Self-Employed and Working from Home

It can be great, but do you have a good boss??

Working on for yourself and from home is the biggest test of your self-motivation, isn’t it?  Not to mention self-discipline!  You know – I’ll just have one more cup of coffee and watch the episode of Game of Thrones I missed last night, and then I really should go on Facebook, just to catch up with everyone and look at my writers’ groups

Most important, I think, is being a good boss – in other words, be good to yourself!  Writers, proofreaders and editors all know what it’s like to be the point where the buck stops – but have you, as a boss given yourself, as an employee, a good job description?

I think I’m a good boss, I’ve created a nice work environment!  I live by the sea, and do proofreading work for authors from all over the world.  It’s strange to be working on a novel written by someone who lives a continent away, while I’m still in my pyjamas.  (And with my proofreading head on, for the benefit of my US clients – you say ‘pajamas’ and we say ‘pyjamas’!)  Here is the view from my desk, looking out onto the sea – the weather is lovely this morning; hello, everyone, I hardly ever get a chance to meet my clients, so this is my way of saying ‘howdy!’  Here’s the view from my window, when I look over my laptop (yes, that is a guy with a surfboard).

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Honestly, I really am working, and I hardly ever play Solitaire or Minesweeper.  Whoops, where did that come from?

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I think having your own working environment exactly as you want it is very important.  When I started working from home I gave a lot of thought to where I wanted to situate my laptop, because I knew it would be important to feel very comfortable in what I was doing.  We’re all different; I love my view, I know some of my clients listen to music while writing.  My sister, an author, writes in complete silence with the curtains drawn and facing a wall, because she doesn’t like any distractions.  Whatever you choose, I think it must be right for YOU!

One thing I believe is that a boss gets better results if she doesn’t give her employee a hard time!  So I don’t place unrealistic expectations on myself – I know that, because proofreading is so demanding of ultimate concentration, I must take a break for half an hour every 90 minutes or so.  I do my best work like that.  I go over and look at the sea (yes, I know I’m lucky, I appreciate it every day!), or do a bit of housework – something totally unrelated and NOT on a computer screen.  That way, I come back to work nice and fresh.

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As all those self-employed at home will know, it’s great to be able to set your own timetable.  Even better when you’ve been engrossed in what you’re doing, and look up to find that three hours went past (that’s if you’re a writer, not a proofreader; my boss doesn’t let me work for that long without a break!).  Don’t you feel pleased with yourself when you’ve had a really productive day?  Makes me feel like this:

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There’s also the time thing.  Are you a lark or an owl?  I’m a morning person, so I like to get started as soon as possible, and I never work after nine o’clock at night.  I know some writers, though, who function best in the early hours of the morning – I think it’s important for you as a boss to allow yourself flexi-time!  One tip I’d give anyone is to work out when your most productive time of day is, and try to get the bulk of your work done then, other commitments not demanding.

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Oh, and just for fun, here’s a quiz I found to determine whether you’re a lark, a hummingbird or an owl!

http://www.cet.org/self-assessment/

I’d love to hear about anyone else’s working day, and how you, as a boss, make it work for you!

Now get back to work!  Julia xx

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45 thoughts on “Self-Employed and Working from Home

  1. Great post Julia, and I’m so jealous of your view!
    I’m just starting out as self employed (as a freelance writer and copywriter) so I’ve got a learning curve ahead of me. I have my own room and desk to work from and right now my view is of a massive blossom tree which is beautiful. I need to stretch every hour or so when writing, and I tend to stand by the window and watch the birds in my garden. I listen to music too while writing, but instrumental film scores, otherwise I’m too easily distracted.
    I love being organised so I’m planning on scheduling my days as far ahead as possible, leaving room for trips out every now and then. And I won’t work past 6pm, then it’s time to go downstairs and get some grub on! You’re so right about being kind to yourself, I think this is something I need to learn! I think those who are self employed can often put too much pressure on themselves.

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    • I think you’re quite right, Jenny; if we put too much pressure on ourselves then we’re not working effectively. I can’t listen to anything at all while I’m proofreading, but that’s a whole different ball game to writing, and it’s probably best I don’t. Your view sounds lovely too!

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  2. Nice post, Julia, and your view is great, but I’ll bet the water is pretty chilly up nord dere.
    I’ve got two discrete daily schedules, one for sunny days, one for gray/rainy ones like today.

    On sunny days, I drive six miles and get to the beach a bit before sunrise, spend the day there, notebook at the ready, plotting and scheming for my third novel (occasionally giggling uncontrollably) and promoting my first two with other beachgoers; home to write on the keyboard on my lap, lying down on my couch, about four p.m., with the TV news and some entertainment stuff in the background, to sleep about eleven or so.

    On gray, non-beach days like today, up at my usual unalarmed time, 4:30ish, out to PC about 5:30, check news/markets/Twitter/etc., then to writing/editing, with breaks as often as I need them, depending on how the “flow” is going; usually it’s ten minutes or so every hour or hour and a half, with a bit of stretching and nibbling (I don’t eat big meals, just graze all day long, in either location).

    And since I’m experimenting, doing the third novel entirely in dialogue, I do say things aloud (yup, in both locations; the regulars on the beach understand) to doublecheck the naturalness (or unnaturalness, in the case of teens using glottal stops and their ritual jargon, or other characters with their own mildly distinctive speech patterns) of what goes into the draft.

    Of course, since I’ve enjoyed twittering with you and reading your blogs, this break has taken more than my usual few minutes, but somehow the self-analysis above has helped me understand my own process. Hmm. Thank you.

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    • Jake, it’s so great to talk to you in more than 140 characters. Thanks so much for writing back. And you’re right – the view looks good, but unless it’s high summer, the North Sea on the east coast of England is fairly brutal! I think you have a better deal where you live, sounds lovely from what I’ve seen from your tweets. A novel in dialogue, that is such a fascinating concept; and I can see how you have to observe the locals keenly. My process is of course much different to that of a writer, and we all have our own learned self-disciplines and circadian rhythms. Another friend of mine who’s self-employed and works from home (voice-over artist) says that the trick is to have a community of other self-employed people, so that you can call and hang out every now and then, and they become your workmates. Not a bad idea! Happy Easter! Julia

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      • Yup, much better than 140 characters. I’d imagine your process is bound to be different from mine, ‘tho both require a certain focus. I have to pay special attention to the single quotes within doubles when one character is recounting dialogue he’d had in the past; hope I don’t get another level down and have dialogue within dialogue within dialogue. And today I had to write a whole fight scene (three young punks against a 68-year-old man) all in dialogue; that’s been lots of fun … and sporadic frustration.

        As for the community, I’m planning to start a Bonita Beach Author’s Group (BBAG) to get together on the beach maybe once a week, starting this summer sometime … after the snowbirds go back up north and the parking lot is parkable.

        And a Happy Easter back to you. Hope you had a good Friday. Ta-ra.
        Jake (BTW, “Jake Devlin” is both a pseudonym and a character)

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      • I love the idea of a novel all in dialogue, Jake! btw, I am Julia’s sister who writes behind closed curtains!!! I live in the frozen north east of England (though I used to have a view like Julia’s!) so no beaching here; I wake up, email and tweet while the coffee is doing its stuff, then get on with it. On a day with nothing else I have to go, I might write in many hour-ish bursts – alas, I am not as sensible as Julia, and usually spend my breaks playing spider solitaire! Probably why I always have sandpaper eyes!

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  3. Dang it! Here I am reading your blog when the characters in my book are yelling at me to finish the darn thing so they can go on about their fictional lives. Lovely view! I’m looking at wall. It is either the wall or sink full of dishes.
    Jackie Weger

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  4. Firstly, I love your view!! That’s just gorgeous! Secondly, I’m self employed, Julia, but I have a day job (also self employed) as a teacher, so I do have other bosses as well as being my own. For my part, though, I don’t have a specific work space as I’m often on the move, so I write on the train, or sitting on the sofa in the evening, or on a bench at the uni between lessons. I’ve had to learn to be very self-disciplined about everything I do to keep all the balls bouncing, but my weakness is social media. It’s too easy to be distracted, so I set myself time limits for that as well. And yes, I have to go for regular walks. Getting out in the fresh air at regular intervals is vital for my brain, my sanity and my peace of mind….for my dog too 🙂

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    • Hi, Val, and my view is actually very bleak when the weather’s not good! I know what you mean about working on the train, I do that too, and also often take the laptop onto the sofa. Self-discipline is very important, also organisation, as I found out when I was doing temp secretarial work, my office was effectively wherever my laptop was. My weakness is social media and the dreaded Solitaire, I reckon I could take on all comers at that. I try to go for a walk every day, or at least do housework with loud music on – the trouble with that is that I end up dancing and not doing housework! (Currently can’t stop playing ‘Happy’).

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  5. Hi Julia, great post, thanks for sharing – always good to hear about the way others go about things. I am self employed in my day time job for many clients – the problem for my writing it that it is that my work that pays the bills is already not just a day time job, it flows over into evenings and weekends as well, resulting in ridiculously long days when I try and fit writing in on top of that. I am clearly not a good boss! I end up writing frantically for odd bouts of time that I squeeze in when I think no one will miss me for a few moments. It is very difficult to keep any train of thought doing it like that but that is just the way it is, at least for the moment. I’m constantly amazed by the amount others manage to write, whether it’s the number of books they’ve produced or the number of posts they put out and have to keep reminding myself not to compare – everyone comes from a different place. My idea of bliss is if I manage to write for a whole 2 hours without interruption though that often has to be in the middle of the night. My writing planning time happens in the early hours or when out with the dogs, they have to have a walk – no excuses, and I can then be seen walking through fields as I mutter to myself working out conversations between my characters like some mad old woman!

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    • Hi, Georgia, I’m sure your experience is shared by many writers. After all, we all have to pay the bills! You are a good boss, you’re clearly an expert on time management, I’d say – a case of having to be, no doubt! You’re right, we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others whom we perceive as being more prolific, because everyone does come from a different place, we don’t know what their circumstances are. My sister’s an author, so I know something of the life – she goes for walks to work out her characters too, and no doubt mutters to herself while she’s doing it! Good luck with everything, I must check out your website in a minute, and thanks again for commenting. Julia

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    • Hello Georgia!!!! Nice to read more about you here too – and you’re so right about everyone coming from a different place. People often remark on how prolific I am but I have the TIME! When I had a full time job, a more demanding husband and a busy social life I didn’t write at all, so I am constantly impressed by people who have so many other commitments and keep managing to publish books!

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      • I know what you mean, Terry. Writers do what they do because they are driven to write, and so they fit it in between everything else. I have a client who has 5 children and a full time job – okay, he also has a wife, but how he fits in the time to write is a mystery to me! I too am impressed almost beyond words by writers who manage to produce work when they don’t live a life of leisure, far from it.

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  6. Oops, I turn out to be a terrible boss 😀
    Nothing surprising, come to think of it, as my girlfriends, who are all working outside, say it all the time, that my redheaded boss is a real witch, lol 😀
    I do all the things that you, Julia, said above not to do, being hard on myself, pushing all the time, scheduling touch, barely-possible deadlines, and getting all shocked when I sometimes can’t keep up with those. I never bothered to create a nice work place, as it would take time and maybe some investment on my part, which means less work done, and less deadlines kept. So to wander about the living room with my laptop seems like a good idea (well, I appropriated the central sofa for myself, to the complains of my family who can’t watch the movies inthe living room whenever they want to because of me :D)

    Seriously though, I think I’m still feeling guilty for all those years with no income at all, when I was just struggling to make something out of my writing. And with the current income not being high enough to make my husband quit his job that is still paying most of our bills. He is wonderful about it, but still I feel that anxious urge to get to that point when my writing makes it clear that had I been working out there it would be the same income, or hopefully even less than that 😉
    So I guess I will go and reread this post above and try to make my annoying redheaded tyrant of a boss go easier on her employee 😛 😀
    (oh but I do one thing just like you suggest. The writing is done in the mornings, with no family or kids around. The evenings with their constant interruptions are made for emails and twitter and FB and such 😉 No messing around those in the mornings, though. The redheaded witch is there and watching, with her count of words per day and so on :D)

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    • I love this comment, Zoe! I’m just like you – I see all these blog posts with people showing their arty writing corners or nooks or whatever, with nice plants and writer-ish things, and mine is nothing like that – as you say, making it so would mean giving up writing time, etc, and I am only looking at the screen, anyway. I work on a crappy old desk I got from a catalogue 8 years ago, the flat pack sort, in the corner of the living room (and I, too have made that room my own). Next to the laptop is currently a pile of books to balance the fan on, paper and pen, and a couple of coasters that need wiping – and that’s all!!!

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      • hehe, Terry, I swear I did not expect anything else from you 😀
        Also I bet you not a very relaxing boss too, judging by the amount and the quality of your books 😉

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  7. Dear Zoe, what a comment from the heart, thank you so much for writing to me. I think you should give that redheaded lady a break, she’s got a job to do, and a lot on her plate! My sister has read your work, and tells me you are an outstanding author, so I hope that you will be rewarded for that in the near future. And 2 of my top tips, if I may be so bold as to counsel you: 1) fresh flowers on your desk, they cost very little and are worth so much more than they cost; and 2) guilt is probably about the most pointless emotion in the lexicon, kick it out! Thank you again for commenting, it was lovely to hear from you. Julia x

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    • Thank you so much for the wonderfully encouraging reply, Julia!
      I took more than 2 tips out of your post. Will try to implement them, too 😉
      Thank you for writing all those lovely, reader-friendly articles. I truly enjoy following your blog 🙂

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      • Thanks, I am so pleased. I’m not a writer, you see, but sometimes I feel the need to get stuff down. I am so chuffed when people actually appreciate what I’ve written. And the only thing on my desk apart from the laptop is the vase of flowers! I would never listen to music while I’m working. If the music’s good, I want to listen to it properly, and if it isn’t, why is it on in the first place?

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  8. I make a list of things that must be done and then shut down everything else. No phone, no email. You’ll be amazing how much you can accomplish.

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  9. Hahaha I scored a 27–DEFINITELY an evening person. But naturally, I knew that already. 😉 Great post! Working for yourself is definitely a challenge I struggle with…but I love it.

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  10. Really interesting post. I am a stay at home mum and would love to get into proof reading. I used to be a senior lawyer but the hours just don’t suit family life at the moment. Was wondering how you went about it and whether you could offer any tips?

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    • Gosh, that’s what the uninitiated call a leading question – but of course you will know it’s not a leading question, just a request for information! It’s a very long story, actually. And one that I’ve often been asked. I think the best way I can answer you is to give you this link, which is an interview that I recently did for one of my clients, and answers in some detail how I went about being a proofreader. Of course, everyone’s route would be different. Here it is: http://t.co/zcpmMYcv9a
      I wish you the best of luck! And the only two pieces of concrete advice I can give you are – don’t pay money for a proofreading course! They will not give you an in to publishing companies, they teach a lot of obsolete information, and the qualifications you gain are not recognised by the publishing industry. Also, it’s a good idea to offer to proofread someone’s novel free of charge – that way, you get practice and can get your first customer testimonial (if you do a good job of course, har har!)

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      • Not guilty m’lud! Old lawyers never die, they just….hehe. Thanks for the tips. Well, I guess if there is anyone out there who fancies giving me a go for free (so to speak!), drop me a line!

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    • Thank you so much for your kind remarks, I really appreciate it when someone likes something I’ve written, especially as I’m not a writer! And thank you so much for reblogging my post. Julia

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  11. I’m so used to working for myself that I’ve never considered being my own boss. I love your perspective on this, Julia. I came across this article, after reading another you wrote on proofreaders. I’m delighted to have “discovered” you today.

    I’m pretty hard on myself if I get distracted. Yes, I love social media too. I don’t call it a waste of time, because I use it to keep on touch with what makes people happy or sad. As a Joyologist, that’s really important to me & I love to post helpful & supportive comments.

    I’ve always been a night owl, right back to my school days, never trusting myself to get up early to finish homework or study. I always slept better knowing my work is done. And so too with my writing. I wrote my first book last year. I set myself a very tight deadline because I decided I wanted to complete it before Christmas.

    I admire all the previous authors who have commented here. They are all so sensible with their work hours. As for me, I am at my most creative in the middle of the night. Crazy, I know. After dinner, I would fall asleep watching TV, then wake up (or was woken up by my husband who thought it would be more comfortable & sensible to sleep in bed rather than on the sofa.) I now felt fresh & my mind was uncluttered by the day’s activities. So into my study I went. The ideas started to flow and away I went, tapping at the computer keyboard as fast as I could go. Writers’ block? Never. I was in the flow & loving it. While the information I’d accumulated over the years poured out, I kept going. Now I write about how to have a happier & more fulfilling life, so it’s much easier for me than for authors with complex plots & characters. Nevertheless, I still have to make sense & write in a logical progression. My book is filled with beautiful photographs so spent many hours selecting them from my digital collection of over 70,000 taken over many years, by recalling which country I was in at the time. What a trip down memory lane!

    I have found I don’t need a beautiful view to work but a place with great energy, a quiet & peaceful place where I feel free, with no interruptions or other people around, a place where I can delight in sharing happiness techniques with others, through my writing. The only thing that brings my writing to a stop for the night is the time. When I happen to glance at the time on the corner of the screen, I can’t believe how many hours I’ve worked & drag myself off to bed before I hear the sound of the morning birds.

    This was supposed to be a short post but my thoughts of how I felt when I wrote, came pouring back. I find the task of marketing much harder than writing. I’m dying to get into my next book but need to do justice to this one first. Anyone else feel the same?
     

     

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    • Hello, Denise, what a lovely reply to my blog post, thanks so much for sharing your experience. Just shows that we’re all different, doesn’t it! It’s not crazy to write in the middle of the night, if that’s your particular circadian rhythm. Me, I feel as if I could bite a tiger when my feet hit the ground in the morning, I’m one of those ‘0 to 60 in 60 seconds’ people – but I’m a spent force after 10pm! I understand that marketing is often much harder for authors than writing – after all, you’re writers, not PR executives, but of course you know it has to be done. Me too – but I find social media a suitable outlet for my limited creativity, and have long since rather enjoyed it. Like writers, when I’m working on my clients’ books I don’t even see or hear what goes on around me. Never listen to music while I’m working, because if I’m enjoying the music I want to listen to it, and if I’m not, I’d want to switch it off! Thanks again for your very enjoyable comments. Julia

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  12. Reblogged this on sjoecable and commented:
    Hi Julia, unfortunately I have a job as well as writing when I can so my writing hours suck. I carry a notebook with me all the time and jot down stuff ready to get typed up when I can. But I prefer peace and quiet, the view doesn’t matter. If I am stuck I go to a coffee shop and just watch people in their day to day for a imagination recharge.

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    • Hi, I can identify with that, as I used to do what I do as well as having another job. So I was just a travelling proofreader with a laptop! I agree, the view doesn’t matter really because when we’re concentrating we don’t need it. Hope the book’s going well!

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      • Book 3 is steadily coming on, but with that this is my second idea for book 3 as I wasn’t feeling it with the original idea. That is the great thing about it, if it doesn’t work, shelf it not bin it.

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  13. Well, what pleasant conversation you all have been having. I am looking forward to having any sort of home office again. I was a full time freelance grant writer for several years, but my boss did not plan well for the recession. 😉 So lovely to hear you and Terry are sisters. I hope you persuade her to open the curtains once in awhile.

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    • Hi, Paula – thanks for writing. Of course it is such a risk, working for oneself, I know what you mean, and one has one’s moments (and what do I mean, moments?) of sheer terror! Terry works very hard, often when I ring her up she’s too busy writing to speak for very long. Ho hum! Anyway, back to the grindstone!

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  14. Great to see this discussion about chronotype (aka morningness-eveningess) in the writing community. One of my patients, a definite owl, learned to use light therapy about twice a year when he was due downtown at the publisher’s office at 9 AM for proofreading his edited manuscripts. Job done, he would slip back (“relapse”) into his delayed sleep mode, and start his next project working 1-6 AM, fast asleep by 9 AM. Writing during the day was out of the question! BTW, your link to my chronotype questionnaire is broken. Here’s the workaround: http://www.cet-self-assessments.org, offered by the Center for Environmental Therapeutics. Cheers, Michael “The Lark” Terman. (I wrote Reset Your inner Clock on a 5:30-11 AM schedule, seven days a week….)

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  15. Great to see this discussion about chronotype (aka morningness-eveningness) in the writing/proofing/publishing community. One of my patients, a definite owl, learned to use light therapy about twice a year when he was due downtown at 9 AM for stints at the publisher’s office to proof and approve his edited manuscripts. Job done, he would slip back (“relapse”) into his delayed sleep mode, and start his next project working 1-6 AM, fast asleep by 9 AM. Writing during the day was out of the question! BTW, your link to my chronotype questionnaire is broken. Here’s the workaround: http://www.cet-self-assessments.org, offered by the Center for Environmental Therapeutics. Cheers, Michael “The Lark” Terman. (I wrote Reset Your inner Clock on a 5:30-11 AM schedule, seven days a week….)

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    • Thank you so much, Michael, not only for your insightful comments, but also for the correct link, which I shall replace post haste. Of course, it’s 1100hrs here and I’ve been working for 5 hours, as we larks are wont to do …….

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