Not to Worry

The freelancer’s challenge (and just about everyone else’s)

Back from Vietnam after an epic journey, I set about returning to my new freelancing life.  I soon realised that the nice fat payment I received in March was not likely to be repeated any time soon. I had finished off several of the projects I had kept on from my day job and had joyfully invoiced for them in the last gasp of the financial year. I have a few more on the back burner but nothing like the daily work I had to start with.

Anxiety about where my next payment is coming from has begun to creep in.

What if I can’t get any more work? What if everyone at from my day job who was so positive about continuing to give me work has now realised they’re glad to get shot of me? What if my accountant laughs when he sees my figures? (Seriously, I actually do visualise this last one. But why would he laugh? And what on earth does it matter if he does??!)

So I have been giving myself a good talking to.

Every working situation has its pros and cons. I knew that the downside of the freelancing life is that it’s all boom or bust; you’re either too busy or you have nothing to do except fret about paying the bills.

My new life is not going to work for me if I allow myself to worry about this. I need to accept that I will not always be busy and enjoy the upside.

And here are this week’s postives:

  • time for writing
  • beautiful spring weather
  • running through the woods
  • spending time with my parents and catching up with friends
  • a lovely morning walk to a church event and the warm fellowship of the people there
  • time to chat with people in the showers at swimming and at the café where I volunteer
  • being with a two-year-old, which makes seeing a digger or a helicopter a thrilling event
  • being there for my parents during their searching-the-loft-for-lost-house-deeds-and-putting-foot-through-the-ceiling crisis (don’t ask)

As ever on holiday, Jon and I ran out of books and resorted to reading each other’s, so Jon knows all about delivering babies in East End in the 50s (Call the Midwife) and I know from Bear Grylls’ Mud, Sweat and Tears that success is all about what goes on in your mind.

So I am keeping a grip on the voice in my head.

Every time it suggests I’m a loser, I shout it down. I’m equally stern when it speculates about what people think of me or devises bleak scenarios for my future.

After a run through the springtime woods one morning, my inner voice piped up:

Why worry about money when I can feel this good for free?

And that seemed much more like it. Of course, there’s a balance to be struck. The trick is to worry just enough that you’re stimulated to come up with new ideas and opportunities to keep the work coming in, but not so much that you’re mired in pessimism and panic.

And given that lean times might be just round the corner, here are a couple of recipes using foraged goodies that are in season now.

Free food for foragers

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I discovered the joy of cooking with nettles and wild garlic when Jon and I were living on £1 a day per person  for Live Below the Line. If you have never cooked with nettles, put your worries aside – they do not sting you once blanched in boiling water, and the taste is velvety, smooth and delicious, not sharp as you might imagine. And wild garlic is a more delicate, fragranced alternative to the usual (tame?) variety. It’s the leaves and flowers you are after rather than the roots – have a look on grass verges and in woods. The wild garlic seems early this year so nettles have not long come up, but in any case, it’s the new, yellower top leaves you want. Obviously avoid areas where dogs might have cocked their legs, and wear gloves.

At home, plunge the wild garlic in very cold water, pat it dry and keep it in a bag in the fridge until you use it. Wash the nettles with your rubber gloves on and discard any tough stems, keeping smaller, tender ones. Blanche the nettles in boiling water for two minutes at the most, then rinse with cold water in a colander, and press out the water with a spoon. Now you can touch them without getting stung. Chop the nettles roughly and they are ready for use in either of these recipes.

Almost Entirely Free Nettle and Wild Garlic Soup

I cooked this soup tonight with what I had in the house and garden as well as what I foraged from the common. You can make it in all kinds of different ways but this is what I did.

2 generous handfuls wild garlic leaves

2 generous handfuls nettle leaves

1 small leek from the garden

500ml of vegetable stock

Prepare the nettles as above. Wash and chop the wild garlic. Chop the leek and fry it in a little olive oil for 5 minutes, then add the chopped wild garlic and fry for another 2 minutes. Add the prepared nettles and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

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Take off the heat and blend with a stick blender until smooth. Season as required. This makes a thin but tasty soup. You can add a splash of milk at this stage, or if you like a thicker soup, add a chopped potato or some rice at the frying stage. I served this with a teaspoonful of Asda Smart Price Soft Cheese (in the absence of any crème fraiche) and snippets of sorrel from the garden, then plopped in some of the home-made croutons that still fill my freezer from the bread leftover from Jon’s party).

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Nettle and Wild Garlic Pesto

I have kept the amounts vague because it depends how much you are going to use and how you like it. This pesto keeps for two weeks in a jar in the fridge.

3 big handfuls of nettles, prepared as above

2 big handfuls of wild garlic leaves and flowers

A little parmesan cheese*

1 small garlic clove

Zest of half a lemon and a little juice

A small handful of pine nuts or other nuts

A glug of olive oil

Whizz the prepared nettles and wild garlic in a blender with the parmesan, garlic, lemon zest and nuts. I didn’t have pine nuts but I did have a bag of unsalted mixed nuts from Lidl. I soaked a few cashews and macadamia nuts in hot water for a few minutes to soften them before blending. Blitz to a rough paste then add salt and pepper to taste and a glug of olive oil and blend again. Add a little lemon juice – I prefer only a few drops but you might like a good squeeze. Put the pesto in a clean jar and top up with a little more olive oil. Keep it in the fridge.

*Frugal though I am, I find cheap or fake parmesan a false economy (the worst is the stuff sprinkled from plastic pots – it smells of sick for goodness sake!) The fake stuff is waxy and lacks the taste of the real parmegiano reggiano, meaning that you use more . The real thing lasts for ages and just a light grating adds a huge flavour boost. Look out for offers or go to Lidl.

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We had the soup followed by Asda Smart Price spaghetti with the pesto tonight – the whole meal cost literally a few pence. We are going to honk of wild garlic at our quiz night later, however!

Look out team-mates if we lean over to whisper an answer…

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