Baby it’s hot outside

What a week – I’ve been busier than an ant farm that a kid’s just poked with a stick.  I don’t mind, it’s made the week fly by and that’s good considering I’m almost in countdown mode (saving the actual start of countdown until we roll into September).  On Monday, I heard via the grapevine that I’d gained the Customer Service Award for the month of July.  This was news to me because I didn’t know we had Customer Service Awards and also that I’d been nominated.  It would appear, the announcement is now official, that this is a new scheme and my company now awards Customer Service and Employee of the Month.  Although I’m pleased with my award, I wonder how on earth I’m now going to achieve Employee of the Month.   I take Customer Service as second nature – why would you not want a happy customer…. but Employee of the Month.  Darn.  I want that one.

So as we rolled into Saturday I was thinking of relaxing and having a go at garden redesign.  Things have come to a halt at the bottom of the garden.  Mike has decided it is a “big job” and one for professionals.  He wants decking.  If he can pay for decking, he can have decking.  But the top of the garden, well, that’s a different matter.  I want a bit of grass.  So, on what turned out to be the hottest day so far (hit 32 degrees in Suffolk, and couldn’t have been that far off down here in Kent) I was thinking of wielding sledgehammer and shovel to take out one of the many granite block walls that haunt our garden.   I slept in the spare room last night, the attic bedroom being too stifling to even think sleep would be possible.  To keep a nice air flow in I left the bedroom door open, so by 3am, with four cats in or around the bed, I had a fit and shooed them all out and finally got some sleep.   When I eventually got up, I sat with one eye on the coffee and the other on the slowly rising thermometer and eventually thought “sod it”.  There’s only one thing to do when it gets that hot – go lie down and bank up some well earned sleep.  So I did a quick bit of sewing indoors and then as everything began to wilt and pant I laid down on the bed, put the ceiling fan on and got a nice three hours of well deserved sleep under my belt.

I did have a go at the wall when it cooled down at 6pm, helped by chickens on the look out for anything that moved.  And now it’s 9.30pm and would you believe it, I can’t wait to go to bed again.

Conde Nast or Naste Con?

You are probably not aware, and I must admit I wasn’t either, that blogs like mine are subject to spammers.  What they do is “comment” on your blog, with something fatuous like “I really like the subject of your blog, I look forward to the next posting” or (an actual example) “I’m so happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that’s at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc” – eh?

However, upon investigation, these posts are in fact links to the poster’s own site selling the usual items like …. Well, I’ve just logged in and I can tell you that over the last 48hrs, my blog has been spammed by 8 spammers, 1 complete gobbledegook, 3 cellar links, 4 wine investment funds/scam none of which I opened, all of which I deleted.

One that did get through though was the following:

Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2011 11:32:15 +0000
To: caz_clark@hotmail.co.uk
From: comment-reply@wordpress.com
Subject: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

New comment on your post “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”
E-mail : hannah.shuckburgh@condenast.co.uk
Comment:
Hello, I am the commissioning editor of Easy Living, the Conde Nast magazine aimed at intelligent, grown-up women, and I would love to get in touch with you about writing for us. Could you email me? Thanks, Hannah

Now I immediately thought “Scam”.  Why would Conde Nast magazine bother reading my blog?  But I checked out Hannah’s credentials and found that she was, indeed, the Commissioning Editor of “Easy Living”. 

So I responded as follows:

From: carol clark [mailto:caz_clark@hotmail.co.uk]
Sent: 22 November 2011 14:33
To: Hannah Shuckburgh
Subject: RE: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

Dear Hannah
 
I received an email from you via my blog page and am, as indicated, getting in touch with you.  I am working as a temp at the moment, but fortunately/unfortunately am not at all busy so often pop in and out to check on my emails.
 
I look forward to hearing from you.
 
With kind regards
 
Carol (Clark)
 
Pretty bland response from me don’t you think, keeping my cards close to my chest in case it was a spam.  But no, here’s the reply I received:

From: hannah.shuckburgh@condenast.co.uk
To: caz_clark@hotmail.co.uk
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2011 14:35:40 +0000
Subject: RE: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

Hello Carol,

Thanks so much for getting back to me. As I mentioned, I am the commissioning editor of Easy Living, the Conde Nast magazine. I have been reading your blog with interest – it’s brilliant – and I wondered whether you might, in theory, like to write about your experiences in the magazine?

Perhaps you could give me a bit of background about your situation – how your husband ended up in prison, and what inspired you to start to blog about it?

Really looking forward to hearing from you.

All best, Hannah

Hannah Shuckburgh
Commissioning Editor
Easy Living
The Conde Nast Publications Ltd
6-8 Old Bond Street
London W1S 4PH

T: 020 7399 2616

www.easylivingmagazine.co.uk

Now, I have to say, at this point an alarm bell went off – why, if she had read my blog “with interest” did she not know how Mike had ended up in prison.  It’s not like I make a big secret of it.  But, swept up with the idea of “appearing in print”, I sent Hannah the following answer to her query:

From: carol clark
Sent: 22 November 2011
To: Hannah Shuckburgh
Subject: RE: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

Hi Hannah

In answer to your questions…..the very short version of how my husband ended up in prison is as follows. 

Unbeknownst to me, my husband, although having a very well paid position at a local company, felt neglected and unrewarded.  He had been promised shares in the company for many years (in front of other witnesses, so I know this to be true) and for some reason, after watching the other two directors of the company reward themselves with dividends and bonuses, decided to start rewarding himself.  He began to take sums of money from the company, not, unusually, to fund a lavish lifestyle, which is why I never became aware of the matter, but to make investments for our, and his family by a previous marriage, future.  The first time I became aware of this was in February 2010 when he came home early to tell me that the company had suspended him for illegal use of airmiles (two flights) and then the bombshell…. “they’re going to find out I’ve been taking money”. 

They did find out – I told them and the rest is history.  Our accounts were frozen, we had to sell our home to pay back the money along with all the investments he had made.  We had to negotiate this minefield without a solicitor (Legal Aid in Civil Cases very difficult to secure).  Luckily, as part of a settlement agreement, I was allowed a portion of money with which to purchase a home – nothing like the 4 bed country property we used to own, but I love it nonetheless and it was back to work for me!  And if matters couldn’t have gotten any worse, the day before we were due to move (from a caravan) he was arrested.

We are now in the situation he strived to avoid for years in that we have no investments, no pension, scant savings but at least we have a roof over our heads, which, as I have since discovered, is a lot more than others have.  So I am grateful.

This led me to start blogging, the fact that I might have lost everything, but that I would change nothing.  I have gained my husband, this experience has bought us closer and we plan on living our lives to the full when he gets out.  It’s been a remarkable education for someone at my age (49 and a half), allowed me to see a part of life that some “Daily Mail Readers” scream and rant against, to be sympathetic to the plight of victims of crime – that’s actual victims and the unseen families of perpetrators.  I daily discover things that previously I had no interest in and have learned that the ramifications of committing a crime are like the proverbial pebbles in the stream, touching everyone who has anything to do with a criminal.  I want to educate people.  I want those involved in white collar crime to stop and think what they are doing, I want those thinking about “nicking a tenner from petty cash” to forget it, it’s just not worth it. It may well seem like a victimless crime, but the victims are those you love.

By the way, he got 3 years and you can read all about it if you Google “Mike Clark SBS Worldwide Kent”.  Lots of lovely articles and a very unflattering photo (note: if you are going to be arrested, get your hair done first).

If you think this would be of interest to you/your readers, please let me know!

Kind regards

Carol

….. and was overjoyed to receive the following response:

From: Hannah Shuckburgh

Sent: 22.11.11

To: Carol Clark

Subject: RE: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

Hello Carol,

What an extraordinary story. You are incredibly brave and you write so well. I think it would be amazing to tell you story in the magazine, and, as you say, to paint a true picture of this kind of crime and its victims. I will speak to my editor about this on Thursday, and come back to you with more details about how best we can reflect story (we won’t do anything too personal or salacious, I promise) – and we can work out what sort of piece you should write for us, and then we can discuss fees, etc. I do want to ask, though – are you ok to be photographed?

Looking forward to hearing from you again.

Very best,

Hannah

Hannah Shuckburgh
Commissioning Editor

However, Thursday came and went and I heard nothing.  Knowing media types as I do, I thought, probably busy test driving Gucci hands bags, I’ll give her the weekend to mull things over.  The weekend came and went, and I argued with myself, perhaps I got the wrong Thursday, perhaps it’s this week her meeting is being held.  In the end, after angsting over this for far too long, I sent the following:

From: carol clark
Sent: 30 November 2011 15:33
To: Hannah Shuckburgh
Subject: RE: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

Hi Hannah,
 
Just so I know, was it decided at your meeting last week not to go ahead with this idea?
 
with kind regards
 
Carol

OK, so maybe my brief introduction into the new life of Carol Clark was a bit too intense, because I received this:

From: Hannah Shuckburgh

Sent: 30.11.11

To: Carol Clark

Subject: RE: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

Hi Carol,

I don’t think we will be able to do a piece on your blog at the moment, but I will keep you in mind and come back to you when there is more space in the issue. Thank you so much,

Hannah

Hahahah, what bollocks!

I’ve been wondering what the moral to this story is and I believe it is “pride comes before a fall”.  I was so proud that a magazine had deigned to read what I had written, proud to think I would appear alongside adverts for stuff that not even when we had money could I afford.  Proud because I told my dear friend, who had been so upset over the wrong impression my radio broadcast gave, that I would this time give the real story of what we went through.  Proud because with the “oxygen of publicity” I might be able to dissuade someone else from doing (or stopping doing) what Mike did.  And then I fell.

So this is today’s lesson PRIDE COMES BEFORE A FALL in every situation and you must never, ever forget it.