Thursday, 31 August 2017

August 2017

Well it's been a long hazy summer in Hebden Bridge and August has been particularly... Who am I kidding, it's still been basically raining all the time BUT ACTUALLY LITTLE LESS AND I'M DEALING WITH IT MUCH BETTER GUYS

In some ways, the problem this month has been not enough water rather than too much, but more on that later...

First, we went to the grand reopening day of Halifax's Piece Hall. It's an incredible building, traditionally it was a place that the region's famed textile makers would go to sell their wares (pieces), with a huge central courtyard surrounded by mini units that one could hire out on a day by day basis. In recent years it's fallen into disrepair and shabbiness, but it's been recently renovated and it looks LOVELY. (True to form it was chucking it down with rain but we still had fun)

(The rain eased off and I got some chips. Yes yes yes. Plus I'm wearing my amazing expensive raincoat which I saved up lots of money for, and now I feel ready to face the Yorkshire winter)

But then OH WHAT the boiler stopped working, and let me just say you guys, THIS HAS BEEN AWFUL AND I STILL DON’T KNOW HOW WE COPED. I know, I know, we are privileged to live in a warm house with hot water at all, but showers and baths are a huge part of mine, Alex and Justin’s mental as much as physical health regimes. I know it sounds like I’m being ridiculous here, but, spoiler alert, this was not fixed until AUGUST 22ND, which is a full 3 weeks, and it was AWFUL. (No one entirely to blame either, just bad luck, although the landlord could have been more generous and just paid for a new boiler, which is clearly what’s needed, but ho hum)

We escaped no-hot-water for a little bit with a trip down to London for Nine Worlds Geekfest. The tube train there went right past Grenfell Tower, and honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced such a visceral horror as seeing that building so close. I’ve been feeling a lot of feelings about everything surrounding what’s happened there, and this was very very real. Housing in this country is precarious in so many ways which is simply shouldn’t be. Grenfell is one very vivid, dark example of our broken system which prioritises profit over people’s safety and wellbeing. I still feel sick.

Nine Worlds is always great. I escaped for a little while on the Friday for a work meeting with a freelance client (check me out), lunch with lovely Wes, and some brief London wanderings. I love being in London.

One of the things we do at Nine Worlds is to (along with a few other people) run the boardgames lounge, where con attendees can come and take some time out and play one of a huge range from the collection that Alex and the 5 or 6 other people who organise it bring. We always have to heave huge suitcases of games with us but it’s totally worth it for the fun they bring to so many people who attend.

After a lovely weekend we headed back north with our tired faces on.

Justin burns toast more often than I feel is normal. I mentioned this to Alex who pointed out that the dials on our toaster are extraordinarily sensitive, and sometimes have been turned up for toasting things that need more time, resulting in ‘the perfect toast storm’

Two entirely unrelated guests on one day, what a TREAT!

Kier stayed for another day and we had a lovely walk.

Did a zine fair but it was extraordinarily quiet and pretty poorly promoted, although I did make back my table fee, which is what matters, right? Drew this during one of the (near constant) quiet spells…

Trains time again! Back down to Brighton (and thank goodness, an escape from ongoing sad kettle/bucket baths situation)

Brighton was work work work work work with our busiest time of year in my main job, but it was wonderful to catch up with a few friends while I was there. Me and Elly had the loveliest dinner/gossip I’ve had in ages. (This looks NOTHING like her though)

Work stress mounting but another lovely evening catching up with Matthew, and eating delicious pizza from pizzaface, which I have so missed.

I love my job, but this time of year is always hard. All the harder for new colleagues, missing colleagues, new systems, not having been in the office and getting used to different working patterns. To be honest, I was super productive and got loads of stuff done, but at this time of year it’s never enough, and all my failings felt super exaggerated being back there.

But in the evening I had a run, and finally understood a tiny bit of why people run other than for fitness reasons. I’m not gonna say my mind emptied or I had some kind of wonderful epiphany, but running those old, familiar, but distant streets late at night, in the dark, alone, with an ease I could never have imagined (less hills in Brighton than Hebden, innit), was a special kind of something.

Still, my trip to Brighton was not restful, and I spent the journey home pondering on ANXIETY and how it manifests itself and what that means. (FWIW, all the ones in ‘level 2’ fluctuate a lot and are often entirely absent and/or replaced by entirely different things — I do love Alex very much, Hebden is lovely and right now I feel like I am achieving things creatively, but my brain does like to challenge me on all of the above quite frequently, which is just a part of being me I guess.)

Re Level 3 though, we're utterly fucked.

Just wailing this, while sitting forlornly in the bottom of an empty bathtub sloshing cupfuls of lukewarm water from a bucket onto my armpits

I'm not normally one for getting excited about such things, but I've got enough friends in the US now that I did start feeling a little left out...

Took Charlie to the vets for his annual injections and he was the bravest best boy. (We had to wait quite a while and every time the vet came out to call the next doggo in he kept getting all excited thinking it was his turn HE'S SUCH A SWEETHEART)

Guys I'm gonna take this opportunity to promote my new etsy shop, I just made a bunch more co-ops tea towels and there's some other lovely stuff there too.

Also SOON there will also be a new mini zine all about condiments. In these troubled times it's good to just spend some time thinking really intensely about condiments.

Started panicing yesterday because my left knee really hurt, and I was like 'is this it is my knee ruined now forever', but it's okay, it's feeling better today. Back to not paying any attention to my knees again till it's too late!

I hope you've all had a wonderful summer. I'm kind of looking forwards to my first month since about March of actually just staying in Hebden Bridge. Going down to London and Brighton loads has been wonderful but it'll probably be good to focus down here a little, get stuff done (and I'll be heading down south again in October for sure :)

Monday, 31 July 2017

July 2017

It's one of those months where the beginning of the month feels like a very long time ago.

At the beginning of the month, I was in wonderful London, with Michael. He humoured me by letting us go for dinner at the current hottest vegan joint, Temple of Seitan, the UK's first vegan fried chicken shop (yes yes yes I know it's not actual chicken, I am going to carry on calling it chicken whether you like it or not). It was UTTERLY WONDERFUL and it's a good job I don't live a lot closer because I would be eating there way too much. Those buffalo wings. SWOON.

The main reason I went down to London was for my great Aunt's 90th birthday party. The last time I saw her was at her 80th birthday, which was at the same hotel, with the same people, we were all just 10 years younger. A weird sense of time passing. It was gloriously sunny last time too. But my life was very different. Spent most of it vaguely thinking about how the last 10 years have been, and still failing to do very well at socialising with family.

I had a couple of work related meetings in London (check me out), a little bit of a bad tummy, and was travelling down to Brighton from London, so my day on that Monday felt a little stressful, but also broadly good. It's hard to explain, but I always feel like I experience life in the city more vividly/physically somehow. Was thinking about all the things I'd been reassured by that day when I was feeling stressed.

And then back to Brighton again for a couple of days work. Walking along by the sea near Palmeira Square might be my favourite place forever.

And then, train home. I really enjoy the journey from London to Leeds.


Sometimes I feel like my life is nothing but work, walking Charlie, domestic tasks and sleeping... sometimes this bothers me, but it's mostly okay. TBH not even sure what I'd do with free time if I had it now... (Not really, I have so many exciting things I can't wait to try and find time for!) (And also, clearly I do get to do some other fun stuff, I'm just being a moan-bot)

One of those sad rain, sad tummy days that can only be redeemed with potato waffles, beans and sausages.

I'm not very good at faces. (Woohoo, Martin came to visit!)

My first print fair! On Saturday 15th I had a table at Hebden Bridge Print fair, having been screenprinting and lino printing and zine-making in preparation for months now! It was a rainy day, and tbh I think a little poorly promoted, but I made my table fee back and then some, and I met some interesting people, so it was totally worth doing.

Collage made from some of my prints and some offcuts of scrap paper from the Egg Factory where I did my print making.

One side effect of all the damn rain is that it is SO GREEN here at the moment.

Yeah yeah yeah more of that countryside

Countryside which I am seeing a LOT of, thanks to a certain doggo friend of mine. (Add me as a friend on Fitbit, MARVEL at my outrageous step-count)

I really love poppy seed heads. As a kid I used to love tipping them up and seeing all the seeds skitter out into my hand (and, like russian roulette, occasionally an earwig would be living in there)

It still doesn't look like Justin. But one day I'll capture an accurate likeness...

Guyyyyys I made some lovely tea towels and you can buy them here if you'd like! Me and Alex are going away next week so I'm going to start properly promoting my shiny new Etsy shop when I get back. I'll try not to be too tedious about it, promise.


Okay slight hyperbole

30 on the 30th! Celebratory lasagne, best orange cake, and unusual midnight torchlit ritual...

On Justin's actual birthday there was a beer festival AND a gin festival but sadly this was TOO MUCH and only beer festival was achieved. Beer festival, big breakfast, long walk and tasty Indian food though, so pretty good, I hope.

On we go to August. More sun would be nice, but I'm going down to London and Brighton again which makes me happy, and I'm feeling cosier here with every month that goes by. (A little too cosy right now, Charlie is asleep on top of me and there's a duvet and my feet are hotter than the centre of the sun)

Friday, 30 June 2017

June 2017

June has been hectic.

I'll be honest with you... I fear that I am in the midst of some kind of long, quiet, slow, approaching-30 crisis. This month I have been questioning my relationship (we'll be okay), my work (which actually is pretty good), my decision to get a dog (but honestly he's the greatest), my decision to leave Brighton (but ugh I'm glad I have), and basically EVERYTHING.

And I still am. I'm questioning all these things and wondering if I need to make big changes or if I've actually already made those big changes and need to come to terms with them... While simulataneously appreciating that people in the UK and around the world are going through some utterly horrendous stuff right now, and the ability to have this little existential crisis is just a sign of my privilege. Because I'm not having to worry about what I'm going to eat tomorrow, whether I'll still have a house tomorrow, whether it's safe for me to leave my house tomorrow, whether the police will kill me tomorrow, or a whole myriad of other shit that people are dealing with in this world right now.

All that's a way of saying — I'm a little fragile, emotionally, but broadly everything is fine. Sorry for the overshare.

But like I say. Work, personal and professional, is going well at the moment. I'm still gearing up for the Hebden Bridge Print Fair in July, and have been experimenting with lino cutting. My first go was this abstract attempt at a poppy. It was, I'll be honest, not great, but a fun start.

Earlier this month, Hebden Bridge was host to festival of digital and analouge gaming — Feral Vector. Me and Justin took part in strange LARP* 'Deep Green', and had a remarkably good time.
(*LARP = Live Action Roleplay game, basically a bunch of people playing out a story together, with varying amounts of fixed rules/improv/theatre/comedy/seriousness/dress-up. Some are campaigns — people meet up for months or years to play through a particular scenario/world-build, others, like this one, are one-off events)

The next day, me and Alex took part in Nate Crowley's 'Business Year 2001: A Business Odyssey' LARP about a dystopian apocaylptic, target-led, blue sky thinking business future. It was fairly nightmarish.

For Alex's birthday eve, we had LOADS OF PEOPLE over for dinner. Friends! Actual local friends! We have friends! Cause for celebration.

Alex is now #olderthanjesus

I’m really working on not getting sad about the rain every time it rains, but damn I hate rain. And it rains a lot here.

This is only the second time I’ve ever given over a double page spread to a single day, but this was SUCH A DAY.

TL;DR, Voting, TV, humblebragging, election madness, intense joy.

I got up very early and went down to the polling station in Hebden Bridge with Justin and Charlie to vote. (And get our ‘dogs outside polling stations’ snap for social media, which turned out to be somewhat of a lie because dogs are actually allowed inside our polling station, as evidenced by Alex later who actually took Charlie right into the polling booth with him). Rather excitingly, our super sweet local labour candidate was there, which was disconcerting when I was still half asleep.

I walked Charlie then headed home and had some breakfast, then got on the train to LONDON!

I’ve probably mentioned this before. It’s almost certainly my best anecdote. About 7 years ago I met Reggie Watts, American comedian, musician, and all round genius. He is one of the most charismatic, ridiculous, hilarious, challenging, wonderful people I have ever encountered. I have no idea what he sees in me (I feel like the blandest human in the world by comparison), but somehow, we are friends, and it’s weird to realise just how long for at this point.

Anyway, for the last year or two, he’s been the band leader on the Late Late show, hosted by disconcertingly-loved-by-America’s James Corden. It’s a very silly but very funny program.

They were shooting a few special edition episodes in London, and Reggie invited me to come along for the filming of one of them. This is very exciting, I’ve never been to a telly thing before!

The show was being filmed in the Westminster Methodist Chapel, which is RIGHT BY the houses of parliament, and it was weirdly exciting being right at the centre of things, politically, on Election Day. (Added to by the fact that the building we were in was also a polling station, and some people who thought they were queuing to vote were actually queuing for James Corden and vice versa…)

Anyway, after some dawdling, we were shown into the studio, an incredible room with a top layer of seating, and then all the action going on down on the studio floor. My view wasn’t amazing, but I was just excited to be there tbh, and watched craning my neck with some awe while James Corden and Emily Blunt did a remarkably tuneful/well choreographed Romeo and Juliet themed song montage… I hate musicals, but was genuinely quite awed by the skill of the camera men and the set builders and the lighting people and just… TV is a masterpiece you guys.

And then immediately after, loads of people came running on and disassembled the incredibly elaborate set before our eyes, while we all got given ice lollies and listened to some guy get us hyped and tell us we had to behave like Americans and whoop and cheer and scream about every tiny thing. It was very strange but I got into the spirit.

Then, HUMBLEBRAG, a lady came and got me… Apparently Reggie had seen where I was sitting, determined it was a rubbish seat, and asked for me to be put somewhere better. So guys, they put me here. That’s the couch where James Corden and his guests sit. It was A BIT MUCH and Reggie is THE LOVELIEST.

And then they shot the show. I can’t say it enough — TV IS SO WEIRD.

The guests were David Beckham Emily Blunt and Harry Styles, none of whom I have any particular interest in, but it was surreal to be so close regardless.

Reggie and his band are just incredible. They play the show in and out, introduce guests, and generally mess about at appropriate moments. Reggie comes down and sometimes does audience participation stuff. I nearly texted him beforehand to say ‘REGGIE DO NOT AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION ME’, but decided it would be flattering myself to assume he would. But of course he then did. I’m not even sure what happened, except that suddenly he whirled round me, all the lights and cameras and faces were on me, and he said/sung something about how I am great and that everyone should ‘watch out for me’ (what), while I blinked and probably crumbled into 1000 tiny pieces. Luckily, that song didn’t air, instead, it was Harry Styles playing the world’s longest most boring song on the roof at sunset, but I’ll forgive him because he seems like a very lovely man.

Afterwards, we went backstage, ate salads and talked about politics (because the Comey thing was unfolding that day too, which was occupying Reggie's attention)... and then headed back to his hotel for dinner. I ate a plate of asparagus thast might have been the most beautiful plate of asparagus I've ever encountered.

A few hours later, Reggie headed off to some party, loading me into an executive Uber (LOLOLOL first and last time I'll ever ride in one of those) up to Finsbury Park, to meet my friend Kier and his sister in the pub literally 30 seconds round the corner from Jeremy Corbyn's house.

I'd intentionally not looked at the exit polls as I was having such a nice time with Reggie I didn't want to spoil things. I got to the pub to a weirdly jubliant atmosphere. They'd just watched Jeremy Corbyn arrive home (round the conrer) on the telly screens, and the exit polls were not predicting the Tory landslide everyone had feared — in fact, it was too close to call. Every Labour seat won sent cries and screams of joy into the night, I can't remember an election night like it, since I've been paying attention. We stayed there till closing time at around 1, and then walked back to Kier's, past Jeremy Corbyn's house (the lights were on! It's so humble! I was so excited!) and then further en-route, past the leisure centre where his votes were being counted, and where he'd later make his rousing victory speech.

We got home to Kier's partner Moa watching the results come in on the telly, so me, Kier and Kier's sister joined her, getting more and more jubliant until around 3.30, when me and Moa went to bed, and Kier and his sister went round the corner to cheer Jeremy Corbyn out of the leisure centre after his victory speech.

I slept till around 6.30... when I woke up and, despite seeming to be just about a Tory victory, felt unexpectedly gleeful about the whole thing. (Kier meanwhile had not slept, and went to wave at Jeremy Corbyn as he left his house the next morning like a proper fanboy).

Honestly, the whole 24 hours was just so weird and intense and it was so amazing to both distance myself from politics for those weird few hours with TV and Reggie, and then just be TOTALLY IN THE MIDDLE of politics in Jeremy Corbyn's constituency. It was magic. I loved it.

3 hours sleep and train back to Yorkshire will tire a girl out though. But I was buoyant.

Things went a bit downhill then though.

I got SO ILL (mega fluey cold) which coincided with both Alex AND Justin being away for 5 days, so despite feeling like all I wanted to do was sleep, I HAD to heave myself out of bed, and out of the house and walk Charlie. Despite feeling THE WORST I was remarkably productive work wise, working from home is great in that respect, because sick days don’t actually have to be fully sick days. But my goodness, I was sick.

But I have a friend!!! (Hopefully). Lovely Rachel from the Egg Factory, the co-working space where I’ve been doing some print making and lunch-having in the last few months bought me groceries and had a cup of tea and it was just the most wonderful thing and I will be eternally grateful for that kindness.

Still lurgied up to the gills, I eventually made it back to the Egg Factory to test my second Lino cut, these slug lads. Rather pleased with this one.

Very very glad to have Alex back at last.

Lou and Caroline came to stay, and them and Alex went for a swim in Lumb Falls. Not for me though, no way! Enjoyed trying to draw it though.

We’ve been playing Pandemic Legacy. We named a character after Justin (because Justin was in India when we originally started playing), and then HE DIED (never name a character after your friends, it was a bit much)

Freelancing is an uncertain game, but right now, it’s going quite well, which is utterly wonderful. I am doing it alongside three days a week with Kings though, which sometimes adds up to quite long days. But work is good, and work is fun, even when work is hard. I’m really lucky that people are commissioning me for genuinely fun, creative projects in areas that I want to work in. Thank you, again, if you have sent work my way, and thank you in advance if you are considering doing so. You are making my Northern, dog-owning, warm-house-living dream a reality!

Terrible self portrait.

The handmade parade is a ridiculous, incredible, massive parade that rolls through Hebden Bridge once or twice a year. All the local samba drummers and brass bands come out, dress up, and plough through the town, surrounded by absolutely spectacular handmade beasts and structures and its honestly incredible. In slightly dark theme choice, this year’s theme was watery, noting the town’s recent past experiences with very heavy flooding. It was honestly one of the most incredible parades I’ve ever seen, and such a show of community strength. This place is pretty amazing.

Oh food. You will never cease to be a joy.

Molly came to stay. Had a conversation about removing bras as soon as you get home, and I realised I’d never removed my bra through my sleeve before. Did it. It’s REALLY HARD how do ya’ll get so slick at it?!

Second Lino cut, in my apparently forming series of ‘creepy crawlies that no one likes very much’ — moths. (Here, test printed under slugs)

Still just trying to do WAY TOO MUCH and tomorrow I’m going back to London/Brighton for another hectic few days of fun stuff and work and fun work. Hebden Bridge is great, but I do still LOVE visiting Brighton and weirdly particularly London, which, as somewhere I’ve never actually lived but have spent a lot of time throughout my life, is becoming an increasingly dense mesh of joyful memories and experiences. I love being back in the midst of that.

With that, let's do July. We'll get through it together.