When I was growing up in Canada, summertime was always my favourite season; as a young adult, it switched to autumn. Nothing can beat a crisp sunny fall day. I was in awe of the magnificent beauty of leaves changing colour and then falling to the ground. This season can remind us that nothing remains static and that change doesn't have to be scary. It can sometimes represent renewal. I have been living in the UK for 20 years now, but I still celebrate Thanksgiving weekend in a low-key kind of way. I like to use this time to reflect on what I'm thankful for in my life. I also try to pause and think about what I'm doing that is not serving me well and proactively think of a better solution. Sometimes we can get stuck in toxic behaviours that can spiral out of control. These have been difficult times for all of us. Things are slowly returning to a semblance of normality but with new changes on the horizon seemingly every week. This can be difficult to assimilate and can certainly produce a great deal of anxiety. It serves me well to reflect on those things in my life that I do have control over and make small positive changes. On stormy days this helps me to bend like branches in the wind rather than breaking. I hope that this season brings you great joy and renewal of hope.
I'm available to transcribe your academic interviews from mid-October onwards. Please contact me if this is a service that you require.
The past six months have been up and down in the transcribing world for me. Work has fluctuated from being super busy to being very quiet. Things are picking up again, and jobs are rolling in, for which I am thankful. Before the summer, I transcribed an academic study on policing in the pandemic. I found this fascinating, and it was nice to work in the policing arena once again. I also transcribed interviews for a large academic study that concerned the Black Lives Matter movement and black professionals experience of working in the City. I felt so honoured to be able to contribute to that study. It was enlightening. Yesterday I transcribed a coaching transcript which is something I always find interesting. No matter what issue they're trying to delve into, I do find I can apply some of the reflections to my own life in one way or another. Win-win- an interesting piece of work and some free therapy! I've also been transcribing weekly comedy podcasts for over a year now. I'm pretty sure the laughs I've had from that work have saved me from some darker times.
Being away from my computer for more time than I was used to, allowed me to reflect on my own life. But not in a ruminative or unproductive way, although that happened too of course! I was able to make headway on some difficult personal subject matter for me. Baggage as they say. There is a topic of conversation that comes up time and time again when I meet new people and they hear my accent. My accent is still Canadian, although I've lived here for 20 years now. And that's the old 'Do you go back to Canada often?' This question, in my mind, I've dubbed 'the conversation killer'. I either go for the evasive 'Now and again' but this response usually gets probed. Or I tell the truth and say that I no longer have any family left in Canada so I don't go back very often. That is often is where the conversation ends, flat and uncomfortable. I then ramble on about something else to change the subject. Death is a heavy topic, and people generally avoid talking about it.
But death is my specialist subject. When I tell people I don't have any family left, they presume that I must have some family members who are alive and well. But this is not the case, I come from a small family. My father had two brothers. His younger brother died when he was in his early 30s, he did not have children. My father died in his 40s, with me as the only child. And my father's older brother died in his late 50s, he was gay and did not have children. My mother had two sisters. Her younger sister died at the age of 2. And her older sister died in her early 60s, she had married very late in life and did not have children. So I never had cousins. My mother was my last living family and she died 11 years ago when I was 39. It's a pretty hard pill to swallow to not have any family members left that knew you as a child. There is a real sense of profound loneliness in that. A feeling that is very difficult to articulate. When you have no one to share family memories with, they start to drop off and fade. I wanted to cling to these memories with such intensity, I didn't want to lose them. It's like a part of you is gone, vanished forever, you will never be whole again. And you aren't, you simply are not the person you once were.
When my father died, I was 14-years-old, and my mother decided to move away from Ottawa to Toronto. So I also left all my childhood friends during a very difficult time in my life. Those strong bonds had been broken during those formative teenage years. This was both a blessing and a curse. I suddenly found myself in the big bad exciting city, without a single friend. I was starting my very tricky high school years. And I had not allowed myself to grieve the death of my father, which would come back to haunt me time and time again. But these years I had in Toronto were also some of the best and most memorable years of my life. It was like starting life from scratch. My entire life that I once knew had been turned upside-down. But this builds resilience. It builds character. And it teaches you some invaluable social skills that have served me well ever since. During those years, I became extremely close to two friends. They remain my two best friends. They are what I now refer to as my chosen family. One of these friends does a lot of travelling and has lived in various places in the world. During the pandemic, she has ended up back in Canada living with her elderly mother. And the other, I am so fortunate, has lived in Ireland since before I moved to the UK. I have seen neither of them for several years now for obvious reasons, but that will soon change.
What has also changed is my feelings about not having any family left. It is still dreadfully sad of course, but I've finally been able to process it. I've been able to forgive myself for finding that struggle so hard to move on from. I understand it's not a normal thing to face before the age of 40. Because of the pandemic, nobody is asking other people about whether they travel home or not. It is understood that this is a very painful subject for so many people who were kept apart from loved ones during restrictions. And finally, I'm getting old! People no longer expect me to necessarily have parents who are still alive. It's not unusual for someone in their early 50s to have suffered these losses. Sometimes the question is even pre-empted for me. Before the pandemic, I had never seen a single grey hair on my head, lately, I've seen more than a few. Before the pandemic, I didn't wear glasses. Today I am picking up two pairs of prescription glasses. One pair for distance (I can no longer see the television clearly). And a pair for close up. What? This is new. I find myself having great difficulty reading small font on my computer screen. I have to enlarge my documents to properly proofread them! But I say this with gusto, bring on the older years and all they entail, please, I'll take it! Going by my family history, you can understand why! Every day is a gift.
If you need your academic interviews, podcasts or coaching interviews transcribed, please drop me a line!
Trusty Transcriptionists is celebrating seven years in business!
Well, here we are in our third national lockdown. This time there is light at the end of the tunnel as the vaccination programme is rolling out at quite a steady pace. At least this can give us all hope, which is something that was desperately needed. It is hard to believe that we have been living under restrictions for close to a year.
I have written before about mental health in an earlier blog. I think this is an opportune time to revisit this topic.
A few years ago, I found myself in a difficult place after running my business from home for several years. I was so busy working and trying to make the business run successfully. I found that I ended up isolating myself from outside activities and regularly socialising. I didn't realise at the time that it would take such an impact on my mental health. I became unnecessarily lonely, as I did have a large support group I could have reached out to. I cut myself off because I was experiencing anxiety and did not feel up to seeing people. When you are not leaving the house, interacting with people and having new experiences, you can quickly lose your confidence. You can also find yourself in a malaise and no longer have the motivation to get out and about. It becomes a very vicious circle. It was a lesson I learned the hard way. I do fear it is something many people in the general population are possibly now experiencing. I was fortunate that I could address it and take action to turn things around, but under our current restrictions, this must feel impossible if this is something you are experiencing.
I have had my difficulties and small meltdowns over the past ten months. I have been able to bounce back fairly quickly each time thankfully because I had the tools to do so. One of these tools is being open about how I'm feeling. Just having a support network of several people you can trust to discuss your issues is invaluable. I went for a socially distanced seven-mile walk on the weekend with a friend who suffers from anxiety. Walking and talking comes so naturally. It is an easy and effective way to open up to someone. This particular friend and I are each other's support network when it comes to mental health issues. I have been feeling fine lately, but this friend was struggling. It was good to be able to provide some support. Just listening, that's enough. You don't have to give sage advice, people generally just want to be heard and not judged. If you find you are experiencing mental health issues, you don't have to suffer in silence. You will be surprised at how many people can relate to what you're feeling. I suggest being selective about who you turn to during these times, but do turn to someone. You can open by saying 'I'm struggling a bit today', many people will get where you're coming from.
The next tool for me is exercise. I am not a gym bunny, but I started using the gym as a tool several years ago, to manage my mental health. There are so many benefits, the positive endorphins, seeing people (even if you don't speak to them), a productive outlet for negative feelings. I, like many other people, have struggled when the gyms have been closed during lockdown. During the first lockdown, I became so paranoid about the virus that I stopped going out to take daily exercise. This time around, I am ensuring that I go for a walk at least every other day. My ultimate goal is to go every day, but sometimes it is just too miserable weather-wise. I am lucky to have several friends who live on their own that need human contact, and we go for socially distanced walks together from time to time. For the most part, I do the walking on my own or with my husband, although he is more of a runner. I enjoy taking photographs, so I take the opportunity to try and get a few snaps along the walk. Taking photos somehow gives it more purpose and joy. I'm not a runner or a cyclist but if that's your thing, then all the better! Of course, we can also exercise at home. I keep threatening to learn a dance routine on YouTube and at this stage into this third lockdown, I'm ready to explore that! Many of my friends are doing online yoga and finding that super beneficial. But try to get outside, because even if it is overcast, getting fresh air benefits both the mind and the body.
And the third tool is sleep. If you are not sleeping well, this is going to undermine everything going on in your life. Lack of sleep creates a negative outlook. It impacts on your eating habits, motivation to get that exercise, and your mood becomes erratic. I was suffering from insomnia for several years. Overcoming my insomnia problems was something I finally tackled and essentially solved right before the pandemic began. The most impactful solution for me was going to sleep without my phone in the bedroom. I'd heard about the blue light issues, but I finally decided to take it seriously about a year ago. At first, I made excuses to myself, 'I need the phone as I use it for an alarm'. Well, I still use it as an alarm but now place it in my home office. I can still hear it when it goes off, but I generally wake up before that anyway because I've had a restful night of sleep. When I'm winding down to go to sleep, I remove the phone from my bedroom and put it in the office, where it remains for the night. Sometimes if I have bouts of insomnia (I am unsure if there's anybody out there who hasn't during this pandemic!) I will allow myself to bring the phone back in to distract myself from ruminative thoughts. But generally speaking, it's not a great plan. Reading is probably a better idea. Whenever I suggest the phone solution to anybody who is suffering from insomnia, they always seem to baulk and make an excuse as to why they can't live without sleeping next to their 'appendage'. I get it, Smartphones can be super addictive. But this honestly was a game-changer for me.
The final tool is breathing. Anxiety can cause shortness of breath. Sometimes we are not even aware that it's occurring. If I had a magic wand, I would make shortness of breath disappear from my life forever. I have experienced this for over 35 years after my father died, and I didn't properly grieve. Way back then, mental health awareness was not what it is today, and consequently, I have suffered from this on and off throughout my life. It is a sign to myself all is not right. It generally manifests itself when I am in denial of something and simply not acknowledging a troublesome issue. I've noticed it's reared its head over the past few weeks, whilst I'm trying to remain positive, yet feeling quite concerned about this new variant of the virus, and the impact it's having on people's lives and the deaths that keep rising and rising. This is all scary stuff. I'm trying to filter it out to live a life with some normality, but then I find myself unable to catch my breath. The biggest problem I have is once I get into a shallow breathing cycle, it can hang around for weeks if I don't proactively deal with it and figure out what it is that I'm repressing. Practising mindfulness and deep breathing exercises help. I find the 3, 4, 5 breathing technique works best for me. Breath in for 3 seconds, hold the breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds. Repeat. Do this until your breathing becomes less shallow. Sometimes I do this whilst walking, which I find extremely helpful. Please Google this if you are experiencing trouble in this arena because different people have different breathing exercises that work best for them.
Those are my top four tools. I also have been finding that I'm watching a lot more television than I have in years, it's a nice distraction. I'm hooked on watching old movies and reality shows like The Great British Sewing Bee and The Great Pottery Showdown. I'm actually getting value out of my Netflix subscription for the first time in years. I'm currently enjoying Cobra Kai and The Good Place. I do find it hard to sit in silence these days. I listen to a lot of talk radio, usually when I'm in the kitchen or working on a puzzle. There's something about the live interactive element to talk radio shows that I find helpful because it feels like you're less alone. And I've really taken to cooking lately. Cooking was always more of a means to an end for me, but for the past four months I've been enjoying cooking a decent evening meal and I find it relaxes me. I've explored about 30 new recipes, instead of just sticking to my usual 15 or so that I rotate. That's been a positive of this pandemic. Here's to hoping that the next time I communicate on the blog, we're out of lockdown three and that life is looking a little bit brighter for all of us!
Today I found myself going back in time and producing a full transcript of a police station interview. Transcribing police interviews is a market that I have not really sought out since starting my business six years ago, mainly because police interviews were still being carried out by audio cassette. It seems that times have moved forward and that some police forces are now recording their interviews digitally. Hooray for everybody! I have five years of experience transcribing police interviews. I am happy to provide a full transcript or ROTI transcript depending upon your requirements. It is also a great idea to outsource your professional standards interviews. My service is completely confidential, and I will be the only person to listen to the recordings. I have signed the Official Secrets Act, and with 11 years of experience working for the police, I understand police culture extremely well. Please take a look at my rates page; I think you will be pleasantly surprised. My police background is located on my Legal and Human Resources page. I'll look forward to hearing from you!
June is a month to celebrate Pride and the LGBTQ+ community and to remember that the good fight for equality still has to continue. Times have moved on, and things are so much better than they were over three decades ago when I first became an ally. My Uncle was born in the mid-'30s and was gay. In Canada, it was not until 1969 that legislation passed to make same-sex sexual activity decriminalised. But there was still a stigma. Sadly, my Uncle did not feel he could come out of the closet until the early '90s when his mother died. We were delighted when he told us the truth, and not even a little surprised, he'd been bringing his partner to family dinners and events since the early '70s! I was heartbroken because he was only able to live his authentic self openly for several years. He was then diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died shortly after. I always felt there was a strong correlation between keeping his secret and becoming ill. I hope that nobody has to live an inauthentic life because of their sexual or identity preference; this is why I take my role as an ally for the LGBTQ+ community seriously. Happy Pride! A month to celebrate diversity.
Pictured is my new favourite mug purchased from my local Pride charity in Swindon.
Trusty Transcriptionists is celebrating six years in business! I looked back at my entry from the fifth anniversary, at the time, I was very uncertain if I would last another year. It's sort of like, um, if you thought there was uncertainty then, wait until you see what's down the turnpike in March 2020! Yikes! I'm happy to report last year turned out to be a good year with steady work and lots of new clients. For the past six months about a third of my time was taken up transcribing interviews for an award-winning documentary maker. Transcribing the countless documentary interviews was one of the most challenging but also exciting and fascinating projects that I've had the privilege to work on. I was also fortunate to work with many other clients, old and new, on an extensive range of projects throughout the year.
The sixth anniversary finds us in extraordinary times indeed. My work life at present is not too different from my everyday working life, in that I work from home. I have not had any radical adjustments to make to my lifestyle. As my work is all done remotely without the need for any social contact, I am in a decent position to keep working through these difficult times. However, my clients' work necessitates social contact for the most part (except for Skype or telephone interviews of course). Social distancing has meant that I have lost the bulk of my regular work, like so many other people across the country. I found myself with very little work in April, usually one of my busiest times of the year. There is a silver lining to the cloud, in that I have a large project arriving next week and another starting in May, these will keep me busy. These clients had already recorded their interviews prior to the lockdown. I feel fortunate about that. Being busy with work allows me to escape, feel productive and not overthink things that I have no control over.
I was certainly not without a million things I could do around the house, and I started by tackling some of these that have been on my 'to-do' list forever. But let's face it, they've been our lists forever because they are things that are either boring or difficult. We always use the excuse to ourselves that we don't have the time. But I think many of us are discovering; we actually don't have the inclination. One night several weeks ago, I found myself playing a newly acquired Scrabble app until one o'clock in the morning. I then continued to play for hours on end the following day. That was the moment I realised I had to bring some structure back to my day. I am an old hand at this, and I think my years of acquired self-discipline when it comes to a work/life balance will allow me to get through this with relative ease. But even with six years of experience of being self employed and working from home, I was reminded of how quickly one could slip into a malaise. There's a fine line between enjoying a bit of relaxation/distraction time and becoming consumed with something that becomes unproductive. If you suddenly find your hands have permanently moulded into the form of a claw due to clutching your phone for hours on end staring at little lettered tiles, you are not alone. Just step away from the phone!
If you have stumbled onto this entry during the height of the crisis, I hope that you are well. There is so much uncertainty about the future, but I think the only thing we can do at the moment is to take things one day at a time.
With my warmest wishes,
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Welcome Winter Solstice, Happy Festivus for the rest of us! Happy Holidays! I have been very fortunate lately in that business has been extremely busy for the last quarter of the year. This is a year which has certainly had its ups and downs, and I am always very thankful when things are going smoothly. I have been mainly working six days a week for the past three months, so I am taking some time off for the holiday season. I will be closing on Christmas eve and reopening on January 6th. Please get in touch if you require any transcribing from Jan 13th onward. I wish you much happiness and health in 2020! A new decade! I feel quite excited and optimistic about this and I hope that you do too.
All of my best wishes,
*This year's featured decoration is my Native Canadian West Coast Christmas bauble.
When transcribing interviews, I highly recommend using decent headphones. These truly make all the difference in the quality of the transcript you can produce and the speed at which you can do it. I prefer the type that goes over the ear and have some noise-cancelling properties. The headphones pictured are the style I have been using for the past three years. While wearing these headphones, I am still able to hear the doorbell. I am also aware if somebody speaks to me from another room. Cheekily, I have been known to conveniently 'not hear' somebody talking to me when I am transcribing. Sometimes I prefer not to interrupt the flow, especially when I'm producing verbatim transcripts. Being able to concentrate on the task at hand is the same reason that 90% of the time, I do not have my mobile phone in my office with me. It is a distraction I do not need. I keep it in another room and allow myself to look at it several times a day. I find this vastly helps with productivity. I recommend it.
When I first started my transcription business, I used the headphones that came with the foot pedal and software I purchased. These were decent, but the sound quality of the headphones I currently use is vastly better. If I have difficulty hearing a recording, I can be confident it is due to the recording quality. The positioning of the speaking person in proximity to the recording device microphone dramatically impacts on recording quality. I often receive recordings with background noise, and these headphones certainly help me produce the best quality transcript possible in those situations. I do, however, prefer recordings without background noise if possible. Many years ago, when I worked for the police, I worked on a surveillance project for three months. These audio recordings had excessive white noise, and it took its toll on my ears. Extreme white noise recordings are something I now try to avoid. Loud background noise, such as those interviews that take place in public places, do not make pleasurable listening. It takes much longer to transcribe as you are perpetually rewinding the recording to pick everything up, even with super-duper headphones it is not a joy. The time factor is the reason professional transcription companies charge more for these types of interviews. Of course, I do accept projects with background noise. If I listen to the recording and the background sound is excessive, I will evaluate whether it is worth it for my client to have the interview transcribed. If I do not think I will produce a suitable transcript from it, I generally give it a miss.
Of course, a decent set of headphones comes at a price. The ones I use cost me £55. They are the second pair I have had to purchase in the past three years. The first ones had an annoyingly long cord that kept getting run over by my office chair. Wheeling over the headphone cable happened so many times that it was a miracle that they lasted as long as they did. One day, they finally had enough of my abuse, and the sound quality dropped dramatically. I immediately found myself ordering the same set of headphones once more. The sound quality was so brilliant that I could not contemplate ever going back to a lesser model. Happily, when they arrived, the cord was much shorter. I guess other transcriptionists had the same issues! It is now not possible for me to run over the cable, which is a massive bonus. With luck, they will last me for years.
I don't suggest that if you are transcribing one or two interviews that you go out and purchase expensive headphones. However, if you are transcribing many recorded interviews, it is certainly something to consider. I would also highly recommend getting a foot pedal. I don't know how anybody produces a timely transcript without one. It must take them such a long time and be extremely frustrating. At a minimum, you would expect a professional transcriptionist to be using a foot pedal to transcribe interviews. Again, if you are doing a one-off project, obviously this is not an investment you would make. Of course, the best bet is to have a professional transcribe your interviews for you. Not exactly a shocking conclusion, considering the author offers a transcription service! Please see my reasonable rates if this is a service you require.
I wish you all the best with your transcribing, whether you decide to go on your own or hire a professional. As a final comment, I am currently taking a proofreading and editing course. I have now completed 40% of the course workload. Proofreading and editing is a service I will be offering in the new year.
Best wishes and happy interviewing,
I was thankful when I turned the calendar this month to reveal May, aside from disliking the cat's hat in the April's picture from my 'Cats in Hats' calendar (an annual Christmas present from my cat Ledley) I felt a change in month represented a new beginning. I always find May to be a nice month in England, the days are much brighter and people seem much more optimistic as summer is around the corner. There are also two bank holiday weekends to look forward to which makes life seem a whole lot better.
I feel like I've come through quite a struggle in March and April. My mother-in-law passed away from an aggressive terminal cancer early March after only being diagnosed as terminal a few weeks previous. We are so lucky in England to have hospices that we have, the staff that work there are truly incredible people. But after an experience like this, you really just chug along and move from one day to the next in a bit of a fog, trying to find a little bit of joy in each day to erase some of the bleakness. I have great wisdom points in experiencing the death of somebody close, but have found it very difficult to watch somebody I love so much having to grieve the loss of his mother.
Perhaps that would have been enough to contend with for the past few months, but you know how it works, if one thing goes wrong...many go wrong. And business was very slow for March and April. I was beginning to worry that maybe I would have to move onto something else. This is the curse of the freelancer, this anxiety, and this train of thought is very common when things go quiet for many of us. We all know from past experience, things tend to come good again and we ought to just take advantage and get things done we've been putting off when for once, we have the time. But we generally find ourselves obsessing over how much money is or is not going to come in and we end up spending most of our time just freaking out!
I had to be proactive about things and so decided to spend a big whack of money on advertising. This can be a crap shoot, am I throwing good money after bad? But thankfully it did pay off. One client referred me to three others (Thank you! These were small projects but they gave me something to get up for every day) And then I generated four other clients which took away the worry. A book project I had signed for had been stalled for months, and that suddenly is back on track. It also looks like I will be working on another large book project for a new ghostwriter client which is quite exciting. And happily, many of my academic clients are coming out of the woodwork again this month. I have had seven enquiries in the first two days of the month, I truly don't even think I met this number for the whole of April! I have spoken with other freelancers and they all say it has been quiet for them too. I speculate, Year End, Uncertainty of Brexit, and Easter Holidays...
Aside from worrying about my future and what I was or wasn't doing with my life, I did manage to get a few things done that I never would have had the time for, this is a bonus for sure. I thought my website was looking a bit dated, so I did a total overhaul. Wow, that was a project and a half in the end! I think it ended up taking me ten hours in total, I kept making stupid mistakes. And Google wasn't happy with the way it displayed on some mobile phones, so I ended having to redesign from scratch. But I'm so happy with it now that it's finished. I added some new pages that I'd had on a 'To Do' post-it note for about a year, a page specifically dedicated to podcasts and a page to sign up to the Trusty Transcriptionists newsletter (be still your beating heart, huh?)
I also managed to get some writing done, like properly. I half finished a short story which combines Artificial Intelligence (something I've been obsessively reading about lately) and love (something I try to avoid reading about entirely!) I even entered a couple of poetry competitions, which I'd been meaning to do for ages but just never took the time to do so. And finally, I think I've figured out a direction I'd like my business to branch off into which ties in to the service I provide (or at least provides a service required by many of the clients I already have) The happy news, it is something that 'Will a Robot Take Over my Job' claims is only at a 6% risk. (Have you checked out this website? It is interesting if not very disconcerting!) So I'm looking forward to taking a course in the summer, getting skilled up, hopefully passing and then launching a new branch to the business in the autumn/winter time.
I'm feeling quite optimistic about things in general, which I think is the crux of this message. Sometimes life can seem quite daunting, scary, lonely and even hopeless but we must try to remember that a new day will eventually come. And sometimes it takes weeks or even months to feel like that 'new day' has dawned, but it eventually does. And it's important to talk to a few people you trust when you're going through the down times, or there are organisations that you can speak to. We all need to feel supported and to feel loved. We are social creatures, we really are not meant to be just existing alone or virtually. Although I am extremely lucky to have a really good network of proper close friends, and a husband who has unwaveringly supported me for close to 25 years now, I find that when things get rough, it's difficult to reach out. But these are the times when you have to bare your soul a little and seek a bit of emotional support. It's also about learning who can and cannot be present for you emotionally when you're going through a tough time. Some people are overloaded in their own lives and simply don't have the capacity to take anything else on. This is a very painful life lesson and a lot of time can be wasted wondering what you did wrong. There's that classic Seinfeld episode with George Constanza and the 'It's not you, it's me' routine. But do you know what? Sometimes it really isn't you.
I close with a photo from last week, of a peony flower in my garden. I planted these two years ago (I am very new to this whole gardening lark)and I am astounded each year when something actually blooms, and the beauty of these flowers truly does take my breath away. It really is the little things that bring the greatest joy.