Thursday, August 07, 2014

Trials and Tribulations....

Nothing I seem to do goes smoothly - as you are becoming aware of in my 'media memories'.  Today very nearly began that way.

It was a lovely sunny morning so decided to go out with Norris down to the shops as I needed cash from the cashpoint, and while I was there go to the 'buttons and bows' shop and buy some wool so that I could do more crocheting.

When I got to the hole-in-the-wall, it wouldn't take my card, and on closer inspection (have to put my eyes about an inch away from the screen to read what it says (due to sunlight falling on it), read ' out of order'.  
Decided I'd got at least enough money left in my purse to buy one ball of wool so went to the shop, and that too was closed!!!
Checked the time (on my mobile, I don't wear a watch), and it said 10.25 so thought I'd sit outside and wait as it probably would open at 10.30.  Within a very few minutes saw the lady walking up the road to the shop, so was able to totter inside (I have a collapsible walking stick in Norris' basket), and sit down at the counter.  Joy upon joy, the lady now takes credit cards (she didn't originally) so I was able to buy several balls of wool (reduced price) and a selection of crochet hooks.

The fun part was that discussing the merits of DIY and (with me) the fun and sense of achievement when making something out of almost nothing, discovered the young lady had the same approach to life, so we had a lovely chat. 

Once I got home, took advantage of the sunshine and sat in the garden for a while eating my lunch (sardine sandwiches). then indoors to lay out the ingredients for B's stir-fry, then sat indoors for a while watching 'Doctors' and crocheting at the same time.  Carried on crocheting most of the evening, just about finishing one ball.  Made a lovely round sort-of mat, but no use to me as a mat so pulled it back (before the yarn had set into crinkles) so I can begin again trying out different patterns.  I'd also bought an instruction book, so will be able to make 'proper' things instead of just going round and round and round and round....and round...

When Gill had visited us recently she taught me the basics of crochet, and left me a couple of cones of yarn that matched the throw she had made and had given me.  Not much yarn left on them, but enough for me to practise a few different stitches.  Having now used these, and kept the finished 'mats' (round ones of course), had a brilliant idea.   The cones are just the right size to cover with either baking parchment or that non-stick baking 'stuff', and then I can build a cone of profiteroles round them to make small 'Croquembouches'.

Many years ago, when I had a knitting machine, most of the yarn came on cones, and remember that one was plastic, not solid but more like a sieve (well, not quite but it had lots of holes all over it).  So gathered some used 'foam' (the sort used for flower display - can't remember the name), not worth using again in the normal way, but when wetted was able to be crushed up and shoved up inside the cone.  Then I just stuck flower stems through the holes and when completely covered with blossom (and some leaves around the base), it looked really pretty and as long as the base was stood in water, it kept the flowers blooming for at least a week.

Seems that you are enjoying my 'media memories', which makes all the trials and tribs that happened all too often, now almost worthwhile.

One thing I forgot to mention was that after I'd done the filming of my own series, and began to receive the royalties from the book (that went with the series), for the first time I was earning quite a bit of money.  Not regular earnings of course,  once done I thought that was the end, but as it happened it wasn't.
Before I even got that far I had realised that now I didn't need to live 'hand to mouth' any more this did not make me happy.  In fact the opposite.  When we can afford to buy things, it takes away all the fun out of 'saving up', let alone the sense of achievement we get when we find we can actually make something for very little cost.

So decided to get rid of the money I'd 'earned'.  Admittedly did use some for urgent house repairs and decoration that we couldn't afford before.  Got a new drive laid (the old one full of holes), and I did treat myself.  Something I rarely do, but thought that if I bought myself a little car, then it would make it easier for me to travel around to the demos (and book signings) that were just beginning to happen (also to Pebble Mill and later to Milton Keynes for further TV that I didn't know about at that time).   I chose the cheapest car at that time having decided that cars are like trains.  Whether we travel first or second class, we still get there in the same time.

My choice was a Fiat Panda, only just arrived on the market, and apart from the seats being very uncomfortable (a bit like padded deck chairs), the miles per gallon were impressive (I once did 60 miles to the gallon returning down the motorway from Pebble Mill, and that with the choke out - because I'd forgotten to push it back in).

Once the 'necessaries' had been bought, most of the remaining money was shared between the family. Life felt very good. Until I got a letter.  From the tax man.  Silly me had not realised that the money I had 'earned' would be taxed.  And they wanted £2,000!!! 

Thankfully, a friend of a friend knew an accountant who was prepared to deal with my finances - he did a lot for charity, and I think he thought I was a charity case.    So from then on I kept very detailed records, and was able to off-set part of the running costs of anything connected with my 'work' - even the running costs of the freezer, and also my car. 
Once I'd paid the tax, really was back to square one again, but that was just how I liked it, and as I did have the car, and more work was coming in, was able to earn just enough to keep the wolf from the door. 

The BBC don't pay much at all for occasional work,  it may seem a lot and would be if it was regular work, but if I was paid (let's say) £100 a throw,  doing 10 shows a year, and having to spend quite a bit of this on new clothes (must never wear the same thing twice),  new specs (needed nom-reflective lenses so the lights etc wouldn't be reflected back to viewers), etc, etc...This averaged out at approx.£20 a week?.   Think I earned enough to pay tax only for a couple of years, then remainder of my 'media work' (TV, radio, books, magazine articles, demonstrations.....) only brought in enough money to cover running costs.   But then I wasn't intending to make money out of it.  The idea was to explain to everyone how we didn't NEED much money to have a good(e) life.

After filming 'The Goode Life', was approached by Pebble Mill to see if I'd do some cookery spots on 'Pebble Mill at One'.  It was the producer who phoned me, and after I agreed she said she'd write to me and fix up a date when we could meet to discuss what I'd be doing.
After the conversation ended I put the phone down, went and sat down to recover from the unexpected thought of me appearing 'live' on a programme, then went to phone B (or someone in the family) to tell them.  When I lifted the receiver, all I could hear was the sound of people talking in the background, and to cut a long story short, what had happened was that after the call, Pebble Mill had not disconnected the line.  At least we didn't have to pay for it, as they called me, not vice versa. 
This lasted for several hours, so as at that time we didn't have mobiles (or if there were any they were the size of house bricks), went next door to use their phone to phone British Telecom (or whoever it was then) to ask them if they could sort out the problem.  They said they could but it would take about half an hour.  Which was about right.

B drove me to Pebble Mill so I could work out the right roads to take (I really have no sense of direction) and it didn't help when I discovered that I'd have to drive through 'spaghetti junction', but thankfully it was easy enough when I knew where I had to join, and where I had to leave.

Once we had arranged my cookery spot (can't remember now what I cooked on the first one, but it was so successful - they had hundreds of requests for fact sheets - I was asked back again and again), I packed my Panda with all the food needed and set off (from Leeds) to drive to Birmingham.  What I had to do was leave Leeds early afternoon, report to Pebble Mill later, then go to a little local hotel they had arranged for me to stay the night.  The following day I would do the demo, then return home.

Just as well I was going the day before the show as there was a huge traffic jam on the M1.  To this day I don't know why I did it, but for some reason moved from the middle lane (that was travelling a bit faster than the slow one, this full of lorries), into the slow lane, and while the car was stationary, due to the hold-up, the engine suddenly stopped, and wouldn't start again.
As I was then in the slow lane and traffic stationery was able to get out of the car and push it onto the hard shoulder.  Close by was one of those phones we could use to call for help, and they arranged for the RAC to come - this taking about an hour due to the traffic still mainly at a standstill.

While I was waiting, a police car drove down the hard shoulder and stopped to see if I was Ok.  They couldn't work out what was wrong with the car, all the other electrics worked fine, but were kind enough to stay with me until the RAC came and got the car started.  Think it was a wire leading to the ignition that had come adrift.  I was told to take it into a garage and get it repaired as soon as I reached my destination.  Didn't until I returned to Leeds, but luckily the car didn't break down between times.

Once I'd got to Pebble Mill (later than intended but they were still there), finally went to the hotel, had supper and then went to my room.  A small room, single bed, and I was glad to have an early night. Around midnight, suddenly - when turning over - one of the legs at the head of the bed fell off, and I slid onto the floor.  Too late (I thought) to wake the owner, so dragged the mattress onto the floor, and so slept the rest of the night on that, covered by the duvet (or was it sheets and blankets, can't now remember).  As you are beginning to realise, that was par for the course when it came to me having anything remotely associated with my 'media work'. 

Next day did the show, it worked well enough, but the presenter kept saying "I can't believe how you can make so-and-so so cheaply", which I took as meaning he thought I was lying, when he really meant he was just amazed it could be done.  I do remember muttering "....just because your wife can't manage on the money you give her..." and was told later by a friend who'd been watching, that she'd run into the next room to say to her husband "she's going to hit him next".  Have to say that the first 'spot' on Pebble Mill is one I'd rather forget, but to anyone else it could seem funny.  So thought you'd like to hear all about it, warts and all.

But that is only the start of what happened at Pebble Mill.  You will hear more. And more.  And then came Bazaar, and even though by that time I was called 'one-take Shirley' (having learned by then how to do it properly in front of camera), even then things went wrong.  Was I just unlucky or what?

As it is after midnight, think I'll call it a day.  Really must get around to writing up recipes again, but media memories are taking over at the moment.  Maybe I can give both.  Join me tomorrow to find out.  TTFN.