Thursday a-week-and-a-bit ago, an old client asked me if I could “come in for a couple of days”.

Because I’m ultimately a soft touch (and I’d been watching nothing but outgoings for several weeks and thought a little incoming might be good for the nerves), I said yes. Two or three days turned into five, and served as a Very Useful Reminder of why we’re going to do what we’re going to do.

For me, I’m leaving behind leaving the house before the kids are awake and returning after they are asleep. In between, finding, in words and pictures, the best possible solution to a given brief. Then trying to beat that idea. Again. And again. All the time pretending that what I’m producing is not going to be crapped on by the agency and/or their client, only to end up looking like a pile of shit that could have been produced by a handful of monkeys with a half-dozen computers. Then, after another two-hour commute, getting home with only enough time to cook, eat, wash and ablute before getting up and doing it all over again.

Clare, meanwhile, is walking away from playing the role of single parent. Finding, in nourishment of every kind, the best possible way to fill a given day. Again. And again. Constantly cooking, cleaning and clearing up. All the while pretending that her efforts are being Valued And Appreciated by the kids, without the need for them to say thanks. Believing that, one day, she will be able to complete the million and a half creative projects she has in mind.

Millions of people do it. It’s just not what we talked about during that Perfect Weekend in Key West almost exactly eight years ago. (Happy Anniversary us!)

Just so’s you know, about the house. We’re due to exchange early this week and complete early next. We’re so done waiting, it’s not even funny.

This is, though: I read in a newspaper about a survey on favourite words. For women, the word was “love”. For men, it was “antidisestablishmentarianism”. (Although, I suspect, only because floccinaucinihilipilification is so hard to say.)

Just so’s you know, about the work. Someone I haven’t spoken to for ages phoned on Thursday and asked if I was available next week. See above.


The shoulders drop. The breathing deepens. The heartbeat slows.

Yes – dozens of bank statements, invoices, P45s, bills and all the other tedious bits and pieces that in some way represent a year in the life of a freelance copywriter have been found, ordered and bound into the single lever arch file sitting on my left.

I’ve even put the receipts in month order, in the vain hope that this will shave a few pennies off my accountant’s invoice.

Funny how picking up a piece of paper from a cheap Italian eaterie on Ealing Broadway takes you straight back to the moment. I got a lift home that night, instead of making the two-and-a-half-hour, spirit-numbing journey by bus, tube, train and scooter, only to do some chores, sleep and go back again the next day.

I nearly took a full-time job in that agency. Five hours’ commuting every day, to encourage people to buy more and fly more.


I provisionally said yes. The money was good. The job title was good. The people in the creative department were great. But the closer I got to the final interview with Le Grand Fromage, the pissier and snappier I got. Going out into the Sussex countryside at the weekends to look at houses just bigger than this one, that we might just be able to afford, barely lightened my mood.

Then, over dinner, Clare said: “Don’t do it.”

“OK,” I said. “Shan’t.”

The shoulders dropped. The breathing deepened. The heartbeat slowed.


You instinctively know when something is right.

Firstly, a big THANK YOU to everyone for coming to say “au revoir” in Stanmer Park yesterday. It was an unbelievably perfect day. Barely a cloud in the sky, despite assurances of a 40% chance of rain predicted by my most reliable weather website. Loads of friends from Brighton and beyond. Great looking yurt, after Clare’s recent manic work to finish the cover. Superb food from the Real Patisserie, judging by how fast it vanished. There was only one problem.

Not enough time to talk to you all.

Clare is especially gutted, as she seemed to spend much of the afternoon running after Boy. It’s very hard to have a conversation, with a 14-month-old. (A sentence that is equally true without the comma.) But as you probably know, we’re still here for a few weeks, so maybe there’ll still be time to catch up.

For the record, we’re hoping to exchange contracts at the end of this week, and expect to complete about two weeks after that. We’ve also got a few bottles of fizz and red wine that we don’t want to take with us.

Sadly, for the verbally challenged, we didn’t take any photos. So I’ll have to leave you with one we took a few days earlier…

We came up with the name for the website months ago.

Registered the URL.

Wrote the site – gathered links to various local attractions – green technology – all that fun stuff – and we waited.

Waited for permission from the local Maire (in English: Mayor).

Waited while our Architecte (Architect – can you see how this works?) explained how we will have to wait for at least two months after submitting papers to the regional authorities for an answer and how, after a “Oui”, we will have to wait at least two more months for the next set of papers to be approved (by the same people) before we can start building our Big Green Idea.

We waited while the house sale fell through.


And waited for a load of other things.

Like the rain to stop and summer to start.

With weeks more waiting until we can leave the country, the question is: What to do?

Walking round Brighton looking for free, cheap and entertaining stuff to do with a one-year-old (try the Discovery Room in the Brighton Museum and the Jubilee Library for starters) while your daughter’s at school and your partner’s at home making yurt covers can become tedious.

Ask anyone.

The answer, I decided a few days ago, is to stop waiting for a web designer to build the site, and create a simple placeholder homepage myself.

First, I had a go with Netscape Communicator.

The text uploaded. The image didn’t.

So I found a friend with Dreamweaver, went over to his place and built it again.

Then ran out of time before I could upload it.

But, while working on the tutorial, I spotted the free 30-day Dreamweaver trial.

So I came home and downloaded it.

You might have to wait for a few days, but you’ll be able to see the results at:

We did look at land in the UK. But even though we were selling a house for what I consider a decent chunk of change (£100,000 profit, such is the madness of the housing market in the last seven years), there was no way we could afford to buy a field big enough to live on.

We reckoned we’d need two and a half acres of woodland to be self-sufficient, and at least an acre for cultivation.

Clare’s always had a hankering to live in Italy. But neither of us speak the language and it’s a very long way in the car.

We thought about Northern France. But someone told us it was wetter there than it is here and, although great news in terms of water continuity in decades to come, not particularly conducive to living under canvas right now.

To the bookshop!

A good map and a few guide books quickly narrowed our search to Aquitaine. More specifically, the Dordogne. More specifically still, a triangular shaped area between Bergerac, Sarlat and Périgueux. And even more specifically, near a couple of breast-like bends in the river, just off the D29.

A quick web search revealed a piece of land that looked perfect, up for sale by an agency called Orpi. I sent them an email and, naturally, received no reply.

Already fully committed to the project, with no doubts lurking in the shadows, we decided to take a closer look.

The cost of housing
Every extra bedroom currenty costs an extra £100,000. What am I supposed to do – win the lottery?

The state of schools
Can’t afford private schools. Can’t be guaranteed a place at a decent state school. Don’t have time to wait for the Government to introduce the Baccalaureate.

MRSA in the NHS
Hospitals used to be somewhere you’d go to get better. Turns out contracting out cleaning wasn’t such a smart move.

Fare increases on public transport
Every few months the train fares go up. My day rate hasn’t gone up since 1989.

Council tax
Again, every year an increase. Every year the same headshaking incompetence. Let’s hope the new Green counsellors in Brighton & Hove can make a difference.

Residents’ parking zones
Unwanted. Unnecessary. Unsurprisingly, creating problems that didn’t exist before.

Who watches this stuff?

Job insecurity
A typical year sees me employed, unemployed and freelance. One day the phone will stop ringing altogether.

Foreign policy
The vast majority of this country’s populatin say no to the latest Iraq war and we go to war anyway. And Tony Blair is not impeached and imprisoned for treason. I don’t get it.

They’re everywhere. On TV. In newspapers. On blogs. Who comes up with these things?

I don’t know where it came from, but I remember where I was. Sitting on the sofa watching TV. The programme can’t have been very interesting (don’t get me started on the state of British TV these days – it – no – just don’t get me started), because me and Clare were trying to solve our Most Pressing And All Encompassing Ongoing Problem.

It went like this:

Where th* fuck are we going to find the money to move from our small-but-beautiful two-bedroom mid-terrace house in one of the best parts of Brighton to somewhere bigger, with a garden big enough for chickens and a polytunnel, a solar panel or two, and maybe, at some point, a natural swimming pool, so we can live the sustainable life we’re always talking about, without me taking on a higher salary with more responsibility that would mean spending even less time with the family? Oh yes. And we’d need to be close to a good school.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve read the same books as me. I could give you a reading list, but some of them might be a bit New Age for your tastes. But if you have, you’ll be familiar with the idea of manifestation. And what arrived at that moment, me in front of the telly in the lounge and Clare standing next to the cupboard in the dining room (they’re in the same room – I told you it was a small house), was the first stage of a manifestation.

It was an idea.

It was big.

And it was very, very green.

Instead of spending years trying to make the at least £100,000 we needed to buy a bigger place, we could just sell the house we had and use the profit to buy the most beautiful piece of land we could find, and a polytunnel, solar panels, chickens, a trampoline, maybe a natural pool, and live in… yurts. We could even have some yurts for eco-friendly people who are looking for a carbon-neutral (or even carbon-positive) holiday.

That’s what this blog is about. I may wander off the subject every now and then, and please excuse any self-indulgence in advance, but I promise I will always come back to the theme. Because it’s what’s going on right now. So far, we’ve bought the land, bought the yurts, sold the house and are applying for permission to create a campsite using the very latest green technology available.

And we only had the Big Green Idea ten months ago.