Friday, 31 March 2017

March 2017

Life MARCHES on. Hahahaha did you see what I did there?

No but seriously I've been kind of miserable for sections of this month, more miserable than I remember being in recent memory, but I've started feeling better now, and I hope that's permanent.

Big life change is a shock to the system. When I moved to Brighton for university nearly 10 years ago, it immediately felt like home — so intensely that I realised Anglesey (where I grew up) had never *really* been home at all. It was a place where I spent 19 years of my life but it wasn't home.

Hebden Bridge is not going to be home that easily for me. Maybe nowhere will ever be home like Brighton was. Or maybe I just need to work at it this time.

I shouldn't complain though. There are lots of good things here, and I'm finding more all the time.

For starters, the local Chinese restuarant is GREAT. One of our shared household treats back in Brighton was ordering in a load of weird fake meats from the Oriental (on Lewes Road), and yeah, it was great that they had so many vegan options, but I think without realising it, we'd been putting up with somewhat sub-par sauces and such. This place is brilliant. The sauces are rich and flavourful AND they do also have some weird vegan meats, so we're happy.

Sarah came to visit! Sarah is one of my oldest friends from school days, Charlie's former owner, and new mum to adorable Megan. I had the great delight of taking Megan on her first ever train journey, hopefully instilling a life-long love of public transport.

The next day, Fenn and George and Lucy came to visit. Yay, guests! Sadly Fenn got awful toothache on the day they arrived and spent the whole trip varying levels of sad/painful, but hopefully they and George and Lucy still had a reasonably nice visit.

One of the things that's really hard about moving to a totally new place is getting to know new people. Alex has very efficiently ploughed ahead, joining several boardgames clubs, and somehow meeting people left right and centre. I've been a bit slower off the mark, and sometimes worry that maybe I'll never find 'my people'. Part of the trouble is that I quite like my own company... This can mean that I sometimes avoid new social gatherings because actually I prefer the idea of curling up at home, drawing, working, or other things that don't involve social engagement with people I don't yet know who might or might not be awful.

But anyway. I'm TRYING. Our one local friend Keith invited me out for lunch with him and some friends. One of whom was one of the organisers of the 'Save Todmorden College' protest (apparently they want to turn it into an Aldi). Before I knew it, I'd been peer pressured into joining in...
Guys, I'll be honest. I've never been to a protest before. While I have an enormous amount of respect and gratitude towards those who do attend protests, I've always just been sort of... dubious about how effective they actually are.

But anyway. Upon arrival I was immediately handed a giant (like 12 foot tall!) flower... Not entirely relevant to the protest, but they were left over from Hebden's famous 'handmade parade' and someone bought them along to liven things up. We marched a couple of hundred metres down the road, briefly blocked some traffic, got lots of supportive car toots, did some chanting, and then marched back again.

Afterwards I went to an experimental noise show in a nearby pub for a bit, then went home. All in all a slightly weird afternoon. (There's a really big noise music scene around here...)

Another great thing about Hebden.... There's a shop that sells that vegan Sriracha Mayo and it's AMAZING. (Best condiment ever is always a bold claim, I do tend to go through condiment phases, but we're definitely ploughing through this stuff with great glee.)

Does everyone else call their pets loads of different things depending on mood? I hope we're not confusing him. TBH he responds to pretty much anything yelled in his direction so I think we're fine.

This is not a very good drawing, BUT. I am starting to find 'my people' (hopefully). The Egg Factory is a creative co-working space in Hebden. It's not actually right for me as a place to be productive (can't leave expensive equipment on site overnight and there's no way I'm heaving my 27" monitor up and down that hill every day) BUT, they're a lovely community, and for a £40 annual membership fee (sweet deal or what?!) I can take part in their social stuff, even if I don't actually work there on a day to day basis. (There are additional fees for days/half days of working, or getting a permenant desk there, plus screen printing facilities which I fully intend to take advantage of very soon!)

Every Wednesday they have a shared lunch which seems to be anywhere from 3 – 15 people, and has proved a lovely chance to get out of the house and chat to nice people who aren't Alex and Justin. They've made me very welcome!

Oh, and did I mention Manchester is really close by? Manchester is really close by. And I LOVE Manchester. It's a great city, and I don't think I realised quite how much I'd missed being in a city. Just going in for an evening left me feeling alive and refreshed and excited about life again. (I'll never be a country girl. 19 years was ENOUGH.)

Also, my friends from college Grace, Vicky and Macsen live there. I hadn't seen Grace in over 5 years, Vicky and Macsen in nearly 10! Luckily they're still lovely, and it was great to have a dinnertime catchup.

Other good Hebden things — several great charity shops. Sadly not as cheap as you'd hope, pretty much Brighton prices, but I still managed to get some nice stuff for not too much money.

So both me and Alex are kind of uncomfortable about picking up animals. It just feels like a massive infringement of their personal space, unless it's 100% clear that they really enjoy it. Sadly, we've realised that there are moments where we may have to pick up Charlie. For his own safety, or because there are things we need him to do that he refuses to do himself: specifically, baths, and stepping stones.

There is one particular set of stepping stones that Charlie is TERRIFIED of, but crossing them cuts like a mile off a particular walk. Needs must. Sorry doggo.

Just gonna put this loudly out there for everyone to hopefully see. I KNOW, this makes me a challenging vegan. I know most people's (especially non-vegans) go-to vegan foods are things like chickpea curry or lentil stew... But I have IBS, and if I eat whole lentils or chickpeas, everything just goes horribly wrong for me. I avoid them as much as I can, and try and warn people beforehand, but there are times when politeness means that I just can't turn them down. And then later I get sad. And bloaty. And poopy. Please be kind to me.

(Weirdly, houmous is fine. Thank goodness. Falafels are not though. Heartbreak.)

This was the beginning of my slide into misery. It rained for like a week straight. Justin went away, and Alex was working pretty much every day, which meant all Charlie walking fell to me. There's nothing like walking for 2 – 3 hours a day in the pouring rain to make you hate rain, the countryside, the place you're in, yourself, basically everything.

The thing is, and maybe this makes me a cold-hearted awful person (it certainly makes me hate myself a little), I really just DGAF about stunning country views. You come over the brow of a hill and everyone's like 'oooooooooh' and it's just... whatever. I don't care. A view's a view. You've seen one, you've seen them all*.

I do have more interest/enjoyment of crumbling industrial infrastrcure (which this area is good for), but that comes with existential miseries all of its own (if you're in the wrong mood). I can also appreciate a really great footpath/stile/steps set up, which again, this area is great for, but my goodness I am so tired of steps.

*Don't get me wrong. Some things do move me. I love a seaside/vast expanse of ocean. Good beaches get me going. In more urban settings, a vast railway terminal can tug at my heartstrings like little else, likewise soaring across a city on a high viaduct, past rooftops and gardens and lights and trams and trains and thousands of other people's lives. I do feel feelings sometimes. Honest.

But fields and trees? Nah mate. (Maybe I've moved to the wrong place)

Waterproofs are THE WORST you guys.

Still finding new and varied ways to experience precipitation.

By this point it was almost funny. ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE

After a week of near constant rain and very little company, big shared lunch at the Egg Factory made me feel a lot better.

During another very rainy walk, I started pondering some weird... phobias? Anxieties? that have only particularly come to light since we moved here.

Firstly, my fairly intense dislike of the sound of rain on the windows. It has always made me antsy, and now, although arguably living in one of the most watertight houses of my adult life, we have attic velux windows, and the pounding of the rain on them fills me with anxiety. I know some people love it (including Justin, which is good because he has the attic bedroom)...
It's fairly clear where it stems from, which was the constant threat of my childhood home flooding. Every time there was heavy rain my parents would start to get worried, and semi-regularly the toilet would back up so we couldn't use it (and as someone with a terrible bladder and IBS, this just added to my neurosis about the whole situation).
So, rain on windows = constant background anxiety. And it rains a lot here. In case I hadn't mentioned.

The other thing which I've been realising is that I have a fairly intense fear of strong currents. There are a LOT of rivers here, and lots of walks which run alongside them. Much of the time they're just meandering, burbling brooks, quite calming and relaxing. But after heavy rain, they become quite terrifyingly forceful, and I find myself captivated and horrified watching the dark black waters rush across weirs and down waterfalls and under bridges.
Growing up near Menai Bridge, it was drilled into us from a very early age that we must NEVER go into the Menai Straits for a swim, due to the perilous 'swillies' — incredibly strong and unpredictable currents that could suck you under in moments. Possibly I took this message too seriously, and have always had recurring dreams about rising tides and strong currents. I've never really lived near rivers before though, and hadn't realised how UTTERLY TERRIFYING they are.

(Oh, and don't even talk to me about these horrors)

Anyway, sorry if that went a bit miserable there for a while. I'm actually fine. Rain just drags me down a bit. The sun came out and everything felt GREAT! Hebden Bridge is lovely! And so full of wonderfully kind people! And brilliant shops and great walks and awesome infrastructure, and it's actually really nice here.

The sun stayed out and I went on an over ambitious detour that started out looking like a footpath but was DEFINITELY NOT A FOOTPATH.

Then, BIRTHDAY! (Which also happens to be mothers day this year.)
Alex got me a mini-vac and giant tub of raspberry ruffles because Alex is an absolute dreamboat. Mum and Dad came over and we went for a lovely sunny walk. THE SUN WAS OUT! I went up to Manchester for amazing VRevs burgers, and then over to the Deaf Institute to see the brilliant Tyondai Braxton. Lots of people sent me lovely birthday messages on that there social media. I stayed over at Nat and Paul's house (sans Nat), and got some quality cat snuggle time in. All in all, pretty victorious.

On March 28th, I finally had the long anticipated fall (how Yorkshire's A&E departments cope I have no idea, this is some treacherous countryside). Luckily it was a comparatively minor twisted ankle, and I didn't even actually fall over, just stumbled, and spent a moment in intense pain, but then it faded. I may have made a mistake of then doing a further 17k steps on said ankle, which by the evening had swollen up and was agony, and I could barely walk.

I got pretty scared that it was going to be bad, but luckily after a night's sleep it felt a lot better. I planned to take it easy on the 29th, but then I walked Charlie twice, went for lunch at the Egg Factory, did loads of chores, and went up to Manchester for the evening. So that went well.

(Luckily my ankle is made of tough stuff and is pretty much completely better now)

Dogs are great.

Hebden Bridge is lovely.

The evenings are getting lighter.

I've got lots of exciting work lined up.

Loads of people are coming to visit us this month.

Everything's going to be okay.

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.)