Son leaves for Cardiff and how we feel

Cardiff awaits this weekend with the loss of our son.

I’ve always been a hands on dad, in the best possible way. Bringing up the two children in partnership with my wife.

There’s no state of tiredness as overwhelming as being a new parent. I remember it well, even though it’s 18 years since James Stuart Walton came into being. It crystallises too because I was newly married, adjusting to that and battling illness, both mental and physical.

It was a difficult period of our lives.

I eventually took time off work as an undiagnosed food allergy saw me emaciated and wasted, with a mind as broken as the body that was being fed gluten.

It meant though that my 10 stone, 6 foot 2 frame, I kid you not, would have bonding time with his newborn son in the rural delights of the Staffordshire Moorlands.

We used to walk most days. 

Impulsively I bought an all terrain buggy which was useless. But rather than admit it, I pushed and pulled up hill and down dale in Waterhouses, our home from 1999 to 2001. It was a strange period, made even stranger by local peculiarities. One was that the village shop owner had an Athena type poster of Iain Duncan Smith behind the till. This repulsed this 35 year old teacher every time I went in for milk. 

It was very Royston Vasey.

The car, our Golf GTi, was traded in for a slow cumbersome Honda CRV. This had the boot capacity of a Boeing 747, perfect for that buggy, travel cot, nappies, toys etc, which we’d load to travel to and from Doncaster to see family.

When we talked.

That’s another story too for another time, perhaps.

Luckily, in 2002, as James turned 3, I was miraculously rescued by the NHS. I went to the doctors (when we’d left Staffordshire to be nearer my parents and siblings) and was told in no uncertain times that I looked terminally ill. I had a sickly pallor, a concentration camp physique (I kid you not) and was detained in Scunthorpe General for tests.

It was coeliac disease – gluten destroying my villi and making me vomit and have diarrhoea daily, with depression and anxiety always lurking in the corner.

We moved again in 2008 to Norfolk, after I was much better and had resumed teaching for 12 unbroken years, with daughter Ruby coming along to replicate the exhaustion in 2006, prior to moving to the county of tractors.

Norfolk is Marmite

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Norfolk. I love what I do now, but I hate what some people in this place did to me, but, with hindsight, it worked out for the best.

We’re anchored in Norfolk, we’re settled and even though we’ve moved twice here from Gorleston to Bradwell, it feels like home generally.

The climate you see and lifestyle is excellent. There’s little crime, little sense of threat, and the pace of life is gentle and relaxing.

Norfolk is now home.

On Friday though, it feels like the wheel has turned full circle and we pack the X3 this time (self employment has been kind) and head off with son James to Cardiff and university.

He did brilliantly in his A levels and managed ABC (easy as 123) in tough subjects. Namely, English Literature, French and History and is doing a joint French-English degree.

It makes us burst with pride that he’s excelled in his parents’ specialism – his mum, my wife, is multi-lingual and I speak Yorkshire with a smattering of street English so he’s done well. 

Instead of nappies, travel cots, buggies, this time it’s filled with books, clothes and shoes for the torturous journey to Cardiff, Wales.

I wonder too if he’ll return to Norfolk, his home for 11 years, or will he like so many we know, settle elsewhere?

We shall see about Cardiff.

We know though that he will do well in life, wherever he settles, and will be as supported as much by us in adulthood as he was in childhood.

Planning for 2019 – always think ahead – bellends need not apply

Whilst you’re sipping your Harvey’s Bristol Cream (oh I do miss that and other alcohol!), your thoughts may turn to 2019 or they may not. I’m always planning ahead, because being freelance and self-employed means you can’t think “Sod it I’ll take January 2019 off and have a much-needed rest.”

I’ve got plans underway too – there’s websites on the horizon for various clients that will occupy that month and beyond, but I’m also tingling with anticipation at working with three new clients – all on their social media, which is great.

Without divulging too much, I’ve carried out an audit of a company who’ve contacted me and have agreed to pay me a monthly retainer for a year to write content for their email campaigns, newsletters and website and run their social media for a set amount per month. I say a year. There’s an unspoken rule that it can be terminated by me if they turn out to be bellends (technical term for bad clients).

There’s certain things I don’t like you see – mainly being owned and micro-managed.

A company last year tried to treat me like a skivvy in the company – I told them where to shove their retained contract, after a couple of months.

I have this mentality that if I pay someone to service my boiler, landscape my garden, write my will, I don’t go all nit-picking and controlling on them and accept they’re the experts.

Just as I’m half decent with marketing and writing, I kick off when a bellend client insists on owning me.

Got a great feeling about all three though as I’ve tested the water so to speak with each.

The second client is paying me to lead their personal LinkedIn company pages and profile, as well as prospecting for suitable connections. Serious stuff and quite ironic given that I blur social media boundaries on LinkedIn and post family and personal stuff to piss the LinkedIn feds off.

The third is another estate agent. I work for about ten already, so this is a busman’s holiday indeed.  Estate agents have a bad reputation and I must say it’s largely deserved.

But I’ve mined a rich seam of decent ones – like Hogan’s in Leeds and Pure North Norfolk in Fakenham, whose staff and ethos chimes with mine and never a cross word has been muttered in 2 years with each company.

There you have it.

I won’t be getting drunk this Christmas or with any others in the future as I’m an avowed teetotal whose relationship with alcohol has been terminated for good.

I wish you all a great break and if you need any work done in terms of content marketing, a new website, social media stuff, get in touch now.

I have an expensive San Pellegrino habit and I intend buying a new BMW soon so every little helps.

The budget, housing and the ghost of Banquo

So what happened in yesterday’s budget for housing, announced by the wan Philip Hammond, a man with less colour in his complexion than Banquo’s ghost? Quite a few points actually.

1 Help to Buy

Help to Buy was extended for a further 2 years to 2023. It’s a scheme that has got many people into home ownership who would still be renting – so it is commendable, though I think it’s inevitably favoured the new build market and possibly, longer term, may affect resale values for those who didn’t climb on to (or were ineligible for) the Help to Buy wagon.

2 Stamp duty

In my experience, this is the single biggest obstacle to moving and it remains so. When we downsized two years ago, stamp duty was high on the purchase but the buyers of our £410,000 property were hit hard. Stamp duty stops people moving, in my opinion. It’s the biggest cost and that’s why so many estate agents work for say that the property market remains quite stagnant. Unless an estate agent offered to waive stamp duty (and that will never happen) on any property we were interested in, we would be reluctant to move. Pallid Philip abolished it last year for first time buyers for homes worth up to £300,000. Now he’s extended it to shared ownership of 25% to 75% of a home. The new limit is £500,000 which will presumably get a London buyer a garage in Kensington to share or a northern village. I like the idea. I bang on about cars with single occupants and I like the idea of two separate people buying a property and halving the mortgage and bills.

3 The High Street

Rest in peace. The internet and high taxation has murdered the high street. Debenhams paid £80 million in tax last year whilst Amazon paid £14 million. If Toys R Us, Debenhams, M and S, BHS buildings in town and city centres stand empty, there is a valid argument for converting these into homes. They’re in prime locations, often have ample parking attached (in the case of Toys R Us) and will breathe life back into high streets. I remember visiting a friend in Amiens who lived above a business in a flat in the heart of the city and there were no empty buildings, no ghost town feeling, instead ample footfall and a general sense of community. I felt this in Leamington Spa a few weeks ago, but many British towns are depressingly empty and grim. Repopulating them is a good start.

4 More homes

Phil put £500 million in the Housing Infrastructure Fund, used by councils for building homes. There’s something deeply ironic about a government (that legacy under Thatcher) who sold off social housing and created a mini nation of council estate Tory voters and set about emasculating them further with the Multi Academy Trust programme that they are now prodding the same beleaguered councils to build 650,000 new homes and nine housing associations to build 13,000 more. Royston Vasey’s land will benefit too as that and 499 other local communities will be able to allocate land, build and sell to local people for local prices. The cap (snapback?) on councils to borrow money to build council houses is also scrapped.

Ostensibly then, from my perspective, the budget did seem a good one for housing. I still think stamp duty needs seriously addressing for all buyers – if it’s the biggest impediment for me sticking a For Sale board on the lawn and moving, I’m sure it is for others. The town centre idea is a great one in my opinion, as long as planning regulations are maintained. A large out of town commercial units can’t simply be partitioned and people scooped in. Architects need involvement in making these fit for living and sleeping and not just shopping.

Finally, I invite Philip Hammond to get some Vitamin D along with the rest of parliament – they all look like the Walking Dead, presumably because they never get fresh air. Phil, come walk my dog with me, and I promise you won’t end up in a Norfolk ditch with twenty mortal gashes on your head. Don’t bring TM though – her dancing alarms both me and Cassie.

Content marketing strategy – why you should have one

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Get Pro Copy reached a milestone yesterday – it turned 2 years old. I knew when I began planning the business that it would succeed, namely because I love writing and I knew that the idea of providing a decent content marketing strategy for others would work.

To be honest, I never had any doubts about it “having legs” as a concept, but rather than sing “Happy birthday to me” I need to give an explanation of what content marketing is about.

Read moreContent marketing strategy – why you should have one

Dear Apple, I’m quickly posting this in case my iPhone dies

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Clearly I’m not sending this to Jonny Ives. They have more important things to deal with than a letter from some two bit freelance writer, known as Victor Meldrew in the trade, moaning about Apple, iOS 11 and the battery drain.

First world problems indeed.

But I will address this to my small band of readers, who like me, are part of the Apple clan and feel a little pissed off at the moment.

Well I do.

Read moreDear Apple, I’m quickly posting this in case my iPhone dies

Oh CD – you sound so much better than streams

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The Compact Disc is perhaps going the same way as the humble cassette, into musical heaven as a footnote in history, but I believe strongly that the CD should be saved.

Why?

To my rather large ears, they sound so much better than streamed playlists from Apple Music or Spotify.

Okay they’re cumbersome and bulky and devour a lot of drawer space and glovebox volume in cars, but aurally, they are superior.

Don’t you agree?

Read moreOh CD – you sound so much better than streams

Stop being a washing machine with your boring blogs

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I remember becoming a father 16 years ago for the first time and eagerly listening to ways to get our new-born son to sleep as we felt like we’d been through a proverbial hundred year war.

Don’t get me wrong, the pregnancy was easy (for me at least) and the delivery quicker than Amazon Prime, but we did not anticipate the fatigue.

Read moreStop being a washing machine with your boring blogs

Freelance writing – I control my business, now.

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I can count life-changing events on two hands: marriage, diagnosis with a food allergy, the birth of my two children, going teetotal and throwing off the shackles of education, through freelance writing.

They’ve all been seismic and I would not like to rank them in order of magnitude.

But as I’m a writer, who engages in freelance writing, in Norfolk as a copywriter, I better talk about this rather than placentas or the end of singleness.

Read moreFreelance writing – I control my business, now.

Is home a state of mind or an actual place?

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When we went back to Staffordshire in late December (oh what a night), it felt, as we drove from Ashbourne, along the A52 to Leek, that we’d arrived at home.

We’d not been there since we relocated north in 2002 and, instead of that general feeling of disappointment one can feel, when you return, we felt delight and elation.

Waterhouses, Cheddleton, Leek felt like a homecoming.

Leek has just been feted as one of the best places to live in Britain and we could see why two months ago.

Why?

Read moreIs home a state of mind or an actual place?

Eating gluten in early childhood

I was lucky enough to go through a four tier education phase: first school, juniors, middle and high.

First school saw me walking there daily with my mum – cars were for the privileged few and no one was driven to school as one parent (mainly mums) didn’t work.

Quite quaint really when I compare it to the torturous school runs of today and the impact school holidays have on reducing commuter traffic.

Read moreEating gluten in early childhood

The loneliness of the long distance writer.

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Despite having enough work to occupy me freelance, I quite fancy leaving the house once or twice a week.

Not just to shop, not just to meet clients, not just to exercise (those demons) at the gym, but to mix, mingle, and be merry amongst a workforce.

You see, like Alan Sillitoe’s Smith, I need, at times, to get out and do something long distance.

Read moreThe loneliness of the long distance writer.

Email Copywriting, how to get success for business

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I don’t know about you but I’m inundated daily by emails, with many examples of woeful email copywriting.

Inundated with emails offering 50 free spins, a free £10 spreadbet, £50 if I open an online poker account – and I don’t even gamble – except in Spring, accompanied by lambs, obviously.

Read moreEmail Copywriting, how to get success for business

26 reasons why you should pay a writer.

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Free writer doesn’t mean free from payment.

In this expansive publication, I thought I’d address – at great length – whether writers, document writers, article writers, should write for free.

It’s handily labelled A to Z with some decent (and some not so decent) attempts to subtitle like an acrostic poem.

X was tricky – so I cheated on point 24!

Z flummoxed me too but I went for a leading word of Zebra – seemed a good idea at the time!

Read on!

Read more26 reasons why you should pay a writer.

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