aeroplane handled very differently flying by myself, because it was so much lighter, and it took off much quicker. Take-off went fine and I climbed to about 1000ft off the end of the runway. I took the power down a bit and relaxed enough to take the photo below and this video. I hate “selfies” but there’s not a lot of choice for recording one’s first solo flight!

IMG_3672

The bit I was most apprehensive about was, of course, the landing. The thought that if anything went wrong I just had to deal with it on my own, without Lee sitting next to me, was scary to say the least. Also, with just my weight in the plane it was harder to actually get it to land. But I managed it fine – it wasn’t my prettiest of landings, but it was safe and I didn’t break the plane or myself! Taxying was another worry – what if I accidentally hit a parked plane! But that was fine too. Here’s one Lee took of me coming off the runway to park.

DSC_0208_2

The expression on my face says it all:  elation, relief, pleased as Punch!

DSC_0214_2

Me and my fantastic instructor!

DSC_0227_2

And finally, it was time to enter my first solo flight in my log book, recording the Captain as “Self” rather than my instructor for the first time! So thrilled!

IMG_3675