It's actually a little hard to believe. In August 1998, my wife and I quit our jobs in the South, sold our house the same day and took our son, Alex, out of school. Within a month we swapped our hectic lifestyles in the South of England for the unknown in a rural part of North Wales. I know that sounds like a hasty decision. We had our reasons and ten years on and with plenty of experience under our belts I know that it was the best decision we ever made.
At the time we were living what many people would think was a good life. I was working for a small advertising agency in Kent, developing their digital pre-press and emerging internet business. I was well paid and we owned a nice house that we had paid very little for. We had renovated it and it was worth more than we had paid for it. But that came at a cost.
I worked long days and commuted between two and three hours each way every day. Every morning I left home before it was light, before Alex was awake and every evening I arrived home after dark when Alex was already asleep. At weekends it was my turn to do the sleeping and I spent so little time with my family that one day Alex mistakenly followed the wrong man in the supermarket. He saw me so rarely, he didn't know what I really looked like.
When Alex contracted near-fatal pneumonia he spent several months in hospital. While my wife spent every day nursing him and every night sleeping on the floor under his hospital bed, I mostly worked. Alex's condition had been mis-diagnosed, his pneumonia compounded by a collapsed lung. As his illness worsened, unresponsive to treatment, the little boy we love so much was fading away. When finally, the doctors at our local hospital decided that they could do nothing more for him, they transferred him by ambulance to another hospital over a hundred miles to the north. While my wife travelled with him, I was a hundred miles south, at work.
After chest surgery and several more months in hospital, Alex made a full recovery and if you've met him, or have seen my photos, you probably wouldn't guess that this strapping sixteen year old had been so very poorly. His illness and my distance taught me a valuable lesson. When the opportunity to move away and start a different life appeared, the decision wasn't difficult.
We moved to semi-derilict cottage in Wales, with no heating, no school for Alex and no job for me. I had imagined that I would find work at an agency locally and visited a few for preliminary discussions. At my old job we had been dabbling with the web and when several business owning friends of friends asked if I could make web sites for them, I said
Yes, sure! I am very, very lucky, because ten years later people have not stopped asking me the same question.
When I was working for the agency in Kent, I worked with a client manager who was infamous for the vagueness of his briefs to the studio. He would say
They want a bit of this, a bit of that. All that malarkey — Clarkey and the name Malarkey stuck, even though until that point I had never had a nickname. I registered malarkey.co.uk before I knew what to use it for and when it became clear that this internet business might take off, I needed a name for our new company. Looking in the dictionary for a definition of malarkey I found stuff and nonsense. We registered as a company today, ten years ago, on the 23rd December 1998.
Despite a short, miserable gap, we have always worked from the studio at our cottage. Working at home isn't for everyone and sometimes it does feel like we live at work, rather than work from home. But I wouldn't have it any other way. Stuff and Nonsense has given me the opportunity that I wanted, to stop commuting, work for myself and spend more time at home.
In the last ten years I have learned a lot of valuable lessons, not only about business and about the web and my work, but also about myself. Like most people, I imagine, at the age of forty-three I've done some things right, but I've also made mistakes along the way. Successes and setbacks combined, Stuff and Nonsense has taught me that working for yourself is the most satisfying thing that I could have ever done. It has taught me to be reliant on my own abilities and never to put my destiny in other people's hands. Stuff and Nonsense has taught me that it is not only possible to work at a job that I love but that job can take me around the world to places I would never have imagined visiting to meet people that I could never have met. I know that I have been very lucky.
Lucky to have met, worked for and with some amazing people through Stuff and Nonsense. I have been lucky to have a family and friends that have supported me, even when things took turns for the worst or I didn't much deserve their support. I have been lucky to find myself in Stuff and Nonsense, but also for the way that it has helped me to find what matters most of all.