10-Minute Chat:​ Actor

’10-MINUTE CHAT’ IS A SERIES OF INTERVIEWS TALKING WITH EXTRAORDINARY ‘NORMAL’ PEOPLE NAVIGATING INTERESTING CAREERS, LIVING REMARKABLE LIVES AND FOLLOWING THEIR PASSIONS.

 

giphy1535998379

 

If you could go back and ‘do it all again’, what path would you take?

Would you be an artist? A teacher? A mechanic? Or pay more attention in science classes and go on to study medicine? Even as young adults in our mid-twenties (babies forchristsake) the feeling of ‘you’re now too old to start something new’ gets shoved down throats on a daily basis. That if you’re not on track to reach dizzying heights of career success before you’re 30, well then just quietly dismantle those ambitions now my dear. Articles profiling the latest wünderkid in fashion / politics / business / tech, roundup ‘ones to watch’ lists of bright P.Y.Ts and tidbits of information your mum casually passes on over a cuppa about ‘Jane’s son is deputy head of his department now. And he’s only 25’ feed this societal narrative that if you’re going to seriously pursue something, you should’ve started chasing it straight from the womb.

Sticking two fingers up at that boring rhetoric at the grand old age of 21, Daisy Marsh halted on the conventional school-uni-work-death road and shifted her life course towards fulfilling her dream in becoming a professional actor. She took a giant scary leap back into education three years ago to learn her craft and hasn’t stopped since.

‘ I’ve always known that I wanted to work in theatre, but I think I was slightly confused maybe as to what it was I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to do backstage. I wrote letters to all the theatres in London – I had an Excel spreadsheet of everyone I’d applied to and all the contact I’ve had with them – asking to do some kind of work experience as a stage manager. I thought that seemed fun.

Interview with actress Daisy Marsh

Daisy got her break when a theatre gave her the chance to learn the ropes of stage managing a production. But the realisation she wanted to be working in the spotlight, rather than the wings, hit three shows in..

‘ The director (Carl Heap) in the rehearsal room got all the production team involved the warming up exercises. I just wanted to carry on doing that instead of actually going out and getting props. Sometimes I had to read in for people and I loved it so much. But I thought I was too old, I thought I was too late.

I started talking very tentatively to the actors and questioning them ‘how did you get into it?’ and ‘do you think it’s too late for me?’ because I was 21 (which of course now seems silly to think that’s too old). And they said no, absolutely not, it’s never too late to go for it and you should absolutely do it. I probably thought about it, solidified it and then built up the courage to tell people that I wanted to do that through the next two shows I did there.’

Set on course to approach acting seriously as a profession and with a big old pinch of ‘fuck it, why not’, Daisy packed in the stage manager’s job, moved to Battersea, started working in a London pub and applied for drama school.

She didn’t get in.

Undeterred, she continued the rest of the year auditioning and learning as much as she could about acting. That tenacity paid off as in 2013 the Oxford School of Drama accepted her onto their foundation course.

‘When I got in somewhere, that sealed it for me. I was doing lots of amateur stuff and writing a bit, but no one in the profession had ever said ‘Oh you could probably do that’. When the Oxford School of Drama said ‘ You can come on our foundation course we don’t think you’re completely shit, maybe you could be a bit better and we’ll teach you.’ It was cemented even further when I got there and I fucking loooooovvvveed it. I could not get enough information, even now I can’t learn enough.’

And it’s that thirst for learning, improving and mastering the delicate art of acting that’s driving her ambitions rather than the trappings of fame (although Daisy notes her initial thoughts on acting were ‘it would quite nice to be famous and not work in an office’ – um, hands up who’s had that fantasy?!).d quote 2

 

‘ I can see the places that I want to get to and I can see other actors doing it. There’s a great actor called Rory Kinnear, he has this certain style; very uncomplicated, direct, natural, simplistic style. I know that this is the style that I want to aspire to…I want to act in a similar way to Rory Kinnear but I can’t get there yet. I’m always asking what do I need to do to change it and I work really hard. It’s interesting to me that no matter how hard I work – that’s not it. I need to change my approach to everything. How people think, how people react to things and how when it works it can be so powerful. It can really affect people, I find that so fascinating. What makes someone watch someone else go through something and they, in turn, feel an emotion and find that entertaining. Some people go and see things twice or over and over again. What are you going back for? Because that film makes you feel an emotion, it’s an addictive thing where you want to feel that emotion over and over again. That concept is so so cool, getting people to come along with you in a situation – I want to be able to do that. ‘

One of her perceived biggest challenges is what those nearest and dearest to you will think once your secret dreams are brought to life by being spoken out loud.

‘ People were generally great. It’s so funny how you think people are going to react a certain way, I was so nervous about telling people – because in my head it was so ridiculous that I was going to go back to education but not only that, that I was going to go and do acting.’

Expecting to be talked down from the ledge, Daisy found her parent’s reaction even more surprising.  

d quote 3

‘ I had just gone through three years of university and I expected them to blow up, telling me not to be ridiculous, you’ve got this degree, you’ve got to use it. I was so worried about telling them, I felt it would be embarrassing saying it to them because it’s seen as ‘not a real career’ when everyone around you is getting real-life adult jobs… But mum was like, well you’ll have to look it up and research and get information about it. They were so supportive. They were almost a bit like ‘we always knew you would do this, it was just a matter of when’.

And like 99.9% of us who fling ourselves out there trying to follow our dreams, moving away to Oxford, resetting the clock and going back to school for Daisy was utterly terrifying. So scary in fact that nearly four years down the line still is prone to ‘what am I doing wobbles’, especially when friends are excelling with ‘normal’ jobs and money to buy cars and clothes.

And what about the acting industry itself? A year ago Daisy was terrified at taking a wallop at *the* hardest career to crack above all else, but close relationships with peers who are freshly graduated and trying to make it inspire her and kind of ease the worries. As well as the realistic professional development that the school drills into its pupils.

‘ Our school isn’t very big or well-known compared to RADA or LAMDA or anywhere, but the professional development that our school drills into us is ‘you’re not going to get overnight success’ the realistic possibility of that happening is so unbelievably small. And you’ve just got work really really hard and be as good as you can be. Obviously, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to come in waves all the time. Maybe you’ll get an audition, maybe you’ll get like 20 auditions and you get three call-back, and then you might get one job out of that which could last a day or it might last 18 months. I know loads of people who’ve had parts in plays at the National, one of the most prestigious you can get probably and they haven’t worked for a year after that and then have got something. It’s a marathon rather than a sprint. Something our school keeps telling us – in 5 years a quarter of the class won’t be working in the industry any more and then 10 years, ¾ quarters and then there will only be 5 of us doing any kind of acting work at all. And that’s going to be true of any drama school class that comes out. I know that I have to be honest with myself and even though I’ve made this commitment and I’m loving it, doesn’t mean that in 10 years I could really be sick of it and go be a fucking yoga instructor or something.’

I asked her to expand on what she thought her safety net career option would be if she fell out of love with acting.

d-quote-4.jpg

‘I think everyone should have ideas of other careers to try. I think it’s so silly to think that I’m going to do this one thing for the rest of my life and that’s all I’m going to do. That just shuts you down to so many things. I want to do loads of stuff. And doing this has made me remember that I really like psychology for instance. We have a teacher at school who takes a movement class called Feldenkrais and I’m finding that concept really interesting as it’s about how you move, your awareness of your body and how you present yourself to other people – I could talk about it for ages.’

We spoke at length on who she admires within her industry, who inspires her  

‘ I admire Rory Kinnear, and the people who’ve come out of my school who work very hard. There’s a woman called Faye Castelow who’s now in the RSC. There’s Simon McBurney who founded and runs a theatre company called ‘Complicite’ and it’s completely unlike anything else that anyone has ever done. Just everyday people who make their own way in it, who work really really hard and go for it.’

Her schedule at drama school varies day to day but starts the same with getting a bus up to the school on a little remote Oxfordshire farm. Her first class is always a warm-up which the students run through only working on themselves, doing yoga and warming up their voices for the day ahead.

Subjects range from practising resonance and sound connection in voice class, applied movement and project work – e.g. Shakespeare in Film and how you would adapt a play like Macbeth for film compared to a stage production. Daisy delves into the minutiae of explaining the release of emotion can be a little smaller and more subtle on film which is interesting when looking in to the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plotting murder and that they’d be played totally differently on stage.

As well as growing as an actor, she’s surprised to have discovered more of a ‘fight’ than ‘flight’ instinct.

‘I thought I was much more of a flight person, but actually, I’m beginning to be more of a fighter. I think I’m believing more that I deserve to be here. In everyday circumstances, even now you’re asking me stuff and I’ve got a million different thoughts and I think ‘Does she really want to know that’

Me: Answer is yes, yes I want to know everything!

‘But that’s my own inhibition, not knowing if I’m mumbling on a bit, am I swearing? Am I not swearing enough? Do I seem quite cool if I swear? I don’t know! My brain’s going at a million miles a second and just now very recently being able to put that voice aside. That’s literally only happened in the last six months. Being able to be completely yourself unapologetically and not really worry about what’s going on in other people’s heads. Because as long as you’re nice to everyone I don’t see any problem with really being yourself.’

Me: Is it an age thing?

‘Oh yeah absolutely. Do you think you’ve noticed a difference?’

Me: As soon I hit mid-twenties I felt very unaccomplished. Like ‘I’m 25, Taylor Swift had a whole empire by the age of 19 and what the hell have I ever done? I’ve done nothing.’ It was one of the big pushes quitting my ‘safe’ job and moving abroad and now I’m back, focusing more on writing… I don’t care if anybody laughs at me for trying to do this because I feel like I would want to read this, so someone else will as well.

And what about the future of theatre? Daisy makes it clear theatre is the medium she wants to end up in, but with platforms like Netflix and YouTube churning quality content for free the impact on the theatre-world could be significant.

More and more it’s changing with the times and making shows more accessible. The RSC has past productions available to watch online, The National Theatre and the Royal Opera run a lot of live screenings of their shows to be watched in the cinema or over the internet. However, she firmly believes that traditional theatre will always be relevant.

d-quote-5.jpg

‘There’s a thrill… and I don’t think you could ever deny that when you go into a theatre, whether it be musical or a serious play. The adrenaline that you get from just being present – you’re with them. You’re moving through it. You’re connected to them if they’re good. You feel things, and when the lights go down and there’s an atmosphere. You just can’t beat it. I think it’s really special.’

Daisy and I have been friends for roughly 16 years and always felt free to chat about anything under the sun together. A couple of times when we’ve been down the pub she’s mentioned the importance to stick to a certain weight, but has never (as far as I can tell) found it to be all-consuming like so many actors before her. I ask how she combats those pressures and has she honestly found herself succumbing to a less than ‘normal’  relationship with food and her body.

‘I have always been fine in that regard. It’s so easy to go down that dark path and I thank my lucky stars that I have dodged that bullet. Because ohmygod it must be horrendous to battle. I think connected to acting, it is really easy to think like that. I look a certain way, I know that when I walk into a room, it’s a hard business and people are going to be looking for someone to cast against a particular type or aesthetic. I’m a little bit older too, so I have to think about that. The only thing that I’ve changed is moisturising regularly now.’

Thankfully her school is hyper-aware, looking for any hint that a student could be slipping into unhealthy habits. Daisy goes on to describe how family-oriented and protective the school is, giving pupils 3 or 4 private meetings with senior staff members and the principal to check in with how they are feeling and getting on.

Daisy is keen to keep her repertoire versatile, she wants to do lots of things and embrace changing her mind. When she first started, she wanted to do period dramas ‘Like 1940s type dramas, middle-class people going through issues etc. And now I like completely off-the-wall movement stuff.’ she laughs.

‘ Acting is addictive. When you get it right, it’s fucking mental. There are times when I do things and then think ‘Fuck I really became a different person there’. I felt completely different, completely mentally and physically free – and, ohmygod, it’s like surfing. I don’t surf but I imagine it’s like surfing – you catch a wave and you’re riding this wave, you feel unstoppable and you’re in the moment completely. It’s incredible. And then when someone else recognises that in your performance and comes up to say ‘Shit man that was really cool.’ That feeling…There’s always so much more to learn. You’re trying to learn how to change yourself essentially. That’s so difficult to grab hold of, that it’s addictive to try and get hold of it. There’s always something to chase after. There will never be a day where I feel like I know everything about acting.’

It’s abundantly clear that following the love of the job for Daisy holds more value than chasing the cash. But she acknowledges how privileged she is with supportive parents and means to always have a roof over her head. And to be brutally honest, her personal circumstances are a factor in allowing Daisy the opportunity to follow what she wants to do in this rocky profession.

d-quote-6.jpg

Would she have done any of it differently though? ‘I don’t regret going to uni, or regret the path that I’ve been on. Uni was three of the best years ever of my life. I had so much fun. I did lots of naughty things that I shouldn’t have done and learned from. If I hadn’t of gone to uni, I wouldn’t be the person I am doing this and I wouldn’t of had all the life experiences I’ve had. Depends what kind of person you are. Some people want to do the school-uni-job-kids-then die. Some people don’t. I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other. I think people are different and are presented with different opportunities and everyone learns from whatever comes along in their life. Any time I doubt it, and feel bummed that everyone else has a ‘proper job’ I think ‘you could honestly die tomorrow’. If I died tonight (touch wood) at least I can look back and think ‘Fucking hell, at least I’ve made a really good fucking go of it.’ I’ve got great friends, career isn’t everything, I’ve got a wonderful family, I’ll fall in love one day and there’s so many special things in life that aren’t tied into a job. I know people who are chasing money but have sacrificed so much happiness. They are miserable, even though they have a lovely car, flat, money to spend but no friends because money is all they’ve chased – it’s hollow. At that stage it is a hollow existence. I’m really poor, and it doesn’t bother me at all. Sometimes I buy toothpaste and I think ‘I don’t know if I can afford toothpaste.’ Which sounds pathetic but at least I can call you and laugh about it, it’s funny.’

Our conversation is rounded off talking about advice to our younger selves, how would Daisy address herself at 18-years-old. ‘Don’t listen to any negativity, because it’s such a waste of time. Be honest with yourself and then fight for it. Say ‘I want to do this, I want this, I’m not happy with this’. No one else is going to get you out of the situation, you’re in control, be in control and everything is going to be ok. Everyone else can shut the fuck up and you’re going to be just fine…. And always be nice to people!’

Well, who the fuck wants to peak at 30?

Daisy is performing her graduate show, ‘Conditionally’ at the Soho Theatre this week. Buy tickets here.

 

Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

10-Minute Chat:​ Actor

How to Cope with Homesickness

how to cope with homesickness

📷 www.glamour.com

tap your heels together three times

 

“I’m fine! Everything’s really great. I’m having THE BEST time”

How often have you spun out that similar line of utter bollocks into a message?

Whether you’re away uni, moved to a new town for work or joined the expat club somewhere completely alien to everything you’re used to, glossing over the negative spots of a new adventure and jazzing up the reality is a universal practice of humans around the globe.

So why do we do it?

Firstly, social media blah blah blah (yeah you’ve heard this one before) – even if you think you’re above the non-subtle humble-brag #soblessed posts of people living enviable lives on the internet, there’s that secret thrill of showing off where you are and what you’re doing to those who are watching you back home. Especially if those ‘likes’ start stacking up on a smattering of your pretty pictures that have been painstakingly retouched by two photo editing apps.

Another reason I think we shine only the brightest, most positive light on our lives is to ease the worry of the ones we’ve left behind. ‘Yes, I’m eating’ ‘No, I’m not hiding in my room’ ‘Of course I’m being social, I went out last night’, you want to reassure your friends and family that you are safe and well and flourishing in a foreign domain miles away from their watchful love and care.

And then there’s the final motivation as to why we plaster on a mega-watt smile and spout happy-worded rubbish – to drown out the whispering inner voice murmuring in response ‘That’s not true, you’re sad and feel lonely. You’re homesick and you have been for a while now.”

Even if you’ve amassed a good group of pals in your new territory and are able to see and do a bunch of amazing things, the sense of missing sneaks its way in and haunts the background of everyday life. Even more so once the shiny novelty of the place wears off. The lack of familiarity from your old world seems kind of jarring.

For me, it came in waves. Sometimes I was so busy, doing one thing after another to focus on, that the heavier thoughts my mind chewed over were forgotten. Other times, I’d be tip-tapping away at my computer when all of a sudden I was crushed with the weight of isolation and how much I missed home and everything / everyone my UK life came with.

 📷 www.giphy.com

I suffered from homesickness baaadddly my first winter away.

Sour feelings took over my mental driver’s seat, Mad-Max-ing me into unhappy oblivion and shooting off lightning bolts of angry resentment as I watched those around me having fun so easily. Why couldn’t I just be that confidently relaxed in these new surroundings? Why am I squirrelled away in my flat yet again???

Retreating into myself more and more, I suspect it was a way to cope with the out-of-my-depth emotions that kept swelling up and down the walls of my head. I presented a shell of a person to everyone else; calm, practised and ‘fine’ on the surface.

The worst knock was when my best friend and mum came out to visit me within two weeks of each other during the January and February of 2017.  As soothing as it was to have them there with me, these two intense links from home were placed in my hands and then had to slip away seven days later.

And it tasted bitter.

The flavour of homesickness is like the nail varnish that’s designed to stop you biting them because it’s a basically a hit of rotting acid.

I figure you have two options when battling with homesickness, either pack it in and go home. No one who’s truly got your back will think any less of you. It’s always braver to make a bold move if you think its right for you. Especially if your homesickness is so debilitating that you start showing other symptoms of being unwell.*

Or

Cope and crack on.

When the clouds parted and sunshine came through again, I’d get on with a handful of the below things to stretch out feeling better.

/ Keep connections going back home.

Yes, it requires planning and effort to arrange Skype dates, having 234 Whatsapp conversations on the go and setting phone calendar reminders to ring people. It sometimes feels like an exercise of diary snap, finding a time you’re both free to schedule a call, but ohmygod it’s so worth it. You don’t realise how much you’re holding in until you’re talking the ear off a close friend. But try not cling to communication too hard though as it could swing the other way and set you back.

/ Cook

I’m not a Nigella-esque spoon-licking effortless goddess when it comes to whipping up a meal. But I like the therapeutic ritual of cooking; assembling ingredients into something that’s comforting, warm and nourishing. Even if it’s a dollop of fluffy eggs on butter-drenched toast, I get a satisfied glowy kick out of this basic form of self-care and feeding my body to fight another day. So treat yourself as you would a loved one going through a rough time and in need of a bit of food-based love. Bowls of cheesy pasta, aromatic noodles, casseroles and soups are a good place to start in giving yourself a big old hug.cooking to cope with homesickness

📷 Buzzfeed.com

‘Like the lightest, most fluttering caress in the mouth’ – Queen Nigella 

/ Shift your attitude

Easier said than done, I know.

I come across peppy and upbeat, but my inner monologue is naturally pessimistic. I have to work hard to set my thoughts and views on the world as positive. Putting myself in a ‘victim’ mindset was something I kept slipping into; that I was the only one feeling low, I was the only one struggling. Bollocks to that. Everyone rides on crappy feelings sometimes, they just handle it differently. Put on some music and dance around your room regularly, it gets your endorphins going and brushes away the gloom.

/ Step out of that comfort zone

If your relocation has frightened the shit out of you, even the smallest challenge will be magnified in your eyes. Guess what, moving to a place where you don’t have a familiar support network around is already pretty fucking fearless, so keep that ball rolling. For me, it was small achievements like learning to comfortably drive on the other side of the road (not just any roads, snowy mountain roads), skiing a run that made me nervous and pushing back against my default introverted setting by talking to people I didn’t know that well a bit more. Each time I’d do what I was scared of doing, another little brick was added to my wall of confidence. A total cliché but I promise you’ll be surprised at how many more things you think you can do, compared to what you can actually do.

/ Tourist in your own town

tourist in your own town

📷 By me                                   Red Bull Hangar 7 Museum

Chances are, you’ve moved to wherever you are now for a reason. Whether it’s for work, to experience a new culture or because you simply wanted to be beside the sea. I’d wager there also might be a handful or more of cool sights and activities that you wouldn’t get to see or do back home. Yeah, you might be living in Barcelona but have you actually gone out and actually seen Barcelona? Make a list of every tourist attraction you can reach and like to go do. If you’ve got local friends, explain you want to go visit X, Y and Z to discover what all the fuss is about. They’d most likely fall over themselves to give you a mountain of tips on what times are best to go or look out for, and maybe even insist on accompanying you for a couple of days out. Getting to know a place really well – tourist traps and all – will reinforce why you’re there and makes you feel less like a stranger in the area.

/ Treat yourself 

In my experience, it’s easier to be mean to yourself than being nice when you’re in a fragile state. Again, approach your care as if you were your best friend. Would say to them half the things you say to yourself? I’m guessing not. You’d be supportive and think of ways to raise spirits rather than beat them over the head with nasty taunts. So spoil yourself a bit. It doesn’t have to be a big extravagance. A new £2 nail varnish, a bottle of wine, a favourite takeaway – or just some fresh bedsheets and an early night. A little self-directed TLC goes a looooonnnggg way in repairing stressed nerves and feeling looked after.

/ Deepen the connections to those around you 

A big part of homesickness is feeling lonely. Becoming friends with a bunch of new people may not come naturally to you. It certainly doesn’t to a hardcore introvert like me. I lucked out in Austria and was adopted straight away by a set of friends who were inclusive and sympathetic when I wasn’t 100%. But that doesn’t mean I sat back on my laurels and waited for them to come to me. As excruciating as it is when you’re not socially confident (hello my tribe!), you must push yourself to make an effort with people. 9 times out of 10, you’ll end up having fun rather than regretting it and becoming an awkward part of the wallpaper.

/ Home comforts 

Turn your home space into a set up that’s more comfortable for you. If that means buying pillowcases, plants and fairy lights to feather your nest then so be it. Making your new digs familiar will give back the control you’re probably missing. Plus you may be experiencing homesickness because your new city or country or isn’t feeling like home yet. Mementoes like photographs or a bed throw that you get to see every day from your previous home will help cosy up your place too and transform it into a sanctuary you enjoy relaxing in.

 

I cannot say that any of these will help your homesickness. And it’s something that won’t disappear overnight.

I was carrying it around with me even when I went back to Austria this year; I think I’m just one of those people who feel it really hard. But when the sadness seeped in this season, I was able to recognise it and try to do something about minimising the yucky despair that plunged me into mind-mist the first time around.

I still cried, but not nearly as much. I also had a total blast. So that’s sort of proof it works.

how to cope with homesickness

📷 By me                                                          😍

 

*Physical manifestations of homesickness can be constant or frequent crying, difficulty sleeping, and changes in appetite, to nausea, dizziness and headaches. If you are showing any of these signs as well please please please go see a doctor.

How to Cope with Homesickness

10-Minute Chat:​ Intelligence Officer

’10-Minute Chat’ is a series of interviews talking with extraordinary ‘normal’ people navigating interesting careers, living remarkable lives and following their passions.

 

10 minute chat intelligence officer

📷 www.pixabay.com

M is a dazzling young woman working in intelligence. Her job is to scrutinise and assist in the operational apprehension of individual crooks as well as international crime gangs.

She cut her investigative teeth within the police force for 3 years and is the closest person to a real-life spy that I’ll ever know about.

We met for coffee a few months ago to chat about her career so far and what working in British intelligence is like. Obviously, her name has been changed and she could only be vague with details for security reasons (so cool).

Initially, M didn’t even think about breaking into the world of intelligence and like most people, found herself Googling ‘interesting jobs’ in a bid to find work after finishing up at uni (she studied history).

*There’s a pause while she swallows a mouthful of teacake*

‘  It was my mum who saw a job with the police, and I thought this sounds really cool. I went for an interview, got that, smashed that, and then spent a few years there. 

M went in as an Intelligence Researcher for the police. But the opportunity to develop her career within this role was limited.  The next rung on that ladder was Intelligence Analyst – a highly covetable and often rare role within her industry, as the skills that are taught are so valuable. She decided that the only way she was going to move forward in her career was switching organisations.

M starts from the beginning and goes through what type of person you need to be to work in intelligence.

‘ You’ll have to look at lots of information and be able to pick out really key points about someone to determine what kind of person they are and why they might commit the types of crimes they commit. You need understand trends in their behaviour or in the pieces of data in front of you…You have to keep looking at small details as though they are going to be a clue to something bigger and thinking about details in two ways. It’s quite a skill and it’s taken me a long while to learn.

When I first started, I’d do a task, hand the results in, do another task, hand the results in and then do another task. People would say ‘But what does that tell you? What does it show you? What recommendations can you make from that?’ And I’d be like ‘Oh. I don’t know.’ So you have to train yourself to think ‘Why is this, this? 

intelligence officer

‘So is it like profiling?’ I asked, picturing the dozens of American crime shows I’ve binged on over the years.

No. That kind of training is only specifically for profilers. In my role, you can’t say for definite, anything about anyone but you can give recommendations to give other officers a steer on where to go. As an intelligence officer, you can give them [Editor’s note: as in people on the frontline of fighting crime] an idea on who someone is and the best way to go about preventing them from committing a crime.’

Surprisingly, M paints a picture of how heavily female-dominated the intelligence industry is. She gesticulates wildly, reckoning it’s because women are naturally inquisitive and have the inclination to want to find out everything about someone, like insta-stalking an ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend for example. [Editors note: 100% both sexes do this- maybe girls are more honest about it?]

‘ If you’re a snooper (like me) you’ll be absorbed looking in and at other people’s lives… I love looking into people’s lives. Being given one little bit of detail and then at the end of a day or two I’ve built up a whole picture of someone’s life. That’s really interesting.

In my old job in our office, it was probably 85% women. In my job now, it’s a much smaller office, there’s two men there and six or seven women. The same kind of percentage. ‘

On the reverse, the operational side of crime-fighting is predominantly male she said. I go for a well-trodden question, ‘What about sexism? Have you experienced it within this world?’

I haven’t come across any. Anyone who comes into my office doesn’t automatically go to the men to ask a question. They might do a bit more at the moment as the men that are there have been there longer and know more.

But I don’t think it’s a question of I’m not being asked because I’m a woman. If you’re used to working in a more female environment that intelligence kind of has, you wouldn’t think twice about going to a woman to ask a question. The issue is more your capability in helping the investigation or not. I’m sure there’s been some but I haven’t come across any. ‘

M quote 2

And as for role models in her industry M looks up to the head of her organisation.

‘ I’ve not met her personally but I’ve seen her talk. She’s really good at commanding a room and seeming like she really cares about what she’s doing. She’s passionate and she’s driven to implement the changes she’s put forward.

She’s a good talker. She comes across as confident. But not like a woman trying too hard to be taken seriously, she’s taken seriously because you respect her. She’s friendly and is approachable. That’s the kind of person I’d want to be if I was in a position of responsibility. ‘

M lights up talking me through her day to day tasks and that the changing nature of her work is always interesting. Her hands are animated again explaining that one minute she could be working on a sexual assault, the next it could be a burglary or drugs; she claims she rarely has a dull day with not much to do.

I work a standard 8-4, but due to the dynamic nature of the work, I am expected to be flexible.

I might go in at 8am and expect to be leaving at 4pm but then they need me and I’ll be staying until 2am the following morning.

You do get paid overtime for it which helps, as it can be pretty tiring at the end of the day, concentrating for long periods of time.

Your well being is monitored though so you don’t end up overdoing it. If you’re struggling they’ll tell you to stop or ask if are you ok to do an overnight and it’s fine if you’re not, you don’t have to. ‘

I enquire what a ‘good day’ and a ‘bad day’ looks like for her. She replies that they are actually one of the same – the worst days are the most exciting and leave her feeling fulfilled having helped defuse a potentially dangerous situation.  

It can get really hectic. You could have a firearms incident for example. It gets very high pressure. Potentially, you’re helping to save someone’s life which is going to have bad consequences if it goes wrong. Those kinds of days (which doesn’t happen very often) get intense and even though it’s not solely down to you, your effort does make a huge difference. That’s quite a full on day. ‘

‘And what about mistakes, have you made any?’ I pry, realising as soon as I’ve asked, that even if she had ballsed-up she wouldn’t tell me anyway. M is completely honest though.

M quote 3

Not any like big mistakes. I don’t really make that many mistakes! Haha. I obviously get little things wrong occasionally but I can’t think of anything I’ve done where I’ve thought oh my god, you shouldn’t have done that, that’s caused a problem.

The pressure and consequences of making a mistake are huge compared to your ‘normal office job’. You’re dealing with safety and people’s lives, you don’t want to have a big slip up because of the big consequences, it can be a little bit stressful.

Good to know the nation’s security is in safe hands.

And what if M wasn’t doing what she was doing. What if she could swap jobs with anyone in the world.

In the world?

In the world

I’d be a professional tennis player. I’d be Serena Williams. I’ve always really enjoyed tennis and I’d love to up my game and have the confidence that they have to do what they do. I don’t feel like I’d ever had that enough confidence to push myself to do something like that. ‘

I push for her to expand on what she means by not having enough confidence. As battling baddies, every day takes having a lot of confidence in your abilities from where I’m sitting.

Because if you’re going to be on the world stage you have to develop a really thick skin and ignore everyone making their comments and opinions about you all the time and I’d read all those awful comments that people say ‘Oh she’s not doing very well at the moment’ ‘Oh she’s looking a bit fat’ I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning reading those. ‘

Shaking my fist here at you Daily Mail comments section.

From what she’s told me so far, it appears the love of her job is a massive motivator. This kind of priority shift is something that is more likely to be found within the millennial generation. I put this thought to her and she comes back with a conflicted answer that she wouldn’t completely sacrifice happiness for a job. However, she explains that if it came down to it between a job that she loved but didn’t pay very much and a job that was OK but paid more, she would pick the latter to feel more financially secure.

If I had a partner and wasn’t on my own, then maybe I would think differently as they would be there with a level of support. As a single woman living in Surrey, I feel like you have to make concessions. But perhaps for a lot of people, it’s not as important. ‘

My fascination with her job leads me to ask what the impact of doing what she does has her on her mental health. From my narrow perspective, being a civilian who is living in almost blissful ignorance is being exposed to the darker side of humanity a hard place to come back from every day for the people in M’s position.

‘ When I first started I was a little paranoid as you are exposed to a new world of crime – especially things like burglaries that are quite prevalent. But after a while, you become more realistic about it and it just kind of just went away. I think if you worked on something like child exploitation the chances of mental taxation would be far greater but you just have to make sure you look after your health.  

…You don’t really see anything too horrific too often. It definitely makes me feel more aware but in a way, it also makes me feel better.

M quote 4

Looking back at her younger self M talks about her first job at a local sports shop where crippling shyness almost got her fired. She’s regularly made comments in this interview about her lack of confidence but realises how far she’s actually come.  

I just couldn’t speak to any of the customers. I felt so out of my comfort zone. I had never been trained to speak to people on a professional level.

I wasn’t a blagger. Management then got me on the phone for a spell talking to customers and that helped massively. I suppose it’s kind of the same from when I started my police job. I’ve improved since then and I’ll go on to improve at this job. ‘

‘And if you could give your 18 year-old-self career advice now, what would you say to her?’ I ask.

Be more confident in interviews. In the police when interviewing people for jobs, I was amazed at how many people undersell themselves. So I would say be more ballsy to achieve what you want. I think being more assertive and confident is not a bad thing. If you think there’s a better way to do something then say it.  One of my problems is I’m too scared of confrontation to make myself noticed.  

I know myself quite well and I’m never going to be a top, top, top achiever. I just have too much anxiety think about things too much and worry about things too much that I could never lead something or get to the high positions of the women I’ve admired.’

But M says her confidence and anxiety is something she’s constantly working on. Her tips include giving herself regular pep talks, reminding herself that she is smart, capable and successful at a lot of things.

‘ … Plus my lavender oil helps a lot!  ’

You go girl.

 

Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

10-Minute Chat:​ Intelligence Officer

Top of the Pods

8 OF MY FAVOURITE PODCASTS

 

best podcasts

Podcasts are multiplying like rabbits. Everywhere you turn another magazine, social influencer or man and his microphone are churning out a shiny new podcast every other day.

If you’re baffled by what a podcast is, it’s essentially a radio programme that you can download and playback whenever you fancy. Podcasts are savers of boredom when you have a long shitty commute, when you’re at work doing a less than thrilling task, going for a sweaty run or when you’re faced with a stack of life admin to plough through… zzzzzzzz

Just stick on a podcast.

‘B-bu-but what about music?!’ I hear you cry. Yeah, well obviously listen to music if you want to listen to music, however, podcasts bring forth another audio option to your life. That’s all. It’s like watching TV in your head in some cases.

And there are so many. Whatever your interest, you can absolutely guarantee there’ll be a podcast out there catering to whatever floats your boat. Just pop a quick search into Good Old Google and be on your merry way.

I tend to listen to them on my phone (but feel free to plug in on desktops or tablets) and currently using the ‘Podcast Addict’ app but am also hearing good things about the ‘Acast’ app too.

 

/ The High Low

the high low podcast

One of the first podcasts I got into was produced by The Sunday Times Style section. Presented by all-round superstar journalists Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton, their pleasing-to-say portmanteau ‘The PanDolly’ podcast was like listening to a couple of pals at Friday night drinks. This year they’ve struck out on their own with a new show ‘The High Low’ and carried over their wonderful blend of serious news topics, zeitgeisty themes, social commentary and along with plenty of personal anecdotes and heaps of laughs. Inspired by Vanity Fair’s editor Tina Brown’s perspective that life is best lived with a mix of highbrow and lowbrow culture (the podcast is poetically billed as ‘from the trivial to the political’); expect to hear Pandora and Dolly’s thoughts on the latest books they’re reading, what low or highbrow thing they’ve done that week, discussions on world news / Kendal Jenner’s Snapchat / work / politics / memes and answering phenomenal listener questions. They’ve also recently added a new segment into the mix where once a month an author is brought in for an interview, which so far (Renie Eddo-Lodge, Elizabeth Day, Rosie Wilby – just the three at this point) has been an absolutely cracking addition.

Safe to say I’m a HA-UUUGGE fan of the show and both of them as individuals. I feel like we could be friends. There. I’ve once again publicly outed myself as a soppy sycophant for this wonderful double act.

HAVE A LISTEN 

Episode: A Deep-Dive Into The Fall Of Hollywood’s Ultimate Sex Predator, Harvey Weinstein

Episode: Theresa May in Vogue and the Role of Fashion in Politics

 

/ No  Such Thing as A Fish

no such thing as a fish podcast

The researcher elves from the hit BBC show QI crowd round a microphone to share an interesting fact they’ve learned that week. Each fact is as weird and wonderful as the one before it. Everything under the sun is talked about from science to the arts, bugs, fascinating people, words, unique places, unbelievable true events and other gems of quirky pub-fodder trivia. This podcast is perfect for general knowledge nerds who like information served with a side of clever humour. Caution whilst listening at work: brace for the sniggers, as jokes here come thick, fast and funny so the risk of snort-laughing out loud to your open plan office is exceptionally high.

HAVE A LISTEN 

Episode: No Such Thing As Stare-Boxing

Episode: No Such Thing As Constantly Awake Beauty 

 

/ Ctrl, Alt, Dlt

ctrl alt delete podcast

If ever there was a podcast-Olympics for featuring cool, bright people, who are doing interesting things with their lives, then Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Dlt would be wearing the equivalent to Michael Phelps’s crown. Emma has interviewed Michelle Kennedy, Sali Hughes, Grace Victory, Seth Godwin, Tanya Burr, Otegha Uwagba, Anna Whitehouse a.k.a Mother Pukka, I could go on but I’d list about another 90 odd names. Emma’s nosey-nature questions guests about their work, life, money, the struggles of making things successful and keeping pace with the ever-changing digital landscape. It’s inspirational as hell listening to how these guys have taken risks, found inner grit, determination and battled against the odds. This podcast offers up a lot of real-life insights as well into the entrepreneurial world so if you’re that way inclined, give this one a whirl.

HAVE A LISTEN 

Episode: #58 Sophie Kinsella

Episode: #40 Laura Bates  ⬅️  should be compulsory listening for everyone

 

/ The Debrief Podcast

the debrief podcast

First off I’m going to point out how glorious Stevie & Tessa’s voices are. Stevie regularly slips into hilarious comedy accents and Tessa has a slightly clipped tone which lends itself perfectly to the funny arcs of conversation on the show each week. They’re both just lovely to listen to. The Debrief podcast follows a ‘How to’ theme, where the duo talk through useful, sensible, grown-up life stuff but with heaps of silly humour injected into the dialogue. They have covered How To Be A Morning Person, How To Kick-Ass At Work, How To Do Things That Scare You; basically they’re shedding light on some simple but life-improving nuggets through research, qualified expert advice and personal tips they’ve deposited into their own Bank of Adulting.

HAVE A LISTEN 

Episode: Domestic hacks so you never have to ‘get a man in’ 

Episode: How to look after the environment  ⬅️  A total eye-opener. EVERYONE LISTEN AND STOP USING PLASTIC STRAWS IMMEDIATELY

 

/ Lore

lore podcast

Following a fascination with all things horror, I stumbled on the Lore podcast and have been indulging my compulsion for something a bit creepy ever since. Adam Mahnke delivers twisted dark stories based on local legends, forgotten myths, old wives tales and original fairy-fables before the coating of child-friendly gloss was slapped on. Adam’s flat narrating voice and accompanying atmospheric music creates a weirdly unsettling, yet alluring combination which rips you from the bright warmth of reality to the most disturbing corners of folklore.

HAVE A LISTEN 

Episode: THE REDCOATS

Episode: ALL THE LOVELY LADIES

 

/ 4pm at Fashionista

4pm at fashionista

Hello, my name is Emma and I’m addicted to fashion.

Although you’d hardly guess from my uniform of scruffy hair, one-size-too-big fraying TopShop jeans and T-shirts older than most YouTube stars.

Go ahead and raise those eyebrows, but I’m utterly in love with the business, industry and artistry that’s at its core.

Although I work in travel, I’ve devoured the fashion news/trade sites every damn day for years and Fashionista.com is one of my faves. Their podcast (although sometimes posted sporadically)  is an unfiltered version of the smart sartorial pieces and opinions that are voiced on the site. They’ve talked about the recent game of designer musical chairs which left the fashion world chasing its tail, the Rei Kawakubo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art – with accompanying Met Gala and the outrage that it left behind – and have covered in depth the desert thirst from insta-influencers and brands milking the authenticity out of cultural events like Coachella. If fashion is your passion (yeah I went there), then do yourself a favour and hit subscribe.

HAVE A LISTEN 

Episode: Jumping Off the Chanel Cliff

Episode: Career Week Edition, or, How We’re (Barely) Making It in Fashion

 

/ Stuff Mom Never Told You

stuff mom never told you podcast

I could listen to original hosts Cristen & Caroline talk for hours. Their intelligence is cut with the sharpest of wit as they dissect painstakingly researched topics relating to things like race, feminism, stereotyping, history, relationships, pop-culture, modern anthropology and subjects that make you go ‘Hmm, yes. Why is that like this?’. Plus they’re another duo with the most enchanting sounding voices. After a few months break,  Stuff Mom Never Told You has had a revamp complete with a new set of presenters (😊), Bridget and Emilie who are continuing to pay homage to the show’s essence. It’s still excellent but has a slightly different feel. I suggest delving into the back-catalogue first before listening to more recent episodes.

HAVE A LISTEN 

Episode: When America sterilized women of color

Episode: Why do women wear diamond engagement rings?The phrase ‘Betrothal Tag’ is how I’m going to refer to bridal bling from now on

 

/ Desert Island Discs

desert island discs radio 4 podcasts

The granddaddy of all podcasts in my humble opinion. The premise is a notable figure being sent away to a hypothetical desert island, and can only bring along eight treasured tracks to keep them company. Writers, designers, actors, poets, doctors, entrepreneurs, singers, comedians, artists, politicians and celebrities have their lives unfurled before them, vulnerable and raw.

Currently steered by Kirsty Young, her steadily calm and direct questioning is enough to gently thaw out the coldest of guests. They discuss career failures and triumphs, love and heartbreak, family and friends, personal demons and future dreams all in the context of their eight favourite pieces of music (or sounds in some rare cases). The Desert Island Discs archives stretch back 70 years – a whole lifetime’s worth of listening to work through.

HAVE A LISTEN 

Episode: David Nott, vascular and war surgeonMoved me to snotty tears

Episode: Kylie Minogue, popstar – One of her discs is her now ex-beau Joshua Sasse reading out the sweetly-sexy poem As I look Up by Dominic Sasse

 

BONUS   –     / Alice Isn’t Dead 

Alice isn't dead

Since writing the above eight I’ve fallen down a new podcast rabbit-hole.

Just a few episodes in has me hooked and frantically downloading the next, and then the next, and then the next part of this story.  Alice Isn’t Dead is a fictional tale following the narrative of a female trucker who is searching America’s heartlands for her wife she once presumed dead – all told through her rig radio. It’s gorgeously creepy, paints a compelling atmospheric story and has the same sinister undercurrents of a Stephen King novel. It certainly begs the question, who the fuck is Alice?

Categorically, 100% do not listen to this podcast alone, at night or both. Even listening in the bright lights of a busy office, a serious case of the heebie-jeebies gets the best of me.

HAVE A LISTEN 

Episode: 

Episode: 

 


These are also on my roster –

Badass Women’s Hour, (the actual BBC R4) Women’s Hour, The Guilty Feminist (OBSESSED- got carried away with a word-blurb so thought it safer to include here), Criminal, Reveal, Sword & Scale, Deliciously Stella, This American Life, Serial , RISK!, The Moth, Mother Pukka, Get It Off Your Breasts, My Dad Wrote A Porno

Let me know if you have any must-listen podcasts 🎧

Top of the Pods

Freelance vs Full-Time: part two

PART II

freelance vs full time part two

📷 www.pixabay.com

Here’s part II of freelance vs. full-time. Emma R from 25before25 writes her thoughts on my working week of juggling full-time employment and writing on the side. 

(If you haven’t already, start with part I 😄)


Emma Taylor and I decided to document one of our working weeks and compare the difference between a full-time content writer in the travel industry (Emma T) and myself (Emma R), the blogger behind 25before25 and a freelance writer. The fact we have the same first name is super confusing, we admit.

We published an account of my week in part I along with Emma T’s commentary.

For this post, Emma T has given her diary, and it’s something which is all too familiar. I can really relate to her experience of not getting quite enough sleep, the stress of commuting and not being overly enamoured with a job, coupled with the knowledge the next week will be the same as last week.

However – Emma has a regular and reliable annual income that working freelance will not guarantee. I’m trading financial stability for the freedom of being my own boss. Along with that is the fact that not many of us want to be at home on our own all day, as nice as the idea sounds right now when Dave is loudly telling Gill about his nephew’s birthday party over your head in your open plan office. By working as a freelancer, I have had to make a conscious effort to interact with others, and the potential for isolation will not suit everyone. Also self-employment is a minefield of tax rules which is something I hadn’t really bargained for. I am lucky that I have two accountants for parents, otherwise I’m not entirely sure how I’d manage on that one!

If you enjoy your job then, all of a sudden, getting up to an alarm that is thirty minutes too early to be comfortable, commuting and the ins and outs of your daily working life aren’t such a chore. They can be a pleasure. Finding that thing that motivates and inspires you is the reason for 25before25 – to show you what a diverse array of jobs are out there and to provide role models who have already successfully made that journey of self-discovery.

I have a huge amount of admiration for Emma, who is finding her way to a balance between full-time and freelance, and think this is an entirely sensible (albeit pretty tiring!) approach that shows the reality of starting out.

Emma T’s full-time working week –

 

/ Monday

I leave home just after 7am and get to my office in Surbiton around 8.20am. I have breakfast and an extra strong cup of tea whilst reading the internet. The actual working day is average officey-type work, answering emails, organising project stuff and eating French chocolate treats that have been bought in from someone’s latest holiday.

I’m currently on a temporary assistant content editor contract back in the UK, bought in specifically to help duplicate one lot of information over to another area within a CMS system that feeds the company’s pretty customer facing website. I work to briefs which breaks the whole thing up into steps. For example, this week I’m copying across information about airports – checking facts and editing tone of voice – to another area of the online platform.

I arrive home at 6.45pm and then take to my room half an hour later to tinker with a couple of articles I have an imminent deadline for.

I work solidly until 10.30pm-ish, choosing to skip dinner as I’m too tired and hot to knock anything together. My evening ends with me scrolling through Twitter, trying to figure out what the hell everyone is talking about from the #loveisland tweets cascading through my feed before crashing out asleep.

 

/ Tuesday

There’s a knock at my bedroom door as it opens ‘Emma, it’s 7am. Is everything OK love?’ says my mum.

Sh*t.

I turned my alarm off in my sleep an hour ago. Hopping round my room I’m out the door twenty minutes later. Traffic on my commute is unpredictable so I like to leave early.

I get to the office at 8.40am and eat my breakfast. I’m still painfully tired from a series of late nights and early mornings over the past week / weekend. My working day is essentially a repeat of the day before with the odd email thrown in whereby the wrong content is displaying on an excursion blurb of the company’s website. Some customers have written in to complain and I engage in a lot of back and forth with the overseas team in Italy.

When I leave it’s raining and I’m wearing sandals. My feet are soaked and covered in pavement grit by the time I eventually reach my car, 10 minutes walk away from work..

Once home, I pull out my suitcase and start putting bits into piles – to take, the maybes, stuff that needs washing – ready for my holiday on Saturday. I faff like this for another 45 minutes, trying on summer-scented clothes from last year, seeing if they still fit.

After dinner, I treat myself to a couple of episodes of the Good Wife while writing.

 

/ Wednesday

I leave on time and with no alarm drama. My head and eyes twinge sharply from exhaustion though, as the wind and rain kept waking me throughout the night.

As usual, I get to work early and have breakfast. Plus chain-drink a couple of cups tea in the morning in a desperate attempt to perk myself up.

I coast through the day. Tweaking words, cutting and pasting information from one CMS segment to another and a tiny bit of research into Slovenia makes up my writing tasks. I listen to a handful of my favourite podcasts to stop me from getting too bored and unfocused.

 podcasts

 

By 5.30pm I’m out the door and walking to the car. I’ve got a nail appointment this evening which I’ve been looking forward to for ages, as it’s a luxury I don’t have done very often.I come away with glittery pink toes and semi-sparkly turquoise fingers. A package is waiting for me on the stairs up to my room – a couple of dresses from Topshop. Both dresses are a little big so will need to be sent back, I’m slightly relieved as I can’t really afford them and then the guilt sets in for shopping in the first place.

It’s about 9.15pm at this point and I debate between tackling amends on a couple of articles or more holiday packing. The thought of putting my face directly in front of a screen for another few hours today makes the decision for me. I stick on the Good Wife again and pack / organise until bedtime at 10.30pm.

 

/ Thursday

I’m up at 6.15am and feel more tired than awake. Sleep is eluding me at the moment.

I wash my hair and plug myself into Spotify, blasting the medley of ‘Karaoke Classics’ on this week’s #ThrowbackThursday playlist.

I’m having breakfast at my desk by 8.35am and chugging tea like it’s the elixir of life. The day drags a little as I try to draw out the scant pickings of jobs to do. I’ve completed the brief that I had to work through for this phase of the project  and I’m twiddling my thumbs a lot of the time, pouncing on any email that pings into our shared department inbox. The position that I’m in doesn’t really allow for me to do much more than the project or BAU (business as usual) emails which is frustrating. The workers outweigh the level of work at the moment.

Traffic was awful coming home and I end up going a long way round so walked through the door at just after 7pm. A grumpy layer bubbles up and settles on my permanent state of tiredness.

I go straight to my room, set myself up against a stack of cushions on my bed and crack on with the article amends I put off last night. 10 minutes in and my sister joins me, lounging at the foot of the mattress. I put on some Billie Holiday (because I’m secretly 104 years old and jazz helps me think) and she swipes through Facebook while I work.

I send edits off, close down just after 10pm and get ready to sleep. My pure intentions for an early night  get led astray by falling down an Instagram hole and a gripping narrative in the book I’ve just started.

 

/ Friday

I’ve woken up cross with myself for not trying to sleep at a decent time last night. The barbed twinges of tiredness prod my head and puffy eyes once more while I move at snail’s pace to get dressed.

A relatively traffic-free journey into Surbiton has me at work by 8.20am. I go through my morning ritual and catch up on reading a couple of blogs. The day was slow as there wasn’t many emails coming to the inbox and I’m still waiting on the next brief so I can move onto the upcoming part of the project. We’re told that in the following few weeks we’ll be able to start drafting some relevant travel blogs. That’s much more my bag and I’m looking forward to having something to do. I haven’t felt like I’ve been much use to the company this week.

That evening I race home to my room and continue with some of my own writing bits, plus final packing for tomorrow. I’m finally starting to feel the stirrings of relaxation and excited anticipation for the week ahead. My mum comes up to chat about her day with me around 8pm and suggests we order a Domino’s…

Oh hi holiday-feeling, haven’t seen you in a while!

Freelance vs Full-Time: part two

Freelance vs Full-Time: part one

Part I

freelance vs full time📷 www.pixabay.com

I’ve teamed up with Emma from 25before25 again.

This time Emma and I decided to document one of our working weeks and compare the difference between a freelance blogger / travel writer (Emma R), and myself (Emma T), a full-time content writer in the travel industry and doing my own thing with words on the side.

First off, anyone who has free reign over their work schedule and eschewed being stuffed into a traditional 9-5 hole of rigid ‘productivity’, I’m insanely jealous of and fascinated by how they divvy up their day. I often slip into a ‘grass-is-greener’ fantasy of being a freelancer. The flexibility and limitless scope of work is a tempting fruit to want to taste if you’re unfulfilled within a typical office set up.

Freelancing is not for the faint-hearted though, in that the steady security and comforting protection which comes from being a company employee is no longer there to fall back on. You often end up labouring for longer hours and down-time tends to blur with work-time as you’re always switched on at some level.

Plus figuring out the minefield of self-employment tax is utterly terrifying.

However the flip side is, if you’re feeding that passion-fire in your belly by wholeheartedly loving what you do and chasing your ambitions, then the slog and sacrifice won’t be felt as hard in the end.

I think.

Here’s Emma R’s freelance working week –

 

/ Monday

freelance writing Wimbledon tennis

📷 www.pixabay.com

Today I was lucky enough to have bagged a Centre Court ticket at Wimbledon – it was a strawberries-and-cream day rather than work. I’ve never been to Wimbledon before and certainly never thought I’d get the chance to sit in Centre Court during the second week, so this was an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down. This did mean I had about 50 emails in my inbox to deal with when I got home at about 10 pm, but it was totally worth it to watch both Murray and Federer play!

 

/ Tuesday

I spent the day working with landscape gardener, Anthea Harrison, up in Stansted as part of career number 16 for the 25before25 project. I had no idea Stansted was anything other than an airport, but it turns out it’s a beautifully quaint village on the Hertfordshire-Essex border, where you can hear zero aeroplanes.

The morning was spent at Anthea’s client’s house, a large project that included construction work as the garden was being totally re-designed. It was very close to completion when I joined so I just helped out with some of the planting, training some of the clematis’ and titivating (brilliant word I’d never heard before!) some of the bushier plants.

before 

compare freelance writer with full time

duringwriting on the side vs. freelance

after

freelance writing

                 📷 25before25

As it started to rain, we headed back to Anthea’s office and she talked me through the design process, from initial consultation with a client, through to finished award-winning garden, explaining the computer programmes she uses.

I absolutely loved my day with Anthea and think I’d really enjoy being a landscape gardener, though perhaps not for my 20s. It is a job which combines both the left and right sides of your brain; it is creative as well as technical.

By the end of the day, I’m ready to drop and fall asleep pretty early.

 

/ Wednesday

This is one of the rare days I have to work at home and get on top of the backlog of career write-ups that I have. I’ve published up to career number 16 and am seven articles behind (still a couple more jobs to work in though). However, it’s not until about 1pm that I actually start writing, as I spent the morning going through emails that I’ve missed over the past couple of days – mostly organising jobs for the next few weeks and interviews with authors, explorers and politicians. Experiencing 25 careers is a feat in organisation that I hadn’t quite realised when I decided to take on the project!

I also work as an editor of the careers section of a new national student magazine, so I spend some time editing some of the articles which writers have sent in for the first issue and tweaking my own. The deadline is Friday, but I spent most of Sunday working on them so the articles are nearly there.

This evening I head out to meet a friend for dinner in North London. We have a tastecard so that helps keep costs down, which I’m certainly grateful for!

 

/ Thursday

Another day working from home writing up articles and catching up with emails.

I gave an interview with GradTouch – a graduate recruitment company – about my project, and am looking forward to reading the write up.

 

/ Friday

 

Today I spent the day with the Marine counter-terrorism unit with the Met Police, which was rather exciting.

Based in Wapping, I navigated the London Overground network to get to a non-descript Victorian building. It took me about 10 minutes just to figure out how to get in, I must have either looked very suspicious or incredibly naive, entering my first police station.

The team warmly welcomed me and I felt like I had jumped straight into a police drama TV series – there was an awful lot of team banter, plans for operations covered the walls, and about six separate offers for a cup of tea. A constable showed me around the station, taking me down to the docks to see the numerous different high-speed boats and reeling off marine policing trivia – England’s first recognised preventive police unit, don’t you know.

I then hopped in the back of a police van (I won’t pretend that I didn’t find it incredibly exciting) and headed up with two constables to a larger central command centre to sit in on their briefing to the unit which would be joining the marine team for the day.

The operation was partly to engage with the public on counter-terror issues, to reassure them, as well as to deter any individuals looking to cause harm, by placing a police presence in and around the Thames. I was with the half of the unit based on the boat for the afternoon, so spent most of my day on a high-speed cruise down the river, chatting to the officers about their careers.

The positive experience has made me seriously consider the police as a career option, so I’m looking forward to my two other police-based placements next week!

 


 

Thoughts from the Full-Timer (me)

I know that this is actually only 80% of Emma R’s working week. She’s mentioned in conversation that she pretty much does 7 days majority of the time. So in comparison, I’m lucky being in full-time employment that I can take a bit of a break at weekends and my livelihood won’t suffer for it if I’m lazing in bed just eating croissants for a few hours. Whereas the responsibility to make a self-carved career work and move forward is lays entirely at Emma’s feet.

The money side of things weighs more in full-time employment favour as well. Although I’m always worrying about cash, it’s probably on a much, much, much smaller scale compared to Emma. Every 30 odd days the exact same number will reliably appear in my bank account, taking the edge off when I do occasionally splurge on unnecessary stuff. Whereas freelancing can be notorious for ups and downs of how much and when the dolla rolls in. The girl’s got nerves of steel!

I’m drawn in by the variety of Emma’s freelance working week. The mission that she’s on has given her a chocolate-box selection of jobs to savour over the past year. And it’s exciting to read how on one day she’s helping ‘titivate’ bushes (😉) to racing down the Thames with the Marine counter-terrorism unit the next. I get that week in, week out Emma won’t always be jumping from one extreme situation to another, but the personal freedom and example of ‘no day is the same’ of her freelance lifestyle is immensely appealing.

Make no mistake, I’m outrageously privileged to even have a stable position and completely appreciative of all the opportunities that I’ve been afforded from the company I’m with…you can just feel the ‘but’ coming… But I know that at some point in the future I will make the leap to try working for myself. If anything, looking at Emma’s week and reading her wonderful blog has fanned the freelancing flames in my tum even more.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 – My full-time working week juggling writing on the side, along with Emma R’s accompanying thoughts 👍

Freelance vs Full-Time: part one

5 Cheap or free things to do in Salzburg

Poor & The City

cheap things to do Salzburg

📷 by Em

So you’re either in or heading to Salzburg for a cheap European city break. With the pull of the pound getting weaker and weaker, you’ll want to get enough euro-bang for your buck at every turn. I don’t blame you, with a measly bit of Apfelstrudel and an Aperol Spritz costing a combined tenner, recuperating that beer money from somewhere else during your Salzburg city escape could stretch your overall holiday budget just a smidge further.

Recently I found myself with some time to kill in Salzburg and not a lot of dolla to see me through (having been that wasteful moron spending the aforementioned €10 on a single pastry & booze). I thought I’d try and make a game of figuring out what were the cheapest or free cool things to do while in the city.

Oligarchs and billionaires can stop reading now.

 

/ Mirabell Gardens

mirabell salzburg things to do

📷 by Em – Appalling image quality courtesy of a crappy Galaxy S5 

Take a stroll round the Mirabell Gardens and if you’re with a bunch of extroverted pals re-enact the ‘Do-Re-Mi’ song sections filmed here for The Sound of Music.

mirabell gardens salzburg city

📷 by Em

The neatly groomed Baroque-style gardens are completely free to visit and naturally attracts a boat-load of camera wielding tourists. Looking past the bum-bags and selfie sticks, there’s enough space in the Mirabell Gardens that the  jostling masses are comfortably swallowed up so that the charm of the place is still intact.

mirabell gardens salzburg free to do

📷 by Em

There are scented-swirly plant beds in a rainbow of colours, a smattering of gorgeous fountains (the Pegasus fountain is the star of the show), the ‘hedge theatre’, plus a curious dwarf garden. The whole space is crowned by the Schloss Mirabell – another historical building that is essentially a love letter written in bricks*. Pop inside to see the palace’s sweeping marble staircase and the flashy Marmorsaal (wedding and concert hall).

bride mirabell gardens salzburg

📷 by Em – Brides are floating around everywhere at Mirabell

 

/ Go for a wander

Salzburg city

📷 by Em

Pottering through a city’s streets on foot is by far the best way explore. Map, no map, half-map and half-guess work, start wafting from one place to another. I’d keep a camera handy too and practice getting in some pretty snaps, simply walking around is a total feast for the eyes.

salzburg free things to do

📷 by Em

Salzburg quite compact but the Altstadt (old town) is a bit of a warren, with narrow archways and gallerias each opening out onto a different square which kind of have their own separate personalities from the main city itself. The buildings come in varying sizes, from the skinny to the bloody massive and are painted in ice cream hues with ornate mouldings and striking shop-front displays for browsing (the swankier places are on Getreidegasse).

salzburg free things to do

📷 by Em

It’s people-watching heaven in Salzburg, what with the amount of tourists milling around and people who actually live in the city going about their business. You’ll see lots of folk in traditional Austrian dress (lederhosen & dirndls), granted 98% of them might be tour guides on their lunch break but I like to think it’s because they want to be patriotic dressing up for the day. And if you get achy legs, fall back on the wonderful European café culture by buying a cheap drink, settling yourself at an outside table to continue your observations.

salzburg city free things to do

📷 by Em

 

/ Culture trip

culture things salzburg

📷 by Em

Off the back of taking a simple turnabout Salzburg, like many other cities, the place is a living museum bursting with free culture-stuff – what an eloquent series of words, ‘free culture-stuff’. Just popping out for a quick ramble and you’ll be knees deep in charming fountains and impressive statues along the way, usually complete with a shiny info plaque to explain what you’re looking at.

salzburg culture free things to do

📷 by Em – Mozart’s sunny yellow birthplace on the right

Majority of the churches cost absolutely zilch to enter too, like Franziskanerkirche cathedral, the oldest in Salzburg (it’s always nice to leave a small donation though, to keep these places well looked after and free).

modern art trail salzburg

📷 by Em – 10th art project Salzburg Walk of Modern Art – Würth Collection: Erwin Wurm, “Gurken” (or cucumbers), 2011, in Furtwänglerpark

Or you could spend an afternoon following the city’s Modern Art Trail. This project invites international artists from around the world to create outdoor installation pieces at various sites that flow with Salzburg’s vibe.

music salzburg

📷 by Em

And finally, you’re in a town that has basically been built on music. From Mozart, to the Salzburg Festival and the brilliant Sound of Music film, you’ll be treated to clusters of professional-sounding musicians tinkling out a tune on paths all over Salzburg. Again be kind, and if you can, give these guys a couple of coins for their efforts in providing you with memorable entertainment for practically nothing.

mozart salzburg

📷 by Em – The main man Mozart

 

/ Mönchsberg

monchsberg salzburg📷 by www.salzburg.info

If you want a hit of breath-taking views and can cobble together €2.90 from bits of odd change, you’ll be able to buy a return journey on the Mönchsberg lift. As one of six Salzburg mountains (measuring 508m at its highest point), the Mönchsberg serves as a beautiful panoramic terrace over the city. For crazy active people you can hike the hill for free, scrapping the lift all together.

Once at the top, even though you’re still technically in the town centre, a touch of the countryside will be felt. Meander round the fields and forests to the musical background of jangling cowbells as the animals lazily graze. There’s a handful of other things to see / do like the café-restaurant for a spot of refreshment, as well as the Hohensalzburg fortress or the Museum der Moderne (they aren’t free though).

Feeling energetic? Take the staircase on the way down to St Peter’s cemetery, morbid I know but I’ve been told it’s something definitely worth seeing. Sound of Music fans will appreciate this especially as it’s where the von Trapp family hid from the Gestapo before escaping to Switzerland (cemetery is free to view, but for the church and catacombs you’ve got to cough up).

 

/ Markets

markets salzburg

📷 by Em

Christmas, summer and those in-between months, Salzburg is a city mad on markets. And they can be as cheap or as expensive as you like when visiting. There’s the traditional Grünmarkt running from Monday to Sunday, set against the sky-touching University Church.

market salzburg city

📷 by Em

This is one of the bigger ones, with lots delicious smells, food and drink in every shade, a riot of noise, as well as a hustle and bustle mix of locals, tourists and bellowing vendors. Grünmarkt is a massive assault on the senses (but a pleasant one!). Expect to find more cheese, meat and other produce which could easily feed a small army for at least a decade. I recommend you implement a clear strategy before trawling the stalls for tasty potential samples. Then on top of all that you’ve got handfuls of smaller weekly farmers market to accompany the larger ones. A summer-y riverside market sprung up while I was there, so it pays to just keep an eye out.

salzburg christmas market

📷 by www.salzburg.info

Obviously the big hitter is Salzburg’s Christmas market to celebrate the advent season. This chocolate-box city dials up the charm factor by tenfold once it’s had a dusting of snow and been lovingly wrapped in festive decorations. Imagine chiming bells, the soft crunch of winter underfoot and tiny twinkly lights setting the scene. Maybe a hot Glϋhwein is in your hand to keep you toasty while perusing displays of local crafts, on the hunt for small Christmas gifts. Or perhaps you’re watching a melodic gathering of carollers and musicians performing to the crowds on Residenz Square …

…started looking at flights yet?

 


*As of now, all declarations of love and affection for me will only be accepted in palace form. Thank you.

 

5 Cheap or free things to do in Salzburg