This post is a shameless boast. Not a boast on my behalf you understand. This is a boast on behalf of my step-sister, Rebecca Cobb, who is a little bit too shy to blow her own trumpet.

Rebecca lives in Falmouth, where she works partly in a lovely shop in the town centre, and the rest of the time as an illustrator. Rebecca has recently illustrated a book, written by Helen Dunmore:

Isn’t it gorgeous? She is really very talented 🙂

The story of how the work came about is lovely too. The shop Rebecca works in is opposite a bookshop, and she had some of her pictures up in the window for sale. The owner of the bookshop happened to notice them one day, and popped into the shop to ask who had painted them.

It turned out that he was a friend of Helen Dunmore, knew she was writing the book, and thought Rebecca’s style would really suit it. How cool is that? Just goes to show you never know where your next piece of work is going to come from!

The story is set is Falmouth, but I’m not going to tell you what happens, you’ll have to buy the book for that – it is out on 1 April, and is available to pre-order from Amazon.

So now if you’re ever looking for an illustrator, you know where to go!

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This morning I wake up in a state of eager anticipation. I take a little more care than usual getting dressed – I put on a skirt and brush my hair and everything. Why such glamour you may ask. Well, Bee is visiting her Dad and Belle has been invited to a birthday party, so I have a rare Saturday morning to myself. And this morning I have a date. A date with myself. An illicit coffee shop rendezvous with the weekend papers.

I find the papers make a perfect date. They are interesting, able to talk about a wide range of topics, they make me laugh and most importantly the don’t judge when I dip my croissant in my coffee and drop soggy crumbs on my cardi.

Of course the time limit and the rarity of the opportunity combine to pile on the pressure – that urgent feeling of having to Make The Most Of it that most parents will appreciate. In a bid to really enjoy myself as much as possible I end up visiting three different cafes, trying to find the perfect retreat, before settling on one that really looked very much like all the other two.

My date starts well, and I’m half way through the Guardian when my secluded corner starts to become rather crowded. I have bagged myself a comfy sofa, and am happy to have well behaved extras occupying the two chairs opposite. However, the longer I stay the more I find my space being overtaken.

A small boy plonks himself down in one of the chairs and helps himself to my sports section. Fine. I don’t like sport anyway. His Dad joins him in the second chair. Still manageable. But then the boy’s grandparents arrive and suddenly things are not so fine. I am forced to take my feet off the sofa so Grandma can sit down. I toy with moving but want to stand my ground – I was here first after all. And so long as I ignore Grandma’s shuffling and awkward glances I can still pretend I’m on my own. Just about.

But then it all gets a bit much. I am already starting to feel a little overwhelmed when another couple plus child appear – apparently friends of the family. “What’s going on here then?” says Dad number two.

“Just a little family outing,” says Grandma.

“Who’s that then?” asks Dad two, nodding his head in my direction.

“I’ve no idea!” exclaims Grandma loudly, as though I have just attached myself to them and they are humouring me.

“I am sat right here!” I want to yell, but of course I don’t. Instead I keep my head buried in the paper, hoping they will feel uncomfortable and drink up quick. No such luck though. Dad two plus family are invited to join them. There are now seven of them and me and everyone knows one’s company but eight’s a crowd. I do my best to stick it out but my presence at the crowded table now feels vaguely ridiculous.

It’s not long before I give up, make my excuses and push my way out through the family party. Hmph. Not exactly the romantic coffee for one I had planned. Still, I got as far as the Review section of the paper, which is further than I normally get before about Wednesday, so I probably should be grateful…

Photo credit: wonderferret

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This morning I woke up feeling vaguely ashamed of myself and with a stiff neck. And not in a good way.

Last night, on my way to a meeting to present myself as a ‘safe pair of hands’, a secure and reliable fundraiser whom you can trust to act professionally at all times, I crashed my car into a verge. A shameful and embarrassing case of driver error. I was driving in the dark, on roads I didn’t know, and was taken by surprise by a rather sharp corner.

As the telegraph pole loomed up in front of me at speed, I had a flash of the last time a similar thing had happened, and was grateful at least that this time I didn’t have a box of eggs on the passenger seat. The car lurched to a halt, my passenger and I stopped screaming and my inner critic immediately began to tell me how stupid I was. My sub-conscious is not very supportive at times – it is very hard on me whenever I make mistakes of any kind.

In the pitch dark in the middle of nowhere, it was hard to know how to proceed. Not far from our destination, we opted to hobble on, arriving at our meeting late, both looking slightly hysterical and me with my hands covered in mud and oil. Always a great way to make a good first impression on potential clients.

This morning, I went out in the harsh light of day to inspect the damage. The dent was tolerable, but I was slightly concerned to see that the front tyres now seem to be pointing in different directions. Now I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t right.

An evening business trip that was meant to make me money, has ended up costing me. The biggest dent though isn’t the one in my bumper, it’s the one in my pride.

Photo credit: Kevin

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Friday at last! This week has been a varied one to say the least. As well as being a single mum to two gorgeous girls, I also juggle three home based jobs – writing, marketing and fundraising. Add to this my obsession with checking my emails and blog stats and a chronic inability to concentrate properly on anything for more than five minutes at a time, and I often find my weeks become a jumble of writing features, lurking on forums and trying to flog baby towels.

To illustrate my point and to try and give myself a sense of having achieved something, I thought I would write a brief summary of what I’ve been up to this week workwise. Picture me doing the following, whilst of course at the same time blogging, emailing and maintaining some kind of relationship with my family:

Monday: Writing day today. Wrote and filed a feature on green baby products for The Source and a piece on breastfeeding and friendship for The Green Parent. Did you know that oxytocin, the hormone that causes the let down reflex, has been shown to increase levels of trust in humans, making the friendships you form while breastfeeding deeper and longer lasting? Well now you do.

Tuesday: Today I was very excited as I went out of the house for a meeting with real people. I wore a dress and everything. I am Marketing Manager for Cuddledry (remember them from Dragons’s Den?) and we were planning a revamp of the website. I came up with a fiendish plan for a relaunch of our blog with a month of guest Mummy Blogging – please get in touch if you would like to contribute!

Wednesday: Not a productive start to Wednesday. After dropping Belle off at school I felt a little bit overwhelmed and, unable to face returning to my empty house, I walked around for a bit trying not to cry until the snow made my feet too cold. However, after an hour or so of mild panic and several cups of tea, I managed to write a feature on food labelling for The Spark. In the evening I watched Avatar and felt rather silly wearing 3D specs over my ordinary glasses.

Thursday: Hmmm… what did I actually do on Thursday? …consults work book… Ah yes, I was in baby towel mode today, finding Mummy Bloggers for my blogging month – I have lots already, hoorah! – and trying to find a celebrity parent to be a judge for our Baby Bubble Beard competition. When I needed something non-towel related I pitched a few feature ideas, mooched about on facebook and ate some of the leftover Christmas chocolates.

Friday: This morning I had another meeting away from home (aren’t I the social animal this week?) with my two lovely colleagues from my charity consultancy. Next week we are pitching to run a capital appeal for the building of a new community hall, so we met to discuss our proposal and plan our pitch. And I had a lovely scrambled egg and smoked salmon breakfast. Yum. After a very successful visit to the St Margaret’s Hospice shop, where I bought a Next suit for £4, I returned home to write the appeal proposal, recruit some more bloggers, try and woo Dr Miriam Stoppard and think up marketing ploys for the women’s news website I have recently become involved in. Oh, and I just ate a bowl of porridge. Rock and roll.

Time for a little sit down.

Flickr image by Helico

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Make cup of tea, stare vaguely out of the window for a little while, check emails in case someone interesting has decided to spontaneously offer me work and/or a love affair…

And so begins my first day back at work.

I work at home, and most of the time I love it. It can be difficult sometimes to get motivated, and admittedly a lot of my time is spent in forums, obsessing over blog stats, or compulsively refreshing my emails, but I’m pretty sure that’s what most people do in offices anyway, I just have the bonus of not having to worry about anyone looking over my shoulder.

School holidays are hard though. My study is right there at the top of the stairs, trying to lure me in every time I go to the bathroom. My laptop stares at me, sometimes I swear it winks – it is trying to seduce me.

I want to switch off, to be spending Quality Time with the children, baking cookies, toasting things on sticks around an open fire and other such wholesome activities I am led to believe happen in other families. But it is difficult. How do you leave work behind you in the holidays when your office is inside your house??

Today Belle went back to school and I had six whole hours in the house on my own, the solitary day to myself that I have been craving for nearly three weeks. Oh the joy! The decadence of roaming the house alone, no Disney channel soundtrack to my day, nobody asking me things or wanting things! It is bliss.

For an hour or so anyway. And then it gets a bit dull and I wish there was someone there to gossip with, to look over my shoulder and ask if facebook really constituted work. Perhaps I’ll just have a little check of my emails, who knows what the last twenty minutes may have bought me…

Flickr image by Tambako the Jaguar

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