The Antipreneur

I thought of this snazzy little title on the way to the vets, with Winnie. In fact, when approaching an awkward mini-roundabout. That beastly little roundabout is particularly good for popping blog post titles into one’s head, I’ve noticed. No wonder cars always seem to be having collisions there.

Money or the lack of it always crosses my mind (multiple times) on the way to the vets, with a cat. But today being the Sabbath it was a locum, and he mightily impressed me by not extracting money from me when he undoubtedly could have, since having nineteen cats (as he could see from his computer screen) tends to give the game away – that you will do anything for a sick or suffering moggie, even if it involves remortgaging or maxing out the plastic.

But he spent a long time making a gentle fuss of poor Winnie and listening to her alarming breathing, and then told me it was a difficult one. He said he asked himself, if this was his own cat, or a human being, would he put them through an anaesthetic, an x-ray, a battery of blood tests, to find out what was wrong. Long experience has equipped me with a mental calculator for veterinary investigations. You’re looking at hundreds, I thought. Hundreds and hundreds… in fact maybe a thousand… Simultaneously trying to recall the PIN for my credit card – the one I swore I would never again buy anything on.

There is some sort of process going on inside Winnie, he said, but without the investigations it is hard to guess. I can tell by the flecks in her eyes, he said, that she is maybe fourteen or fifteen years old (this is news to me, as she was a stray, but I am not surprised). Winnie is an old lady. As long as she is eating and drinking, and seems to be happy, I think it might be better just to watch her, and wait. Bring her back to me when the time is right.

And with that he restored my faith in human nature. I hope he won’t get into trouble for not selling anything this rainy sabbath. I seemed to be their only customer this morning, so his lack of financial killer instinct will be pretty obvious when they come to do the till at lunchtime. I hope poor Winnie’s “time” will not come for a while yet, but when it does I will know, because he also restored my confidence in myself, my own instincts.

As for Anti-preneur – I guess that is I what I must be. At intervals I research into ways of supplementing the meagre income; preferably very, very quickly; without a huge outlay for three years of evening classes in upholstery, or the purchase of a stack of books on website design. Apparently website design is now becoming a bit “niche” as an income-generator, since the technology for building one’s own website is nowadays available to all online. I throw out that hint in case any of you are also making long lists of How To Make Money.

Truth is, I just haven’t got the mindset. I need money but I am not interested in it. I need money but I am not terribly willing to do – or terribly capable of doing – any of the things that are necessary to get it. I found a very useful article in The Guardian – Fifty side businesses to set up from home.

What is a side business, I wonder. I suppose if you are making oodles in the City, a side business would be something you did in your back bedroom, after spending three hours commuting home on a tightly-packed train. I have never had a front business, let alone a side one.

I run through the list, listlessly, trying to convince myself that I could manage one, or any of them:

Antiques dealing – what do they think I am going to purchase the antiques with? (Sigh!) And would I know an antique if I saw one? (Sigh!)
Babysitting. No one would let a childless old baggage like me near their children. And I don’t even much like children. I would be like Nanny McPhee… without the magic.
Bed and Breakfast, it says. I don’t want another person under my roof – unless they are my sister, for a week, in January – and anyway, I would have to hoover, relentlessly. And what about the nineteen cats?
Biscuit-making – oven broken
Cake-making – ditto
Car boot sales (Sigh!)
Car cleaning/valeting (Sighhhh!)
Census distributor – not till 2022, and I have a feeling I somewhat failed to impress at that the time before last…
Computer repairer/trouble-shooter – if only I could, I could save myself hundreds of pounds in visits from Scary Computer Man…
Become a DJ – seriously?
Be a doula – OMG, no….

Every time I think about making money my subconscious, which utterly refuses to stick to the point in any situation, however dire – in fact the direr the situation the more it is tempted to stray from/misremember any conceivable point – reminds me, visually and facetiously, that I need only to purchase a Red Hat and walk up and down the High Street murmuring… whatever ladies in Red Hats are supposed to murmur… Hello sailor! Got a light, dearie? Maybe ladies in Red Hats did murmur that sort of thing in the days when there were plenty of sailors and everybody used to smoke. Maybe. I doubt if they wear Red Hats nowadays, and suspect that whatever they now murmur to passing gentlemen, it is  direct, and graphic.

Deceased Devon Aunt once informed me that if I bought a bottle of Devon Violets perfume I would smell like a Lady of The Brook (or, as her Deceased Brother – my Father – would more likely have put it – like a Whore’s Handbag). Perhaps I should look on Amazon to see if one can still purchase little bottles of Devon Violets perfume – or red hats for that matter – and if so set forth to supplement my pension in this time-honoured way.

If only I wasn’t so old. And if only I could bear the thought…

So I suppose I will just have to write the novel. But that will take years. And what sort of novel. And whatever sort of novel, nobody is likely to publish it. And…



  • Double, double toil and trouble;
  • Fire burn and caldron bubble.
  • Fillet of a fenny snake,
  • In the caldron boil and bake;
  • Eye of newt and toe of frog,
  • Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
  • Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
  • Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
  • For a charm of powerful trouble,
  • Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
  • Double, double toil and trouble;
  • Fire burn and caldron bubble.
  • Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
  • Then the charm is firm and good.

This, from Macbeth, is one of those little Shakespeare song/poems that most people recognise but few people – apart from actors – read very carefully. I say people don’t read these things very carefully because, just look at the last verse of the witches’ curse – Cool it with a baboon’s blood. Fenny snakes, blind-worms, bats, newts, dogs, lizards and howlets (owlets?) might be presumed to be freely available in Mediaeval Scotland, but where might a witch have sourced a baboon? And poor baboon! How could they? Did they murder him for the sake of a few drops of his blood and a silly curse? Or did they keep him, chained in a cave, feeding him on howlets and tapping the precious fluid as and when necessary?

Which reminds me of a boyfriend I once had – you can’t really call them boyfriends when you’re middle aged, but what else can you call them? He showed me the ornamental pond he had dug in his back garden, and something black swimming around in murky water. It’s my newt. Ha, ha ha, ha, ha ha ha, ha… He had obviously been working on this joke for some considerable time. It put me off him. That and the pointy nose.

How did I get started on curses and baboons? Oh yes I was thinking about tedious tasks. A tenuous link, I admit, but it occurred to me that the attraction of spell-making might lie not so much in the power to do harm, or exercise one’s wickedness, as in the comforting process of stirring. Just stirring. It’s the same as knitting. Why do people knit? The end result is itchy, usually unwearable, and quickly gets stretched and bobbly in the tumble-dryer. And yet we continue to knit, because it’s soothing. In my time I have made cat-blanket after cat-blanket out of six-inch garter-stitch squares. In times of stress – or distress – I tend to knit, stroke cats or iron piles of stuff that doesn’t need to be ironed. My Canadian sister, staying with me, once passed the room where I was ironing and exclaimed, ‘Did I just catch you ironing a knicker?’ And all to save my sanity. When my cat Sophie needed to be put to sleep I took her to the vets alone, I watched her die alone and came home from the vets alone – and mowed the lawn alone, and howled, and mowed the lawn a bit more, and howled a bit more. I had to break the howling up with something.

The boyfriend mentioned above – setting aside for a moment the sticking points of his minute newts and his pointy nose – had had troubles of his own from time to time. His first remedy had been to walk. He walked from one side of northern England to another following one of the Wainwright maps. And he made curries; more curries than he could ever possibly have eaten. It was his own recipe, which he knew by heart. In the corner of his kitchenette lived a teetering stack of shallow, empty margarine tubs and the transparent lids to go with them. On his down days he would fill vast numbers of margarine tubs with home-made curry, and freeze the results. The lodger was never short of something to microwave when he staggered in from the pub.

Shelling peas is another soothing thing. Sitting on the back doorstep in the sunshine, shelling a great heap of peas into a bowl; preparing any sort of vegetables, really – peeling potatoes, diagonally slicing runner beans, even cutting those daft little crosses into the stalks of Brussels sprouts. Are the crosses really necessary? Would the world come to an end if a sprout entered a saucepan uncrossed? And sharpening pencils. In the absence of inspiration: sharpen.

So I am hoping to be pleasantly soothed rather than excruciatingly bored when, on returning from the inevitably sad and stressful Sunday visit to my mother later this afternoon, I am going to have to start cutting up a ream of self-printed paper label sheets ready for my new catalogue-delivering venture. Yes, as from next Wednesday when several enormous cardboard boxes of catalogues are due to arrive via Parcel Force, the paucity of the State Retirement Pension and twelve ravenous rescue cats will have forced me to walk the streets of my village, and most probably all the other villages within drivable distance. I must remember not to wear a Red Hat (luckily I don’t possess a Red Hat) as a Red Hat is said to mean No Drawers. I suspect I’ll be safe enough out there on the streets of shame, and the exercise will do me good. Won’t it?

I hate exercise. But you need exercise. But I hate exercise. But it will be soothing. Didn’t you just say tedious tasks are soothing? But what if the books won’t balance?

What if it rains?