I have not been straight with you ... My name is Sharon, I am a writer, I am also a secret millionaire.
Aha, got ya!
I am kidding. I am kidding.
The Secret Millionaire is a reality television show originating in the UK and aired on Channel 4. Millionaire benefactors say goodbye to their luxury lifestyles and go undercover in deprived areas to seek out people in need of help. Would you believe it the show came to Dundee!
Irish woman, Roisin Isaacs, a successful business woman in the health care industry came to Dundee to participate in series 4 episode 8, which was aired in the UK in May 2009.
The television show showed the most unsightly and neglected areas of Dundee: the Hilltown and Stobswell. Two areas of Dundee that I know like the back of my hand, areas where I still frequent and shop. Remember my Pet Shop Of Horrors (post here).
Funnily enough in my guide book of Dundee, A Skirt Around Dundee A Walker's Guide To The City, those two areas are missing. My book, I admit is a glossy vision of Dundee.
But now I have an opportunity to redeem myself and indeed pay tribute to those areas.
The Boomerang Project, which featured in the Channel 4, show and awarded £7,500 by Roisin, is commissioning a book to record the memories of the older generation from the areas of Stobswell and Hilltown.
Neil Ellis, Project leader of Boomerang says,
When people die, they take their stories with them.
I have been invited to become involved in this heritage project and produce the book. I am thrilled. I can't wait to get started!
Talent helps but it won't take you as far as ambition.
I am an ambitious person, though I have not always been this way. I find also that it is seasonal - for example during the summer time my mind is hijacked with cultural city-breaks, bikini clad beaches, exotic food and exotic accents and being an entrepreneur falls by the wayside. Is this a woman thing? Is this why women fail to get as far as men in business? (At the very least it is the reason why I am failing to get a head in my business.)
Another entrepreneur said,
Your business is an expression of yourself. It bends and curves according to your mindset.
I am the first to admit my publishing business, Pumpkin Press has always netted a loss each financial year end: This responsibility rests with me. Only I can solve it.
I do believe your getting the psychology behind a business right or wrong is a make or break factor: for example,
When I started my business three years ago in 2006, I said to myself that I would commit for three years - see how it goes, if not doing so good then I would call it a day after three years. (I based this three year time span on statistics, that show most start up business close after the first three years.)
The statistics are -
30% close in the first year of trading 60% close in the third year of trading Between 70 - 80% in the fifth year of trading
What I found was that I had psychologically created the future outcome of my business. I subconsciously accepted my business would last for three years, and of course in year two I was beginning to wrap up loose ends. I stopped developing the business. I stopped taking risks and I cut back on spending. I psychologically was bringing my business to a close. I let opportunities pass by.
Tough learning curve.
However, the twist is, my business has not closed. The funny old thing about business is that it takes on a life of its own, Pumpkin Press won't let me alone ... dammit!
Therefor, I am drawing up a plan for the next three years. I found this article on the web about not letting goofy statistics put you off being an entrepreneur.
Young man - Wentworth Miller: What is there not to like?
Older man - Johnny Depp: Definitely not too old.
Older still - Robert Dinero: I can definitely say I am not ageist.
"Yeh, Shaz, you are at that weird age, where you can go either way."
Inge is referring to the fact I am, ahhem years old (Ten years older than her) and working out what age range would best suit me as a potential boyfriend.
She says this whilst daydreaming out of her living room window, over the view towards Magdalen Yard Green and the old Tay rail bridge with the tragic past.
I must have taken her good intentions the wrong way because, and having one of those age moments that women get once they hit forty, I remark with slight arrogance that the last two boyfriends I had were in their twenties. Ha. Ha. Smug. Cat's got the cream. Nananana!
Then quickly add because I know Inge's reaction to showy-offyness is sarcasm,
"Penny for your thoughts, Inge."
Too late. Ouch - in advance.
"Ye and look how disastrous those relationships turned out," she replies.
"Ye, but the sex was good," I say weakly searching for positives. But realising as I hear the words that sex with twenty year olds, when you are ahhem years old is not actually that great.
(Think about it.)
Inge swivels wistfully, on her window seat to face me as she pulls a mass of unruly curly jet black hair out of her eyes using both hands and forms into a pony tail, then sits, like a bank robber has just told her to put her hands in the air and place behind her head, with her elbows held at ear-ring level as she obviously does not have a scrunchy and is not bothered in searching for one. She sighs, slowly as she prepares to scrutinise my reaction for her coming statement.
"I've organised a girls night in at J-Lo's for Friday night. How do you feel about that? Are you up for it?"
I didn't think you would be remotely interested in my answer (re. Monday's post) ... but here goes:
The question again for those who may have not read Monday's post (21 September),
What book have you read that has made a profound impact on your life?
I said, Bridgit Jones's Diary, because it inspired me to begin writing a womens' satirical comedy novel.
Ahha, I wish.
That was the answer I thought of after the interview ... you know when I was reliving the trauma later on the bus ride home.
What I really blathered was,
Maggie: Girl Of The Streets, which is more of a novella than a novel and was written by a young man who died when he was 25 years old. Such a shame, he was so talented. His name was Steven Crane and he was American. (I stopped here for an extra long breath before resuming.) The story of Maggie was periphery as the underlying message was about the poverty and abuse and degredation of life in the Bowery, which is an area of New York. The book was set in the 1920s. (I had my fingers crossed here because I couldn't quite remember the decade.) What impressed me was how Stephen captured the real grit of the Irish imigrants lives through his use of direct speach and imagery. This book had such a profound effect on me (here I felt I better get back to the point of the question) that I used it for my book review as part of my English degree. (About here, I noticed two poker faces breaking into sweat and glancing at their watches, and I clicked that they were panicking about my longwinded answer messing up the interview schedule, as there was another four candidates after me.)
All I can say is, if a question is set, that is complicated, expect a profound answer.
People certainly don't put themselves through a job interview just for the Hell of it.
A job interview is one of those strange scenarios that feels, perhaps a little like having an outer body experience. You are talking away - selling yourself, as you do, praising up the company, as you do - whilst being aware of your voice droning on, and watching your interviewers sitting zombiefied, with poker faces. In normal conversation people listening normally nod, and add in bits like aha, or ye, ye, or I know, or me too. This situation can be disconcerting - no wonder everyone dreads a job interview.
I had a group interview some years ago, whereby one of my interviewers was someone whom I knew. She obviously had risen up the ranks whilst my career had in the meantime stayed horizontal. This person changed from her old self to Margaret Thatcher. Talk about giving someone a little promotion. Her questions came with that poker face, I mentioned. I almost said its me Sharon, you know, Shaz. Probably, she relinguished to the pressure of her superiors - as her boss was indeed part of the group around the table.
To me though, seriously, I am getting to the point of disgust with the whole artificial feeling of the interviewee/interviewer situation. To the point that I have decided to be myself and be honest about my worth and what I can give to the job (bearing in mind I don't really know what the job is) and more importantly, what can the company do for me: economic crisis or not, I'm going to tell it as it is. Pha! (Er ... I have been advised not a good idea to bulldoze in with this attitude ... I say bollocks). I also decided if I get another dumb interview with another dumb interviewer I am walking. I had this interview - not so long ago in Edinburgh - as a project manager, where the interviewer pranced into the room, complete with poker face, barely even acknowledged me and began,
There are no trick questions.
Then proceed to shoot me with a list of outrageous trick questions. As it happened I didn't get the job. In fact no one got the job as I later found out she - yes it was a she - decided to review the job. Hmm, perhaps she could have reviewed said job before all of the expense, energy and time required by all those involved. Ahh ha, now I get it, that was the trick!
Back to the storming out idea, on second thoughts not practical. What if I find myself wandering around a strange building like it is the maze at Kew Gardens and have to sheepishly, retrace my steps, and ask for directions to exit. No, no, my response now, when I am given an absurd or inappropriate question, or has me thinking, what the hell do you want blood? will be to eye-roll.
I actually had a job as an administrative assistant many years ago now (I worked for a charity) whereby I was involved with the selection process of the volunteer receptionists. Or so I thought.
On the day of the interviews, I put my carefully thought out questions to the candidates with a smile and nodded understanding on hearing their answers. I was going to add comments like Hey, I went to that school too, and make the interview more conversational, but was aware of my boss, who was part of the interview panel glaring at me through her poker face, so felt better not.
Later when entering my boss's office to talk of the process and wondering how on earth to come to a conclusion on picking someone because I liked everyone. She announced before I even pulled up a chair, Ms X got the job please type a rejection and send to the others. Thank you Sharon, shut the door on your way out.
Back to the whole reason for this post, I had an interview two weeks ago with a leading British press publisher as a magazine journalist. The interview was an interrogation, which I expected as I know that the publishing industry is brutal.
Yes, there were a number of eye-rolls from me. The questions in them selves were interesting though.
I will leave you with my favourite from the interview,
What book have you read that led to having a profound impact on your life?
You have all eternity to mull over this question, I had 12 nanoseconds to give an answer before my interrogator's poker faces cracked.
On Sunday, which was yesterday, I took a little walk by my old haunts. In Scotland we are having an Indian summer of late and I like to walk. (I wrote a book of walks around Dundee, remember: one of my passions).
I passed by the house where an old girlfriend's boyfriend used to live and pow - flashback. I smiled.
I totally fancied my friend's boyfriend at that time ... Damnit. I was sixteen.
He had a powerful motor bike and she used to get him to pick me up at my house to ferry me to hers whenever we hung out. She used him as a taxi. It suited me. I loved the thrill of the ride. I totally fancied him: His black leathers, his blonde hair in the style of a young Rod Stewart. I hung on to him riding pavilion, as a kid hugs a teddy bear at bedtime.
I thought she was the luckiest girl alive. I was envious. They split up. Ahh, when I heard it, I knew it! I knew that theirs wasn't true love. By then I was in a relationship. I had a boyfriend of my own, who incidentally I married and later divorced. Here's the twist.
Inge and I huddle as one, to shield against the nip in the cool Scottish air, as we zip, as best we could in fairy steps, along a dark but bustling South Tay Street: This road leads from Bar Rio towards the neon lights of Fat Sams.
Inge, excitedly begins to explain her plot behind texting J-Lo, my old friend (post here) . I hadn't realised Inge and J-Lo were still friends, though Inge probably felt best not to talk of her around me. Perhaps, because she felt there was still bad blood between us - Ach! Long story.
Inge, is theorising that as J-Lo is a loose woman, there will be spare admirers hanging around.
Here, is where I would like to point out, that I am not a loose woman. In fact, neither is Inge, despite her guerrilla dating tactics of late. I manage to find dates by myself, thank you very much, usually with out a great deal of effort (remember Key Cutting guy, post here). Inge on the other hand has been without a regular boyfriend longer than I have; around three years for her, one year for me: Consider,
That's three Valentine days alone.
Three birthdays alone, or six if you include that his would be a celebration also.
Three summer vacations.
Three anniversaries never to be had.
Now do you understand Inge's desperation for a boyfriend?
I am fully understanding of her plight, and I turn to her to voice my sentiments - you know in that drunken, I looorve you, you are my bestestest friend in the whoooole w-i-d-e world, sort of way - that I will help her find a nice boyfriend.
Inge's not there.
I look down.
She's lying, all twisted in the gutter between the road and the pavement.
"What are you doing there?"
"My heel just broke off my flipping stiletto!"
A group of passing drunken men start to laugh at the absurdness of the situation and make comments, but at least one of them is a gentleman and helps Inge to her feet (er ... now look who's standing like a flamingo, post here).
This seems to piss her off even more. I don't laugh as I would be killed and I just stand like a mute whilst I listen to Inge (and I'm thinking how peculiar it is that she sounds Scottish, when she is angry even though she is German, post here) rant at the guys,
Ya bunch of losers, ya ugly-bugglies! Ya couldnay satisfy a woman if ya were King Kong! Nay manners, what are ya a man? No, e'll tell ya what ya are, f*****g Zooooorooonnns!
Not so long ago Inge told me off for calling a guy a Zoron.
I am standing like a flamingo, balancing on one leg, alternating between my left and right legs, because my four inch heel purple shoes are killing me. Of course, I get away with it because Inge is busy fiddling with her mobile and doesn't see me in such an uncool stance, but I haven't had a place to perch for a good twenty minutes and it is only half-past ten ... Fat Sams doesn't open until 11.45. Oh Hell! How I am I going to get through the night?
We are still in Bar Rio, on our Saturday night out, in the middle of a throng of chatter and strong perfume. Inge is frantically texting her sources,
"Here, read these," she says thrusting her Nokia ExpressMusic into me like a knife. Hmm. Obviously, she's not forgiven me for my boob of earlier (see post here).
Text to the Boyz (Boyz, as she calls them, are a group of young male colleagues from Inge's work): Hey, hw r ya? Wher r ya? Me and dolls on nit out, wana meet? x Inge
Text from Boyz:
Hey dolls! Watchin fitba on big screen, Murphys Tav x Cool x Deek
"So we are meeting up with Deek and the Boyz?" I ask.
"Like Hell, we are!"
She explains, "If their team wins we will be ignored and if their team loses we will be ignored. No, I also texted a couple of managers from my old shop." (Inge is a travel consultant, by the way). "Here read,"
Text to Men:
Hey, hw r ya? Wher r ya? Me and dolls on nit out, wana meet? x Inge
Text from men:
Cool! playin golf, then railway clubbie, a few jugs x
"Railway Clubbie! Are we going?" I am horrified.
"Over my dead body, not in my little black dress!"
My black dress! I think.
Inge, I have got to say, at this point begins to act a little strange as she starts tapping furiously once again on her mobile muttering under her breath something about this is war and getting laid if it kills her. I realise now why the great interest in finding me a new boyfriend, her ulterior motive is to find one for herself.
"I've just texted J-Lo," she says with a glint in her eye. Then with a final snap of her phone and for the second time that night, I feel a tug on my left arm, which almost whisks me clean out of my shoes, and without the chance to even wave goodbye to Micky - the proprietor / barman / doorman / DJ of Bar Rio - Inge spits,
With that, we depart Bar Rio like two bats out of Hell.
Last night I awoke around 1.30 am (though I didn't know it was 1.30 am at that time) and began tossing and turning and willing myself back to sleep, but the more I willed myself back to sleep the more I tossed and turned. At some point I felt a little itch on my forehead so I go to give it a scratch and curl my fingers around a great big dirty spider.
Now, I don't know for sure what spiders actually feel like, as I am usually bouncing up and down on them, like a kid on a trampoline if any have the misfortune to cross my path, but in that split nanosecond between itch and scratch I imagine my worst nightmare to come true, though concurrently think that this can not be happening: Nightmares are for the movies or happen to other people, anyway I throw this thing across my room to hear it thud and crack on my laminate floor. Then I leap out of bed and turn on the light (here is when I notice the time to be 1.30 am).
The grotesque little s**t is still alive, though stunned, so I jump up and down on it like a kid on a trampoline, before realising I am in my bare feet, which causes me to freak and flee around my flat shrieking like a banshee and flapping my arms around my head like a swarm of bees are after me - as you do (or at least some women do when they come into contact with a spider, worm or some creature of phobia).
I finally give up my marathon circuit of around twenty laps once I sense lights turning on up and down the street where I live and curtains twitching.
Being as I am a glass half full sort of gal I look at the positives:
I read a recent post written by the deliciously, delectable Tale Peddler about Huntsman's spiders (post here). I don't know anything about Huntsman's spiders so check it out on the Internet and for once in my life am glad to live in a damp, miserable country where nothing grows because of the lack of heat and sunshine. My puny spider probably about 2 mm across, about the size of a grain of rice, is laughable compared with the Huntsman, take a look at pic below.
P.S. I am an animal lover but insects give me the heebeegeebees, now I most definitely need to find myself a boyfriend, one who will protect me from spiders, worms, aliens ...
Inge and I arrive at Bar Rio dolled up to the nines.
She has half squeezed into my size 8, black dress, only possible because it is Lycra (she is a size UK 14). I say half squeezed because only half of her is in it: the import bits. Phew. My heart sinks a little as I know I will never wear my favourite dress again. Knowing Inge, it will be returned in bullies.
I am wearing a short tulip frock; the top in a clingy, retro black and white horizontal-stripe vest style (which creates the illusion of a wider cleavage - ha!) attached to a black puff ball type skirt. I accessorise with a tight elasticated belt clinched at my waist.
It is Saturday night and the bar and restaurant are packed: Standing room only at the bar area. Bar Rio is the place, where writers, intellectuals, entrepreneurs and wannabe celeb types meet in Dundee. Of course, there are no celebrities in Dundee, Brian Cox the long standing Hollywood actor escaped from the city a long time ago. Though ever hopeful, Inge and I once served, clasp our vodka lemonades and go find a place to perch.
I say perch; this being against the end of a table or the edge of the bar (which is impossible tonight) or a space against some pillar or wall, because when wearing four inch heels attached to purple dolly shoes, there is the need at regular intervals to shift weight from one mini stilt to the other. In dire circumstance I will just lean against Inge, who hates this: as she says it cramps her style and makes us look like lesbians.
"Right, here are the rules," announces Inge.
I frown a little in puzzlement.
"Don't do that Shaz," says Inge, "that'll only lead to wrinkles and at your age..." she trails as she scans the bar for talent.
"What rules?" I snap, a little pissed-off .
"Listen up, I know you are a bit rusty, so we will just use basic code, right?"
"Right," still frowning.
"When a bloke approaches us and he is ugly-buggly, then I, or you, whoever it is lumbered with him, will code him a Zoron. Right?
"But if we meet a hottie, then we will let the other know by calling him a Gunner." Inge smirks at this as I know she has concocted this word from her favourite movie Top Gun and her obsession with Tom Cruise.
Hmm. I am impressed, she has put a lot of effort into this date code thing.
It doesn't take long before Inge and I are approached by two dudes: Mine, I am sorry to say is not my type at all, and I am not going to bore you with details, please take my word for it. I begin Code Date:
"You sure your name is Shaun?" I start, to my shrug-off, trying not to catch his eye as a talk.
"Sure, dat's wot I sid," Shaun says.
I think he is Irish. Possibly a university student, as Bar Rio is also in the university campus heartland.
"You sure you're not Zoron?" I ask, loudly and emphasising the word like this Z-o-r-o-n.
I suddenly feel a tight grip on my left arm and am hoisted almost clean out of my purple shoes.
"Sorry guys, we need to visit the Ladies," Inge shouts over her shoulder at the men, as she whisks me down two flights of stairs (the toilets in Bar Rio are in the basement) - a mean feat in four inch heels, so I am not happy, when Inge stops short of the door into the powder room and says,
"Jeez Shaz!" in a tone of someone on the edge of reason. She continues, a little more calmly,
"Shaz, you are not supposed to tell the dude he is a Zoron!"
I try to think of something to say ... unsuccessfully.
"You plop the word Zoron, somehow into a conversation with me. I then pick up the code and discretely we say our goodbyes - no hurt feelings and a couple of new contacts for our mobiles. Voila!
I HAVE SOLD BOOKS, WRITTEN BOOKS, ILLUSTRATED BOOKS, PUBLISHED BOOKS, STUDIED BOOKS, COVETED BOOKS, VANDALISED BOOKS (THOUGH, I WAS ONLY TWO YEARS OLD AT THE TIME: HAVING BEEN LET LOOSE WITH CRAYONS), GIVEN PUBLIC TALKS ABOUT BOOKS, BOUGHT BOOKS (I PAID 400 FRENCH FRANKS ONCE - £40.00 - FOR A BOOK IN FRENCH TEXT THAT I CANNOT READ), DESIGNED BOOKS AND LAST, BUT NOT LEAST, I OWN A BUSINESS ABOUT BOOKS ... YET, BOOKISH THOUGH I MAY BE ... NEVER UNDERESTIMATE A BLONDE WITH A PEN!
My favourite things are books, pets and houses. I once owned a publishing company called Pumpkin Press and now own a cleaning business called House Proud. I am a published author of two books and have edited a third. I have a degree in English. I continue to write.