What to expect when you are looking for clients

What to expect when you are looking for clients

It is widely known that looking for a job is a job in itself, especially if you work as a freelancer, since you are actually looking for jobs, not for a single one. Sending CVs, filling forms and doing assessments to enter a database become your daily routine. In doing so, you meet lots of different types of people and gather many anecdotes. But what is the result of all these efforts? Well, there is obviously a percentage of people who get back to you and hire you, thank God! But whatever happens to the rest?

As for CVs, a big amount of them get no answer at all. I guess they are immediately sent to trash the moment they reach their destination because it is one among hundreds of CVs or because the person who opens the mail does not have the time or will to read them all. Then you find the kind type, my favorite among those who will never hire you. Those people who do not need your services but bother to answer you, apologizing for not hiring you and even giving you some tips for your job search. Though I must confess I hate it when they tell you: “I keep your profile for future projects. No one knows”. There is a third type of person in this classification: the I-don’t-know-how-to-define-yet type. These people get back to you immediately after receiving your email and tell you they want to know your rates and availability and they will phone you in a few days because they have so desperately looking for someone with your profile for a long time and bla, bla… You do as you have been told and then…silence for ever and ever. I wonder if they have been kidnapped, sent on a mission to Mars or suffer from amnesia.

While looking for jobs you are often asked to fill never-ending forms in which you are asked long lists of questions which, on the other hand, I understand are necessary for the potential clients. The worst part comes when they ask you to complete and assessment. Though I love doing them because I love my job, they are time-consuming tasks. But you do them in the hope of getting a job. After that, you must wait for the answer, which can take a full month to get back to you. And then: Congratulations! You are now part of a database of thousands of people waiting for an opportunity.

The key elements to keep your motivation in your job searching adventure are patience and persistence. Don’t give up the fight!

In the next post I will talk about the wide range of opportunities you find in your searching for jobs, from those who are worth it to those who meet slavery conditions.

Punctuation exists!

Punctuation exists!

Punctuation is a victim of new technologies, together with human relationships, outdoor activities and social skills. But punctuation matters because it gives us key information. A full stop or a comma can change the meaning of a whole sentence. Compare the following pair of sentences:

I have two sisters, who I love a lot.

When your two sisters read this sentence both of them will be happy and probably give you a big hug the next time they see you.

I have two sisters who I love a lot.

What’s wrong here? Is there a third sister you don’t love that much? Oh, poor thing!

A simple comma can hurt somebody’s feelings and make World War III break out! Remember this rule when you learn relative clauses at school and bear it in mind forever.

The misuse of commas can lead to weird sentences like the one below:

I love fishing wild boars and trekking.

Who in the whole world has ever seen a wild boar swimming in the sea? Let’s write a comma and see what happens:

I love fishing, wild boars and trekking.

Abracadabra! It makes sense now!

Our mobiles are crammed with strange messages. Most of them are full of spelling or grammar mistakes. But let’s focus on punctuation. It is not unusual to wake up one morning to read something like that on your mobile:

Fancy a coffee.

In real life nothing happens. You immediately answer with the thumbs up emoticon and meet your friend later to talk over a cup of coffee. But to a philologist it may (well, it ought to) sound as an order, an imperative sentence. The following sentence is the one I would like to see in this case:

Fancy a coffee?

Yes, I’m being too strict. But, on the other hand, I think it is not that demanding to write a question mark. It would take me hours to try and convince some (some???) people of using the correct punctuation marks when they text their friends and, yet, I’m sure my effort would be fruitless. For most people it would be a waste of time or a pointless thing to do. You may be reading this and thinking: “Well, I don’t use all that punctuation stuff in my texts and I COMMUNICATE.” Now answer the following question sincerely:

Does it take u longer than necessary to decipher the texts u get

Oooops! That was a question! OMG. SCNR. NNTR.

I love some controversy, too.


Things I Learned at the Local Pub

Things I Learned at the Local Pub

British cuisine is improving. Yes, I mean it. They are trying new dishes with long names and many ingredients, such as “Smoked haddock Scotch egg, truffled cream leeks” or “Lamb rump, crispy shoulder, peas and wild garlic, mint crushed potatoes”, the kind of stuff that is also popular in Catalonia nowadays. I dare to say I love English food. Pubs also have good wines and champagnes, today you can have a glass of Rioja wine at a pub in a small village in the county of Wiltshire. Fish and chips and beer are obviously always there. It’s a pity I don’t like beer and never drink a pint when I am in the UK.

It is obvious that, while going through the dishes in a menu, you learn new words-carvery, that special lunch pubs serve you on Sunday- and refresh some you had temporarily forgotten –coleslaw is a good example- because there is not an exact equivalent in your home country. You become familiar with the fact that there exist different types of pubs, depending on who or what they are friendly to: all over the UK you can find pet-friendly, children-friendly or even family-friendly pubs (hyphenated adjectives are among my favorite English words).

But there are two language skills you must practise at these places: listening and speaking. Conversations at the local pubs are powerful language-boosters. To name but only a couple of situations: imagine when you listen-deliberately- to a conversation about football between two guys who are under the effects of booze. I know nothing about this massively popular sport and you can imagine how demanding it can be to decipher the broken sentences these local drunk men (yes, I love the word local, both as an adjective and as a noun) are saying. As a non-native speaker you feel on top of the world, a hero of oral comprehension when you can make out the global message of their conversation. The other example is when this young teenage waitress comes to your table to see what you want to order and, oh, my gosh!, she is chewing gum and syllables at the same time. It takes a lot of concentration and imagination to understand her. Why don’t they use these materials as listening activities in our schools? Well, to tell the truth, I already know the answer. Anyway, I love these challenges.

Children make good language teachers, too. When you go to one of those family-friendly pubs with your kids and it happens to be Easter time, you will probably find yourself in the middle of an egg hunt during which your own children will mix and play with the other kids to find the hints to the Easter hunt. One or two of them will probably ask for your help to try and solve the hints. And they will do as children usually do, spontaneously and using some words they have just made up; the same way young Spanish children say rompido instead of the correct past participle roto.

Last but not least, be aware of the cultural background that surrounds you at the pub. Do not expect people to behave our way at a British pub. The waiter does not usually come to your table, it is just the other way round, it is the customers-or patrons– who ask for their drinks. And, yes, you feel so embarrassed the day you find it out, after everyone else in the pub has been looking at you for a while with that what-the-f***-is-she-waiting-for look on their faces!

It’s amazing the amount of information you can gather with a single visit to the pub. So find a good local pub, order your beer, sit back and relax. You’re learning English!

The Blank Page Story

The Blank Page


Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) from Last Tales


Where the story-teller is loyal, eternally and unswervingly loyal to the story, there, in the end, silence will speak.”


By the ancient city gate sat an old coffee-brown, black-veiled woman who made her living by telling stories.


She said:


“You want a tale, sweet lady and gentleman? Indeed I have told many tales, one more than a thousand, since that time when I first let young men tell me, myself, tales of a red rose, two smooth lily buds, and four silky, supple, deadly entwining snakes. It was my mother’s mother, the black-eyed dancer, the often-embraced, who in the end-wrinkled like a winter apple and crouching beneath the mercy of the veil- took upon herself to teach me the art of story-telling. Her own mother’s mother had taught it to her, and both were better storytellers than I am. But that, by now, is of no consequence, since to the people they and I have become one, and I am most highly honoured because I have told stories for two hundred years.”


Now if she is well paid and in good spirits, she will go on.


“With my grandmother,” she said, “I went through a hard school. ‘Be loyal to the story,’ the old hag would say to me. ‘Be eternally and unswervingly loyal to the story.’ ‘Why must I be that, Grandmother?’ I asked her. ‘Am I to furnish you with reasons, baggage?’ she cried. ‘And you mean to be a story-teller! Why, you are to become a story-teller, and I shall give you my reasons! Hear then: Where the story-teller is loyal, eternally and unswervingly loyal to the story, there, in the end, silence will speak. Where the story has been betrayed, silence is but emptiness. But we, the faithful, when we have spoken our last word, will hear the voice of silence. Whether a small snotty lass understands it or not.’”


“Who then,” she continues, “tells a finer tale than any of us? Silence does. And where does one read a deeper tale than upon the most perfectly printed page of the most precious book? Upon the blank page. When a royal and gallant pen, in the moment of its highest inspiration, has written down its tale with the rarest ink of all – where, then, may one read a still deeper, sweeter, merrier and more cruel tale than that? Upon the blank page.”

The old beldame for a while says nothing, only giggles a little and munches with her toothless mouth.

“We,” she says at last, “the old women who tell stories, we know the story of the blank page. But we are somewhat averse to telling it, for it might well, among the uninitiated, weaken our own credit. All the same, I am going to make an exception with you, my sweet and pretty lady and gentleman of the generous hearts. I shall tell it to you.”


High up in the blue mountains of Portugal there stands an old convent for sisters of the Carmelite order, which is an illustrious and austere order. In ancient times the convent was rich, the sisters were all noble ladies, and miracles took place there. But during the centuries highborn ladies grew less keen on fasting and prayer, the great dowries flowed into the treasury of the convent, and today the few portionless and humble sisters live in but one wing of the vast crumbling structure, which looks as if it longed to become one with the gray rock itself. Yet they are still a blithe and active sisterhood. They take much pleasure in their holy meditations, and will busy themselves joyfully with that one particular task which did once, long, long ago, obtain for the convent a unique and strange privilege: they grow the finest flax and manufacture the most exquisite linen of Portugal.

The long field below the convent is plowed with gentle-eyed, milk-white bullocks, and the seed is skillfully sown out by labour-hardened virginal hands with mold under the nails. At the time when the flax field flowers, the whole valley becomes air-blue, the very colour of the apron which the blessed virgin put on to go out and collect eggs within St. Anne’s poultry yard, the moment before the Archangel Gabriel in mighty wing-strokes lowered himself onto the threshold of the house, and while high, high up a dove, neck-feathers raised and wings vibrating, stood like a small clear silver star in the sky. During this month the villagers many miles round raise their eyes to the flax field and ask one another: “Has the convent been lifted into heaven? Or have our good little sisters succeeded in pulling down heaven to them?”

Later in due course the flax is pulled, scutched and hackled; thereafter the delicate thread is spun, and the linen woven, and at the very end the fabric is laid out on the grass to bleach, and is watered time after time, until one may believe that snow has fallen round the convent walls. All this work is gone through with precision and piety and with such sprinklings and litanies as are the secret of the convent. For these reasons the linen, baled high on the backs of small gray donkeys and sent out through the convent gate, downwards and ever downwards to the towns, is as flower-white, smooth and dainty as was my own little foot when fourteen years old, I had washed it in the brook to go to a dance in the village.

Diligence, dear Master and Mistress, is a good thing, and religion is a good thing, but the very first germ of a story will come from some mystical place outside the story itself. Thus does the linen of the Convento Velho draw its true virtue from the fact that the very first linseed was brought home from the Holy Land itself by a crusader.

In the Bible, people who can read may learn about the lands of Lecha and Maresha, where flax is grown. I myself cannot read, and have never seen this book of which so much is spoken. But my grandmother’s grandmother as a little girl was the pet of an old Jewish rabbi and the learning she received from him has been kept and passed on in our family. So you will read, in the book of Joshua, of how Achsah the daughter of Caleb lighted from her ass and cried unto her father: “Give me a blessing! For thou hast now given me land; give me also the blessing of springs of water!” And he gave her the upper springs and the nether springs. And in the fields of Lecha and Maresha lived, later on, the families of them that wrought the finest linen of all. Our Portuguese crusader, whose own ancestors had once been great linen weavers of Tomar, as he rode through these same fields was struck by the quality of the flax and so tied a bag of seeds to the pommel of his saddle.

From this circumstance originated the first privilege of the convent, which was to procure bridal sheets for all the young princesses of the royal house.

I will inform you, dear lady and gentleman, that in the country of Portugal in very old and noble families a venerable custom has been observed. On the morning after the wedding of a daughter of the house, and before the morning had yet been handed over, the Chamberlain or High Steward from a balcony of the palace would hang out the sheet of the night and would solemnly proclaim: Virginem eam tenemus — “we declare her to have been a virgin.” Such a sheet was never afterwards washed or again lain on.

This time-honoured custom was nowhere more strictly upheld than within the royal house itself, and it has there subsisted till within living memory.

Now for many hundred years the convent in the mountains, in appreciation of the excellent quality of the linen delivered, has held its second high privilege: that of receiving back that central piece of the snow-white sheet which bore witness to the honour of a royal bride.

In the tall main wing of the convent, which overlooks an immense landscape of hills and valleys, there is a long gallery with a black-and-white marble floor. On the walls of the gallery, side by side, hangs a long row of heavy, gilt frames, each of them adorned with a coroneted plate of pure gold, on which is engraved the name of a princess: Donna Christina, Donna Ines, Donna Jacintha Lenora, Donna Maria. And each of these frames encloses a square cut from a royal wedding sheet.

Within the faded markings of the canvases people of some imagination and sensibility may read all the signs of the zodiac: the Scales, the Scorpion, the Lion, the Twins. Or they may there find pictures from their own world of ideas: a rose, a heart, a sword — or even a heart pierced through with a sword.

In days of old it would occur that a long, stately, richly coloured procession wound its way through the stone-gray mountain scenery, upwards to the convent. Princesses of Portugal, who were now queens or queen dowagers of foreign countries, Archduchesses, or Electresses, with their splendid retinue, proceeded here on a pilgrimage which was by nature, both sacred and secretly gay. From the flax field upwards the road rises steeply; the royal lady would have to descend from her coach to be carried this last bit of the way in a palanquin presented to the convent for the very same purpose.

Later on, up to our own day, it has come to pass — as it to pass when a sheet of paper is being burnt, that after all other sparks have run along the edge and died away, one last clear little spark will appear and hurry along after them — that a very old highborn spinster undertakes the journey to Convento Velho. She has once, a long long time ago, been playmate, friend and maid-of-honour to a young princess of Portugal. As she makes her way to the convent she looks round to see the view widen to all sides. Within the building a sister conducts her to the gallery and to the plate bearing the name of the princess she has once served, and there takes leave of her, aware of her wish to be alone.

Slowly, slowly a row of recollections passes through the small, venerable, skull-like head under its mantilla of black lace, and it nods to them in amicable recognition. The loyal friend and confidante looks back upon the young bride’s elevated married life with the elected royal consort. She takes stock of happy events and disappointments — coronations and jubilees, court intrigues and wars, the birth of heirs to the throne, the alliances of younger generations of princes and princesses, the rise or decline of dynasties. The old lady will remember how once, from the markings on the canvas, omens were drawn; now she will be able to compare the fulfillment to the omen, sighing a little and smiling a little. Each separate canvas with its coroneted name-plate has a story to tell, and each has been set up in loyalty to the story.

But in the midst of the long row there hangs a canvas which differs from the others. The frame of it is as fine and as heavy as any, and as proudly as any carries the golden plate with the royal crown. But on this one plate no name is inscribed, and the linen within the frame is snow-white from corner to comer, a blank page.

I beg of you, you good people who want to hear stories told: look at this page, and recognize the wisdom of my grandmother and of all old story-telling women!

For with what eternal and unswerving loyalty has not this canvas been inserted in the row! The story-tellers themselves before it draw their veils over their faces and are dumb. Because the royal papa and mama who one this canvas to be framed and hung up, had they not had the tradition of loyalty in their blood, might have left it out.

It is in front of this piece of pure white linen that the old princesses of Portugal — worldly wise, dutiful, long-suffering queens, wives and mothers — and their noble old playmates, bridesmaids and maids-of-honour have most often stood still.

It is in front of the blank page that old and young nuns, with the Mother Abbess herself, sink into deepest thought.