Tuesday, 28 February 2017

February 2017

Well, last you heard from me, I'd spent an intense month disposing of what felt like half a house worth of detritus before loading the other half into a van and heaving that van over to the other side of the country. (Technically, other people did most of the heaving, for which I am eternally greatful, although I hopefully more than made up for it with my detritus disposing...)

I don't live in Brighton any more. Which still doesn't feel like a true phrase. This feels weirdly like an extended holiday. It's got the good bits of a holiday. I'm in a nicer house. It feels like a house more expensive than I could ever actually dream of living in. It's got the vague sense of escapism. Like I'm going to have to return to real life at some point. But on the other hand, much like on most holidays I take, maybe some part of me quite wants to return to real life. And I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that THIS is real life now. I can't buy silken tofu or tamari soy sauce in the local supermarket (but am aware of how poncey I am for complaining of such things). I can never have another lie in again because there's a dog who needs a pee and is relying on me to let him out.  I have to climb 95 OF THE STEEPEST STAIRS IN THE WORLD to get to my house. I have nearly no friends. I haven't had a full day off work in about 3 weeks. (In that sense it doesn't really sound like a holiday, does it...)

Anyway. Here's how life up north is going.

After heroically driving one of our moving vans, Anna went to stay with Amy, baby Albert and Fred in Manchester for a few days. She, Amy and Albert came back to Hebden for the day as our first official guests. (Manchester is 35 – 45 mins away on the train, so nice and close)

I can't entirely remember why I was feeling so anxious but I think it was probably a combination of things, not helped by the fact that I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor, couldn't get to most of my clothes so had been wearing the same skirt and top for nearly a week, and was unable to have a shower due to leaky bath sealant. On the bright side, actual functioning oven for the first time in 5+ years. Cannot get over how good this oven is. Gonna have to adjust all my cooking techniques to cater for the fact that everything doesn't burn on the bottom any more (i.e. by actually cooking things for the time/at the temperature they say on the packet and not constantly having to flip them)

And while we're at it — this kitchen. There's a KITCHEN ISLAND. There's space for everything. There's one of those sinks with a big loopy tap so you can actually rinse things. It's clean, and I can keep it clean. There's an extractor fan. I am LIVING THE KITCHEN DREAM.

I decided I should cycle a bit. So I cycled over to Sowerby Bridge big Tesco, where I filled up my panniers with vegan cornettos and other trashy freezer food to soothe my stresses. Turns out Sowerby Bridge is a bit further away than I thought, and part of the canal path was closed which meant a faintly perilous turn on the main road for a bit, but I survived, and did most of the journey home with two slow punctures like an absolute hero/fool.
And then Charlie arrived.

You guys, we got a dog. (I can't draw dogs, let's hope this improves, eh?)

Charlie is a beautiful border collie who belonged to one of my BFFs Sarah. Due to various life circumstances, she had to give him up, and my other oldest BFF Naomi had been fostering him for a couple of months till I could take him.

As a vegan I'm faintly conflicted about owning any animal, BUT, I grew up with dogs, love dogs, and here was a doggo who I already knew and loved in need, not to mention a friend who wanted to know he was going to a good home. I knew it would be a huge commitment, but still, I wasn't quite prepared for the intensity of this little chap. He's a tad needy, and for the first few days he was basically all up in everyone's business all the time, just making sure everything was cool, and okay, and we weren't going to leave him, and he was going to get fed, and walked, yes? And cuddles also? Okay cool.
Let's be real here, he's still up in everyone's business all the time (right on cue, he just popped his paws up on the side of my chair to check that everything's good) but he's slightly more chill about it now. If that's possible to imagine.

Suffice to say though that I have experienced some self doubt about all my life choices.

Some of this anxiety and stress was definitely compounded by household factors, most notably, inability to shower (I hate baths) and unreliable/terrible internet. Aside from obviously wanting to keep up to date with the latest dank memes, reliable/fastish internet is basically crucial for the whole 'working from home' thing, and I was starting to freak out that this was going to be impossible. (In the end we got a second line put in and that seems to have mostly resolved things, touch wood)

Alex is great though. Never doubt that.

Charlie's great too, many pros (blue) despite his equally many cons (red)

Went on a mad ikea spree and then remembered how much I hate self-assembly furniture. Luckily Alex and Justin are heroes.

I think this was around the time we re-did the sealant and got the shower up and running, and this went a huge way to make me feel better about everything.

Started back at work. I think I like working from home. I'm simultaneously more and less distracted, but I think overall my productivity is better. Still early days though, and I do miss my office buddies a bit.

Very helpfully, a whole bunch of freelance stuff rolled in around this time. Helpful because I really really need the money (did I mention that Ikea spree?), and I love fun new projects... But also stressful because there are only so many hours in the day, and now another 2 of them a day are taken up with walking a dog. (But don't let this put you off commissioning me. Hi, hello, am very good at time management) (But this may be why some of my visual diaries are a bit shoddy this month...)

We DO have one friend, and that friend is Keith, and he's great. (And also Charlie's new BFF)

As a modern empowered woman, surely it's okay for me to 1) buy a satellite GPS for all these elaborate country walks and 2) just pay someone to fix it x 3? (Oh yeah wait money is a thing)

Had a bad day. I have always prided myself on my pretty much unbroken track record of not getting locked out. Then I got locked out of our Brighton house a couple of months ago and was pretty devastated, and this time was even worse. (Because both Alex and Justin were far away, and Charlie was locked in). I had the upsetting realisation that a) we didn't know anyone local well enough to have given them a spare key, or b) even well enough for me to have somewhere to go and sit and wait while hero Justin came back from his day out in Manchester to let me in/Charlie out.
Felt very sad and alone. Went and sat in a cafe opposite two amazing women having coffee. Wished they were my friends.

Don't worry. I'm not going to become to dependant on Alex and Charlie (and Justin) for my emotional support needs. At some point I will meet people locally. But making friends, how does it work? (Basically I need more time/money to do things, we'll get there)

Went up to Manchester for the day to meet a friend of a friend about some potential future work, and it was like a breath of fresh air. Hebden is good but cities will always have my heart, I never want to stray too far from a huge urban mass. Manchester is proper lovely and I spent far too much money (that old thing again, damn it) in incredible Fred Aldous art supplies — genuinely the best art shop experience of my life.

Still can't draw Charlie. But this was deeply distressing/hilarious. For the first few days we had him he kept going to the edge of the canal like he might go in, and I kept sternly reminding him that it would be a terrible idea, which he seemed to agree with, on balance. I thought we'd reached consensus that going in the canal would be bad, but a spur of the moment impulse overcame him while I was looking elsewhere, and he dived in. And very quickly realised that he couldn't get out again. And panicked. He was right by a lock so the surface of the water was all covered in twigs and litter and scum and other detritus. I hauled him out. Covered in grossness. The love in his eyes. I've never felt so heroic.

We walked home, shivering and sneezing and apologetic, and it was pretty apparent he was going to need a bath. Me and Alex steeled ourselves, expecting panic and flailing legs and mad scrabbling (based on his behaviour with the other big-scary-bad-thing in his life — trains), but in fact the moment we closed the bathroom door, he basically became limp with horror, and we had to heave him into, and out of, the bath, while he remained totally paralysed, with sad eyes looking up at us while we bathed him. After we heaved him out it took him about 5 minutes to recover, and lots of cuddles and us telling him he was our 'brave bath boy' and generally reassuring him everything was okay. My heart.

One thing you'll have probably noticed, if you follow my instagram, is the huge proliferation of scenic walks we go on. Yes, it's all very pretty but sometimes I wish I was just following myself on Instagram rather than living it, because at least then I wouldn't have to deal with ALL THE BLOODY MUD. I'm simultaneously already so looking forwards to summer, while already dreading next winter. The darkness, rain and general dampness are dragging me down in a way they never have done anywhere else but the end is nigh. But it's pretty hard to avoid vast quantities of mud when you have a dog, and I'm finding the ceaseless battle to keep the kitchen floor free of dirt basically beyond me, and thoroughly disheartening. (Not to mention laundering a constant stream of dog towels and resigning myself to the fact that we'll never get our deposit back)

Justin's friend Sarah came to stay and we went on a lovely long walk. Proud that I was the only person who didn't slip over on my butt on aforementioned mud. I'm like a mountain goat. (Just wait. I'll be in A&E with a broken ankle before the month's out...)

Still can't draw dogs. Practice makes perfect though, hopefully. Charlie's been with us nearly a month now and we're all settling into our routines. At first I found the whole dog ownership thing quite intense... Like, this little being is depending on me for EVERYTHING. And is he even happy? Is what I'm reading as excitement actually desperation? Is what I'm reading as relaxed affection actually despondent ennui? I'll never know the answers to those questions but I'm working really hard on believing that he's happy. He certainly seems utterly loving and devoted... Unlike many dogs, he has no interest in other dogs, or such base pleasures as fetching things thrown for him. He basically lives for walks, his dinner, and being all up in his companion human beings business all the damn time. With love. And cuddles. He loves being cuddled, which is pretty great. Initially I was worried the anxiety of caring for him would be too much for me — and I still do worry about his wellbeing and happiness an undue amount — but it's starting to balance out with the joys of loving him very dearly and feeling loved in return, which is all I could hope for really.

Made pancakes today, of my own volition, for the first time ever. Never been a big fan, but our friend Lou made an amazing spread last year, of sweet and savoury vegan American style pancakes, and I was won round. Spent a long lunchbreak making savoury avocado pancakes, sweet banana pancakes, and a whole load of tasty sides. Quite proud of myself.

Any February is short. And we're done. And on we go.

I'm available for freelance work, just shout. And if you live within an hour's radius of Hebden Bridge, let's be friends.


Friday, 3 February 2017

Hourly comics day 2017!

HOURLY COMIC DAY! Every year it totally sneaks up on me, and this year was no exception. Last year I thought about things a bit before I started and tried to keep some kind of consistent style throughout, but this one is not particularly well drawn. Although I did make an effort to try and vary panel sizes and layouts a bit throughout. Kind of a nice/interesting time to do it really, while life is still a bit weird and upside down.

I woke up earlier than I would have liked. As mentioned in my previous blog, we've just moved house, and I'm off work for a couple of weeks. I'm making the most of that time to catch up on missed sleep, and organise the house. Unfortunately those two were at odds on Wednesday morning, with an early washing machine delivery.

Basically if I'm waiting for someone to knock on the door with a delivery, I will need to poop. It's a biological certainty. The washing machine didn't arrive between 8 and 9.

The washing machine didn't arrive between 9 and 10 either. Alex came to join me. Took a tedious phonecall with our new gas/leccie supplier while looking at my lovely new view.

The washing machine delivery guys missed their timeslot by like 3 minutes, but made up for it by installing the machine distressingly efficiently.

My main plan for the day was to find the nearest big supermarket, walk to it, and buy some bits. But leaving the house proved harder than expected.

Got drawn into a repeated argument about whether it's okay to stack a microwave on top of a fridge. NOPE, right guys?

One of the only bad things about this house is the bathroom. The toilet flush is rubbish and takes forever to refill, and the sealant around the bath is all cracked. There's no shower, but even just having a bath or using the shower attachment sitting down means water gets on it, and it's leaking. The landlord has refused to fix it on the basis that he never had a problem when he lived here. This is stressful. I hate stressful letting agent phonecalls. He has, however, said that we can fix it ourselves, which is all fine and dandy apart from the fact that doing bath sealant is one of my most stressful household DIY jobs there is IMO, and I am dreading it.

Turns out, the walk to Todmorden is LONG. Well, long enough that I'm unlikely to just pop over there for groceries. Still, we got there eventually and had a look at some furniture and the market.

Alex's feet were hurting too much, so they got the bus home. I headed on to Morrisons. Not being paid by Morrisons to say this but EVERYTHING IS SO CHEAP (maybe it's because we're up North). I bought way too much to carry because I got over excited. Fairly disappointing vegan options but that's hardly surprising. Huge section devoted to Yorkshire puddings.
Got the train home because it's actually cheaper than the bus, but has the disadvantage of dropping you at the bottom of the valley when our house is quite a long way towards the top.

There are 95 incredibly steep steps from Hebden's high street to our house, interspersed with hills and then another nice long hill at the top just to round things out. I'm either going to get very fit or have a heart attack.

I bought a TV aerial at the market. We've never really had a TV for the whole house, as we don't tend to watch stuff communally... But I like to watch nonsense like Location Location Location, Celebrity Antiques Road Trip (it's so bad, why do I keep watching?) and 24 hours in A&E while I draw, so I've always had a small TV in my room. This house doesn't have a cable running in, so I bought this cheap aerial, super dubious that it would even work, I mean it's just some flimsy wires on a plastic frame...

But MAGIC (or science), it does, am delighted. And new local news! We're in 'Look North' now! No more racist BBC South East!

Made some noodly dinner and it was pretty good, but I had a bit of a tummy ache that wasn't really going away. Spent loads of money on new Ikea furniture...

Not sure what the tummy ache is all about. Eaten something bad? Anxiety knotting? Could different tap water be making me feel all weird?

Stayed up fairly late hoping my tummy ache would go away, but it really didn't. I started feeling super ill and miserable and felt like the only thing that would make me feel better would be a nice hot shower BUT WE DON'T HAVE A FUNCTIONING SHOWER and the alternative is a miserable sitting down bath thing and I hate it. I was so sad and so crampy and ill feeling that I had to get Alex to come and give me moral support while I shivered and moaned, and then I went to bed sad, THE END

(Don't worry everyone. We're doing okay up here. Apart from those minor house teething issues, having spent ALL OUR MONEY on furniture and a fair bit of rain, we're having a nice time and slowly getting settled.)

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

January 2017

Hi, hello, 2017, what is even going on

January has been ridiculous. The whole world feels like it's on the brink of something horrible, meanwhile, I've been orchestrating a cross-country move (remember Emma 'Logistics' Charleston? She's been out in full force this month). I think the only thing that has stopped me descending into full grim-news-despair has been a constant cycle of packing boxes, freaking out, paying bills, talking to two different letting agents, disposing responsibly of endless detritus, general move admin, and packing more boxes. Nothing like keeping busy to keep the fear out, eh?

Shout out to everyone who is fighting what's going on in the world right now, be it through protest, action, donation, or any other means — and also shout out to those who, like me, desperately want to figure out what we can best do to help and start doing it. Between Donald Trump and Theresa May we've got plenty to keep us busy...


Some (increasingly poor as the month goes on and I get more stressed) drawings about what I've been up to, accompanied by increasingly caps laden descriptions.

New year, new start! Or something.
Have been succeeding fairly well in my goal to eat a piece of fruit a day (I know it's ridiculous but I'm really not into fruit. Probably ate it once a month, max presiously. Loads of veg every day, but fruit, blegh. A month in and my opinion on that has not changed.)
Have utterly failed at my (second year running) goal of reading more, but that's basically because I've not had a moment of free time, so maybe I'll pick up on that one soon.
Making life up north a success remains to be seen...

An abstract representation of me, hiding underneath 100 blankets.

Freecycle is (mostly) great. It never ceases to amaze me what people will come round to your house and collect. Mostly entirely normal people too.

In a brief distraction from everything else, got to head over to the big litho printing press and get over enthusiastic about big printers for a morning. Woop!

I am so over getting pieces of furniture up/down stairs/round awkward corners.

Don't go under there. (This won't be the last time you see Henry this month)

I went to a small child's birthday party, and wanted to try and capture some of the intensity of that experience in a drawing. Imagine this but x10 and vibrating and flashing and 'cotton-eye Joe' is playing.

Aaaaaaaauuuuuuughhhhhhhhhh where did all these objects come from who do they even belong to

On the 3rd's drawing, it says 'Alex is stressed'. Alex was stressed because we had no boxes, so that evening we went on the internet and ordered a load of boxes. I was pretty grumpy about spending money about things which you sometimes get for free with deliveries, but so be it. Then I saw someone getting rid of a load of boxes on Freecycle, so I figured sure, why not, a few more won't hurt. And then suddenly the house was FULL OF BOXES. Given that the house is pretty full of stuff at the best of times, this was kind of distressing. (Spoiler alert: it was not in fact too many boxes. It was actually too few. What even)

Also we emptied the huge attic, which was full of other people who used to live in the house's stuff, in a way that meant all my previous de-cluttering work suddenly felt worthless because there was about 10x more STUFF AND BOXES EVERYWHERE.

PLEASE JUST TAKE AWAY THIS DETRITUS (I've been saying the word 'detritus' a lot this month)

Just gross. Why was all the stuff in the attic so sticky. AUGH

And yet, bothered I must be.

In my new home up north I'm going to be freelancing and working part time in my current job remotely. For this, a new computer was definitely required, as my old imac was not nearly up to the task. After much umming and ahhing and bitterness at Apple for stupidly overpricing their new laptops, and Windows for being so terrible, I bit the bullet and bought a secondhand macbook pro on eBay. Which feels incredibly risky but I had the help of a trusted friend who said it would be FINE, and indeed, it has been. I sit here typing to you on it now, and aside from the fact that there was some gross gunk around the keyboard and it insisted on calling me Clive for a while, it's been pretty good.

Took a morning off work to run some errands and DID I RUN ERRANDS OR WHAT

Jonny came round and drove me and Henry to the hoover repair shop where I dropped Henry off, then on to the tip to dump an old TV we found in the attic. Then I put some laundry on, and did three walks up and down the hill with books to sell at Wax Factor and others to drop at the Amnesty charity shop. Then I walked a load of stuff over to the Martletts hospice, and en route found a guy from the council doing free/materials only bike repairs, so I dashed home, heaved my bike out from among the many boxes, smashing a bottle of balsamic vinegar over the hallway in the process. I rushed the bike down to him, grabbed some lunch, came home and tried to clear up the balsamic chaos in the hallway, unloaded and hung the laundry, collected my bike from the guy, and headed to work. I'm not sure I've ever squeezed more tasks into a morning in my life.

Signed the contracts for our new house on the day of the inauguration.

We had a leaving party, which I was weirdly reluctant about, because saying bye is hard/upsetting. But we did it and it was wonderful and so many people came and I had such a lovely time. (There were lots of people there who were friends of Alex and Justin that I didn't even know, so I didn't draw them — apologies if you came and I know you and I didn't draw you here!)

On the bright side, I guess this is good exposure therapy for my emetophobia...

After having Jonny's help driving me and Henry to the hoover repair shop, another kind friend gave me a lift on my lunchbreak to fetch Henry. Got him home, he was still broken, absolutely raging, I LITERALLY DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS (or, crucially, an easy way of transporting him back to the hoover shop again)

Rachel, who used to live in our house, came over to stop in and grab some stuff. She left half a loaf of rye bread which ended up being crucial lunch sustenance the next day, and gave me a hug that nearly made me cry but actually just gave me enough strength to keep going.

Got up early. Heaved Henry down the hill onto the bus. Heaved him off the bus to the hoover repair shop. Left him there, went to work, at lunchtime went back, heaved him back onto the bus and home again. Nearly broke myself and him, but we made it. Never buy a hoover with a face you guys. Way too much emotional attachment.

My last day at work passed by weirdly in a blur. I'd been so busy sorting out house move logistics for the last month that I'd barely taken in the fact that this was the end. I've been coming to that office every weekday for pretty much 6 years to the day. As my boss put it, in some rather touching leaving speeches, 'You came to us a barely formed adult, and are leaving us as a bona-fide creative professional' (I should put that last bit in some kind of testimonials section on my website). He described the time as arguably some of the most formative years of my life, and I dare say he's right. I love the people I work with and the job has been (and hopefully will continue to be) great. It hasn't quite hit home that I'm not going back into that office again any time soon. I still just feel a bit like I'm on some kind of holiday.

For some irrational reason we decided that it would be okay to finish work on Friday, and do the actual move on Sunday. Would not recommend. A suitably intense Saturday of packing that nearly gave me a full nervous breakdown, only staved off by some well timed chips and a visit from a friend I don't even know that well when I was at my lowest ebb. Friends are great. Cling onto them.

On Sunday the vans got loaded early in the morning. Lots of friends came over to help which was wonderful. Alex and Justin travelled up in one of the vans, while I stayed behind with my Mum and Hannah to clean the house. It was a weird process. I wrote a thing on my instagram about how much that house means to me. I've never seen it empty. It was far from empty when I moved in, so seeing it with all the life stripped out was strange. Focussing on all the little details like the unexpectedly fancy door handles. The grime that's built up over years around the light switches. The mould. The crumbling ceilings. The light and the dark and the way the rain sounds against the windows. We cleaned a good clean, I said goodbye to Hannah (one of my oldest Brighton friends), and then I said goodbye to the house. I had a little cry on the train. I put on an album that I listened to every single day during the brief period when I was commuting from Brighton to London. I'd always hit play at the moment the train pulled out from the station, and because of that intense period of listening to it repeatedly, it's synonymous for me with riding out of Brighton on the train in the height of summer. Listening to it riding out of Brighton for the last time as home, with the rain pouring down... I did a really brief intense cry but then I was done.

I'm sad I didn't take more pictures of the empty rooms. It scares me how fast the memory of a place can start drifting out of your mind. Sometimes I think I get as much/more of an attachment to places as I do to people. I loved that house so much.

I stayed in London with George overnight on the Sunday night, before getting the train up to Hebden Bridge on Monday. I felt excited for most of the journey, but as I walked through Hebden Bridge to get to our new house where Alex and Justin were waiting for me, I was mostly just hoping and praying that we have made the right choice. Because there is no going back now.

And here we are. I've been here a day now. It's been raining a lot (I know you all warned me about this), and our house is up 95 of the steepest steps you've ever encountered in your life, plus a bonus hill at each end. Everything is still weird. Like I said, this still feels a bit like a strange holiday of some kind, but I think I'm okay. Packing is miserable, but unpacking fills me with a particular kind of joy. The kitchen has basically been entirely unpacked, and is BRILLIANT. The living room is still chaos. The rest of the house is in various states of packed and unpacked. The bathroom is pretty terrible. Toilet flush as weak as an old man spitting in a bucket and NO SHOWER. We're getting there. The house already feels like home despite its flaws. Hopefully my brain will soon shed any residual sense that Brighton is still home and start to believe that Hebden Bridge holds that title instead.

Oh and I bloody hope we can get the toilet fixed and get a shower installed soon because baths are NOT THE ONE.

HI FEBRUARY I AM READY (I just need a bit of a nap first please)