The Perils of a Home-Based Business

On a busy day we are four – with the Nymph five– people at Peirene HQ: Maddy, Jen, our intern Clara, and myself. In addition there might be my cleaning lady in Teathe house and perhaps an electrician because our washing machine or dishwasher has broken down, or the Rentokill guy pays us a visit because yet again mice are dancing on our kitchen floor. The door bell goes constantly with deliveries of books and office equipment and the phone rings with subscription orders and card payments. And if school’s out, my son’s rock band practices upstairs.

On a good day, I love the buzz and I am proud of the Nymph – and myself – to have created such productive & creative space within an unassuming terraced house in North London.

On a bad day, I understand why some people wouldn’t contemplate running a business from home.  It’s a continuous balancing act between the private and the public. And sometimes the private loses out.

On Monday we were burgled in broad daylight. It was a quiet day. Only Clara was in the office. I was out at a meeting in the morning. When I came back she said: ‘Your window cleaners have just been. They said you expected them. They did the job and will come back later to collect the money.’

‘My window cleaners?’ I asked incredulously. I have a nice Polish man who comes every so often. He always rings me a couple of days in advance and he works on his own.

‘Did either of them have a foreign accent?’ I asked. She shook her head. Then it dawned on me.

We don’t have much to take. But what we had they took. A necklace, a couple of pair of gold earrings, two rings, my daughter’s piggy bank. They didn’t take any laptops but broke a small stone stature – nothing of value except that I loved it.

Clara had opened the door and let the two men in in good faith, while she returned to her desk in the office. After all, she had seen me do exactly the same many times before.

When the police arrived they told us that there had been a very similar incident in a parallel road the previous week. From my description they suspected the same people.

I have to admit, for a few minutes I sat on the sofa and cried. And for a few hours afterwards I felt as if I had lost control and perhaps I should just stop running the publishing house altogether, since I can’t afford to hire an office space. Needless to say, Clara was upset too and very apologetic.

The Nymph saved us from descending into utter gloom. She might put on airs but when it matters she is down to earth and hands on. She brewed us chamomile tea ‘to calm the nerves,’ as she said, stroke our heads … and send us back to our desks and the work. ‘You know you will feel even worse if you don’t get your work done today,’ she smiled at me.

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