When every day feels the same as the day before, it's good to try and shake things up.
There's only so much walking around my own and surrounding neighbourhoods I am capable of without the monotony of seeing the same streets and shops settles in. Last weekend I got on a bus. And a tube. I might as well have been going on holiday, only without the open-air restaurants, the boozy afternoons and the beach.
I'm less than two weeks away from celebrating my 60th birthday. I had a big birthday party bash planned at a cool club in East London. I booked the venue over six months ago, confident in the knowledge that, indeed, by March, lockdown and the pandemic would be well behind us. As if! Pianist(s) were confirmed, friends RSVP'd 'YES!' and I was looking forward to Sophie, the club's hostess with the mostest, mixing me the best-frozen Margherita this side of Tijuana. There would be singing and dancing, and sparkling conversation and CAKE.
Instead, I've now going to take my much-longed-for and freshly printed Oyster 60+ card and visit a few people spread across SW, NW and East London and go on a series of walks, keto-friendly chocolate and raspberry flan in hand, perhaps a bottle of Hendricks. I can’t wait. (Did that sound sincere? It’s meant to be). I'll be wearing a large badge I've bought to attract loads of attention. If you see me on 15th March or you're on Facebook, you know what to do (Some ideas - throw money, wave hello, send me a birthday message).
I joined Clubhouse in December, the new, audio-only social media site for which you need an invite to join. In a short space of time and without too much effort or cajoling, I've managed to attract nearly 600 followers. Those that have spent 2-3 hours a day on it for a couple of weeks can quickly get to well over 1k fans. I'm on the fence about whether it has any lasting power although it’s nice to have so many new, virtual friends spread across the world, some of whom I may even be able to meet post-pandemic.
The format has its limitations. For example, if you're a person skilled at scamming others with a confident-sounding voice, there are many potentially vulnerable people for whom it's easy to take advantage. While it's in its early days, it feels like when I first joined Soho House, and everyone wanted an invite just for the chance to schmooze with celebrities. The other day I was in a ‘room’ with Naomi Campbell. The next day Elon Musk. Naomi seemed unsure what she was mean to do so kept repeating, “Am I doing this right?” Elon broke the app when too many people tried to enter his room all at once. That sort of exclusiveness is always short-lived. I'm making hay while the sun shines until the return of good weather when I expect to be spending more time outdoors rather than tethered to my headphones. Anyone who wants an invite (and is an iPhone user) hit me up.
Startup School for Seniors has reached its conclusion for this term, and we've seen some great new and varied businesses come through the programme. We've had participants from as far afield as New York and Spain, and even Zanzibar. With companies that include a consultancy for train operator employees to receive specialist training in accident scenarios, a documentary maker turned specialist tour guide, a grief counsellor and a children's book author. It's incredibly satisfying (and exhausting) work. Now I know how teachers must feel on graduation day. We'll shortly be launching our next cohort starting in May so if you know of anyone that would benefit from being part of a supportive network of older, soon-to-be business owners, send them our way.
The pandemic has been a strain on building nestful, depending on people moving into older people's homes, many of whom are on the vulnerable list. I've lost count of the number of articles I've read with titles such as 'Why a Financial Crisis Is Actually the Best Time to Start a Company" or "When the Going gets Tough, Entrepreneurs get Going." Don’t believe any of it. Not every business can withstand a pandemic, as if you could ever prepare for one. Nestful is no different, the only difference being that when it comes to squeezing every penny for what it's worth, I am a grandmaster. When you're so used to working with so little, there's no other choice. That's the benefit of age and experience and a lifetime spent wandering around charity shops.
I haven't been idle. I scratched my head, wondering what it will take when we return to the new 'normal' to win over more older homeowners to rent out their spare rooms. A random conversation with a french competitor to nestful, only younger and with €1m in investment, who was motivated to create his business after a change in legislation, inspired me to create a petition prompting Rishi Sumak to follow suit and go one better. Rishi, a man clearly who now has time on his hands since releasing the latest budget, I'm hoping will take up my suggestion. You can help by signing it and sharing if you feel so inclined and help more older homeowners to benefit from being part of our community of home-sharers.
Finally, George and I have created a new YouTube channel featuring dirty blues videos in preparation for our first gig, scheduled for the Green Note on 8th July. This really is happening. You can buy tickets here. Expect a rip-roaring rollercoaster ride through two decades of music, all but forgotten through time, including our favourites 'Big Long Slidin' Thing,' 'If it don't fit, don't force it' and 'King Size Papa.' Book now to avoid disappointment.
As always, stay safe & well,