Archive for the ‘Work by Zaum’ Category

Movebubble and Shaker

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

As Friday evening draws closer and my working week comes to an end, I thought I would clear up the misconception that some people seem to have that I don’t actually do any work. I have some how managed to create the illusion of being a lazy unemployed bum, but sadly this is not the case. I am quite lazy, I am unemployed (self-employed technically) but I am not a bum.

Over the past few months I have managed to build up a lovely group of clients and have worked on some interesting projects. One of the best things about my job is that I have to learn about a very random range of subjects – this week I wrote about data protection, recycling, infectious diseases, security systems, and community gardening.

One of my most regular writing projects is for a start-up company called Movebubble. They have created an online platform for homeowners to list their houses for people to view and rent. You can set up an online profile with previous rental history and referees and connect with homeowners looking to rent. It’s BRILLIANT. Especially the blog that features some fantastic posts written by various genius writers, including yours truly.

So should you feel like moving to London any time soon and you want to learn more about Islington, landlord insurance or what handmade gifts to give this Christmas, check out the Movebubble blog.

Who is She?

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

This week I went to the Bay Horse pub in the Northern Quarter. I was with Sir Pubert Gladstone (He requested a pseudonym, so he got one.) who informed me of a ‘lady in a glass box’ located downstairs in the basement. I went to investigate and sure enough, there she was. A blonde, sunglasses-wearing lady staring at a bird in a cage. Who is she? And what was she doing in the basement of a fairly average pub? This lovely lady and a bit of Nick Cave and the Black Seeds have prompted the following story.

Lucy and the Bird

Lucy’s limbs flail as she dances in the corner of the Bay Horse basement to the music that only she can hear. She dances alone in an almost empty room, everyone else settled in booths sipping whisky and beer, conversation underway. She has been here before. Every night, in fact, for what feels like forever. Next to her a bird sits silently and motionless in a silver cage, watching the scene unfold. Only its eyes flick back and forth, back and forth as the clientele pass. Few people notice the bird and those who do are disappointed by it. A dry martini sits untasted on a small mantle next to a half-melted candle and a stack of Jim Beam coasters. Lucy has the same drink every night but never takes a sip. The owners don’t ask what she would like; they simply nod at her and pour. Her blank face shows no response, she simply treats the small glass as a fee for being there.

Lucy is given a wide berth as she dances, her eyes covered in dark, rounded sunglasses. Her peroxide blonde wig is dry and frizzy; fibrous strands pickup static charge as her hands brush past it. Her legs are encased in criss-cross stockings; shoeless, she dances unflinching as her feet stick to years of sticky alcohol accretion.

Upstairs the bell rings for last drinks and the small crowd finish the last drops of precious liquid, pull on jackets and leave. Lucy continues to dance in her corner, bar staff collecting empties and placing chairs on tables around her. A quick mop just for the sake of it, the final glasses washed and put away for tomorrow. The doors are locked and the lights turned off, leaving Lucy and the bird together in the darkness of the Bay Horse basement.

Lady at the Bay Horse

Lady at the Bay Horse

Web Content Overload

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

For the past few weeks I have been spending a lot of time looking for writing opportunities and exploring the big-bad-world of THE INTERNET. I have become somewhat horrified by the excessive nature of web content and the number of sites that exist purely for people to write “SEO articles” to increase user traffic to their websites. I realise that as a copywriter I should be joining this bandwagon and writing articles about how to avoid procrastination as a freelancer, why SEO is important, or perhaps how to “Smoke a can of tuna with toilet paper.” You know, important stuff. But I just can’t – it hurts too much and there are already enough people writing exactly the same things, quoting exactly the same people and raising exactly the same points. I wouldn’t be bringing anything new to the table.

My search for writing work has taken me down some dark and torturous paths, mostly involving websites advertising freelance writing jobs at ridiculously low prices. There are bidding wars for who will complete the jobs for the lowest price. Write twenty 500-word articles for £20 – at an hour per article, that’s £1 per hour. Who is actually willing to do that and why are they making it hard for all of us to make a decent living?

Perhaps I am lazy for not participating in this battle but I am not willing to accept that my industry and my own professional skills are worth so little. Copywriters are often the first to be taken out of a creative project when budgets are restricted because ‘everyone can write.’ Perhaps, but not everyone can write well. So I am continuing on my search for exciting, positive and creative projects where people are wanting to produce beautifully crafted work. I know there are other people who feel the same way – let’s create our own band wagon. Ours will have streamers and novelty horns.

Wednesday Write-In #81: Spring Fever

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

This is my second attempt at Cake.ShortandSweet Wednesday Write-In. This week’s words were: drawn; sitting comfortably; sag; hiss; Ship-shape. I was instantly drawn to the word ‘hiss’ for reasons you will soon discover if you choose to read on.

Spring Fever (Or When Geese Attack)

Even the most pessimistic Mancunians can’t deny the approach of spring in the city. “It has been the wettest winter on record,” they complain. “Last summer was the best we’ve had in years. That won’t happen again.”

Perhaps it is thanks to the endless winter drizzle and the increasing hours of sunshine that is exciting the daffodils, plum trees and cherry blossom. Crocus flowers are being drawn up from their muddy winter hideaways to add splatterings of lilac to dormant parks and roadside garden beds. Those browny-green twigs you have ignored during the winter months are suddenly bursting into joyful colour – electric green leaf shoots and look-at-me flowers. Nature is coming to life again and it wants to show off.

The birds are back in town, too. Petit sparrows, wagtails and tits dart about claiming territories and socialising. The larger breeds fly in with their heads in the air, cruising down the ship canal and sitting comfortably like bored teenagers by the water’s edge. With each movement they call to their friends – “I’m going over here now.” “Hey guys, I’m bored.” “Sweet, that kid’s got bread!”

Everyone is feeling good about the change of seasons and the approaching warmer weather. However, while sunshine and pretty flowers are good for the soul and breaking the communal SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), no one thinks about what the arrival of peak spring really means.

Canada Geese. One of the most temperamental creatures in existence, I once saw them described as ‘friendly’ in an Illustrated Guide to Birds (the cutesie drawing of the goose even had it smiling.). Dear Author, clearly you have never encountered these malicious fiends in the middle of their mating season. It is obvious you have never had to walk along narrow canal-side pathways with water on one side and a Canadian Goose on the other. They see you coming with nowhere to escape. They move into action, positioning themselves directly in your desired pathway, calling to their friends to come and join in the fun. You reduce speed to a slow but steady pace, not wanting to appear threatening but hoping your larger body mass and intellectual superiority will encourage them to leave you alone.

No chance. Get within a foot of these beasts and they’re off – craning their necks like pissed-off cobras, puffing out their wings and stamping about in circles. You’re in their zone and they’re letting you know. But the worst part is still to come – now they are beginning to hiss. Opening up those supposedly smiling beaks into a ferocious snarl, the sound of a thousand poisonous snakes hits your ears and you know it is on. They attack, stabbing and jabbing and aiming for your knees with their knife-blade mandibles. Don’t put out your hand to stop them or they snap your fingers off. Just run. Your only option to escape this death trap is to get up on your tip-toes, flail your arms in the air and squeal like a small child, running as far and as quickly as possible. Do not look back. Do not make eye contact. Just get the hell out.

And when you can finally stop and catch your breath, your heart pumping with the adrenaline of primal fear, you will be hit with the realisation that someone may have seen that. It is guaranteed that someone probably did and you may feel ashamed about appearing inferior to a goose. But sleep easy knowing that one day that person laughing at your misfortune will experience this torture themselves and will scream an even girly-er scream than you.

Spring has sprung, my friends. The geese are coming.

What’s Up With Real Estate Agents?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

I am currently experiencing the joy that is ‘dealing with Real Estate agents’ as I have to move out of my apartment next week. When I first moved to Manchester I went into many different Real Estate offices in the hope that at least one of them would be willing to help me find an apartment. It was during this time that I discovered just how alien Real Estate agents are and how good they are at giving you completely blank looks when you suggest you might like to rent an apartment from them. When you look at properties online and press the ‘Request More Information” button (a button that to me says ‘Here is your opportunity to sell me your product. Go crazy! Sell! SELL!), you never hear back and when you call to ask about a property they don’t seem interested in talking about it. I’m not entirely sure why Real Estate agents exist in the rental world because they certainly don’t participate in the process apart from when they make you pay administrative fees.

I am in the middle of organising a new rental contract with a new agency which has been GREAT FUN. Not. This morning I had to go in to the office and hand in paper work and no one knew anything about who I was, why I was there or what I could possibly want from them. This joyful encounter inspired me to write a little story about how much I love Real Estate agents.
*I would like to state that there are nice, normal and approachable real estate agents in this world and I am making some very large generalisations in both my comments above and in the following story. However, I’d say the proportion of weird to normal would be 90%-10%.


What is Wrong with Real Estate Agents?

Advertisements for one and two bedroom apartments with river views and stunning wood laminate floors hang in the window. Like personal ads, the photographs depict mutton dressed as lamb – carefully angled shots of the kitchen/dining area from seven years ago when the apartment was first furnished, plus a picture of the exterior of the building and a view from a window. Images are for illustration purposes only and may not depict actual residence. Viewings a must.

You push open the door and enter the shiny floored office. People in shiny suits with shiny hair lounging on shiny vinyl seats look up at you as you step inside. Their desks are positioned sporadically across the office – there is no central point of contact and you look around trying to work out where to go. The shiny faces give you a once over – She’s a renter. Their dull and disinterested eyes turn away, leaving you to hang by the front door in awkward silence. No one welcomes you or acknowledges your presence. Your existence within the room is unnecessary, unwanted and almost confusing.

You pick the person sitting closest to the door – he is the youngest in the team, the new whizz kid who is still growing into his pin stripes. “Hi!” you say with positive intentions of bringing him business. “Yes?” is his response. As you sell your reason for being to him, explaining your need for an apartment and asking if the agency can help, he leans back in his comfortable chair, crosses his legs and looks back blankly. “Have you searched on the internet?” he asks. “We advertise all of our rentals on Rightmove. It’s best if you just look on there.”

In other words, piss off. We don’t want your type in here – when you’re ready to buy a property and act like an adult in the real estate market, let us know. Mark who deals with rentals isn’t in the office today and to be honest, the rest of us don’t care about those properties so we don’t care about you either. Therefore, if you would like to take your subordinate self out of our space, that would be great. Yeah, sure, leave us your details. In three months time when you’ve found somewhere to rent through alternative means we’ll start spamming you with emails detailing our available properties and claiming that we tailored it to suit your requirements. Now please just go – the work experience kid has returned with our Starbucks lattés.

You bustle yourself out onto the busy street outside, your jacket still undone, your bags slung hurriedly over your arm. Walking down the street it dawns on you that a fifteen year old in a polyester suit has just out-cooled you and you are still homeless. Two shops down you see another window patterned with For Sale/Lease advertisements. You peak through the glass and try to guess how many jars of gel the guy perched on the edge of his desk, trouser legs raised to reveal pointy-toed leather shoes with a slight heel, used in his hair that morning. He makes eye contact with you and frowns. Time to go home and search on Gumtree.

Keeping it Local at the Mark Addy

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

While volunteering at the Manchester International Festival, I was lucky enough to sample the brilliant food made by Robert Owen Brown, head chef of the Mark Addy. Since then I have been wanting to eat at this local pub and eat more of his delicious, delicious food. On Saturday night, my cousin, Sophie, and her boyfriend, Ed, were visiting for the weekend and we scored a table at the Mark Addy. I was excited.

The Mark Addy is located in Salford on the edge of the River Irwell. We had a table next to the window with a view out over the river. On a summer’s evening this would be fantastic – sadly the winter darkness made it difficult to see through the reflective glass. The pub is cozy with a bar area and a large dining space and all of the staff were very friendly and welcoming.

I continued my new found desire for eating small birds by choosing the pheasant stew. It was fantastic – a large serving of dark game meat with roasted potatoes and spinach. It was rich, tasty and I wished it would never finish.

Pheasant stew

Pheasant stew

Sadly it did but that just meant it was time for dessert. The three of us shared a Cambridge Cream and the Eccles cakes – the cream was similar to a crème brûlée but less sweet. It had a crunchy caramel top and was served with an espresso shot and ice cream. Very good. The eccles cakes were three (handy) rounds of pastry filled with sultanas and served with clotted cream. The pastry was flaky and warm and the sultanas buttery and sweet. Enough for a perfect sweet finish to our dinner.

Cambridge Cream

Cambridge Cream

Eccles cakes

Eccles cakes

I am very excited to have found another food delight in Manchester and will be bringing everyone I know to eat here. Rob Brown has recently released a cook book and supports local producers. Got to love that.

Wednesday Write-In

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Every Wednesday I receive an email from a writers’ group called CAKE with a list of words to use as inspiration for a piece of writing. The idea is to write something (whether it be fiction, non-fiction, poetry or just a ramble) using one or more of the words provided. Then you should share it with the CAKE network for feedback and just to prove to yourself that you have actually done some writing today.

I have been meaning to participate but my lack of direction and efficiency has meant that I have always thought of an excuse not to. Not today. Today’s words were tide : short-sighted : reflective :apocalypse : gloom. I started writing about an old man sitting by a window, looking outside at the gloomy Manchester drizzle. But this then turned into a children’s story about a boy called Sam. Here is my story. *Please remember that this was written in a short period of time with zero editing. It will not be award winning.

Sam’s Glasses


Sam’s mum made him wear glasses. They will help you see things that are far away, she had said.

Sam didn’t like his glasses – they hurt behind his ears and fell down his nose whenever he tied his shoes or looked at ants on the ground.

Children at school teased him. His mum said he should explain that he was short-sighted, but that didn’t help. They just called him “Short-Eyed-Sam.”

Sam liked to take his glasses off and see the world through his own eyes. He would see colourful shapes and blurry forms that no one else could.

Without his glasses, his backyard would turn into an adventure land with green spindles and mumbopikes, flying jiggernots, and the endless cavern where the three-nosed humbert lived.

One day before school, Sam stopped to inspect a beetle outside his classroom and his glasses fell off. As he stood up, he felt the metal frames crunch under his foot – his glasses were broken.

His teacher called everyone inside and Sam sat down at his desk. As he looked around the room, Sam started to smile. Gone were the Times Tables charts, spelling books and school projects. The walls of the classroom stretched and expanded, towering blue, yellow and red poles sprouted high into the air and a big black screen hovered in the air infront.

Rows of robots with flashing lights and buttons churned and whirred as a giant orange flower walked and talked back and forth far off in the distance. From above hung lime green vines filled with exotic three-armed creatures, the more daring of them sneaking a wave at Sam from high above.

The giant walking-talking flower invited Sam to come forward, beckoning him with a floppy petal and a large smile. Sam skipped past the robots, pushing the buttons of a few as he passed and laughing at the yellow bellied shoddies and flapjaws.

When he reached the front, Sam danced and sang with joy – this was the best day at school ever. The robots clapped at the end of his performance and Sam felt like the King of the Schoolroom Jungle.

The giant walking-talking flower held out a set of silver Super Space Goggles which Sam placed on his face. As the world around him became clear again and his teacher’s concerned face peered back at him, Sam found himself back in his classroom.

Sam walked back to his desk, sad that his adventure was over. But as he sat at the back of the classroom Sam lifted his glasses on and off his nose, shifting between a maths lesson and watching a giant walking-talking flower.

In the Office

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Exciting times in the world of Zaum, me and all things Manchester – I am writing to you from my new office space! Extraordinarily uncomfortable faux-leather dining chairs, home-related distractions and general boredom while working in my apartment have encouraged me to seek new office territory. There are a lot of small, shared studio spaces around Manchester, most offering space to work at really low prices. I signed up to join a space called The Classroom – a white walled, school-desk furnished work space that is used by freelancers of various disciplines. For £24 a month, I can come in here and use the desks, printer, kitchen, and internet on any weekday from 9am to 6.30pm. I am yet to really meet anyone but I have only been here for half an hour. It’ll happen. I can smell great potential.

The Next Challenge

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Ok, I’ve done a marathon. Tick. Now I need to publish a book. That is significantly more daunting than running 42 kilometres and so today I came up with a genius idea which is either stupid and will just die out or brilliant and will actually work. I am hoping for the latter.

I am going to think of 108 ‘challenges’ or ‘tasks’ that I need to complete over the next 108 days, one of which is “Finish writing my book.” So on 31 July, I will have a final draft that will have been sent to publishers for their perusal. The other challenges will be smaller (although one is to go on holiday to somewhere sunny which is hardly small) and I am still working on the list. Currently it includes learning Dutch, working with an artist in their studio and reading Anna Karenina. I will write about each challenge as I complete it on my new website, 108 in 108, that I quickly threw together today using WordPress templates. The design isn’t mine but I love the balloons! So much fun.

So please follow along, support me and push me. I really struggle with the lack of motivation to finish so would appreciate all kicking up the butt. Go find those steel-capped boots! I am one stubborn mule.

Microscope For Sale

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Scientists are notoriously difficult to buy presents for… not anymore! Scientists, young and old, will love to receive this sock microscope!

Sock microscope

Sock microscope

Made from REAL SOCKS, all that is required is an excellent imagination and you will be seeing more molecules than you thought possible. This microscope featured in my sock laboratory at the Art vs Science exhibition at Café A in Paris. That’s right – Paris. This isn’t just any old sock microscope – it is Paris Chic. If you don’t buy it, it is likely to feature in the next Spring/Summer collection by Dior. But don’t you think it would look SO much better on your mantlepiece? It’s easy – just head to my Etsy site and press the “Yes, I do want to own a piece of Parisian art history” button.

For those who are interested, I also have some sock scissors, a sock scalpel, and a sock test tube holder. Just drop me an email and we can discuss further.